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BBC1 orders Port drama

Stephen Merchant

BBC1 has greenlit a drama starring Stephen Merchant and Sheridan Smith, based on the real-life story of British serial rapist and killer Stephen Port.

The Barking Murders (3×60’) is from exec producer Jeff Pope and writer Neil McKay, the award-winning team behind BBC1’s The Moorside and ITV’s Appropriate Adult, and is due to start filming this spring.

Merchant (Extras, The Office) will play Port and Smith (The Moorside, Care) will play Sarah Sak, the mother of Port’s first murder victim Anthony Walgate. Also joining the cast is Jaime Winstone (Five Daughters, Babs) and the director is David Blair (Care, Reg).

Charlotte Moore

The show is being produced by ITV Studios for BBC1 and was commissioned by Piers Wenger, controller of BBC Drama, and Charlotte Moore, director of BBC Content. Pope shares exec production duties with McKay and Lucy Richer. Serena Cullen is the producer.

“The Stephen Port murders have shone a light not just on the life of one deeply disturbed individual but into the plight of the four innocent young gay men who fell foul of him,” said Wenger.

Piers Wenger

“Jeff and Neil will go behind the headlines to tell the story from a fresh perspective considering the impact of these crimes rather than the crimes themselves and will explore the challenges the police faced in identifying the serial nature of the killings.”

Merchant described the Port case “is a story that can’t be ignored” while Smith said playing real-life characters comes with great responsibility: “Sarah went through so much heartache… but something inside made her keep fighting for her son.”

Specialising in factual drama about crime but focusing on the aftermath rather than the actual crimes, Pope and McKay have previously created The Moorside, which told the story of the disappearance of Shannon Matthews, and Appropriate Adult, which looked at serial killer Fred West.


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