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Channel 5 doc uncovers secret Sutcliffe tapes

ViacomCBS-owned Channel 5 in the UK has expanded its true crime slate with a documentary about serial killer Peter Sutcliffe and added five seasons of an Irish home design series to its daytime schedule.

Dermot Bannon

The Ripper Speaks (1×90′), produced by Content Kings and Green Rock, features never-before-heard audio recordings of Sutcliffe, the so-called Yorkshire Ripper, who died last year.

The conversations between Sutcliffe and a woman, secretly recorded in prison in the years before he died, provide new insights into Sutcliffe’s real motivations during his reign of misogynistic violence across Northern England from 1969 to his capture in 1981.

Unaware that he was being recorded, Sutcliffe talks openly about crimes he never formally confessed to, how he evaded the police for so long and the truth behind his controversial attempts to plead not-guilty at his trial due to a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia.

Armed with these tapes, investigative journalist and ex-detective Mark Williams-Thomas talks to members of Sutcliffe’s family, ex-police officers, witnesses and doctors. The film is due to air later this year.

Dan Louw, VP commissioning editor at C5, said: “This explorative film provides a view of Sutcliffe not as the mythical ‘Ripper’ who terrorised the country, but as he really was – a lonely, isolated coward – more ‘normal’ than any of us would like to admit. It’s an important look at psychopathy and misogyny and a chance to address issues that still exist today.”

Williams-Thomas added: “The story of the Yorkshire Ripper is very well trodden, but now, with unique access to Peter Sutcliffe, I have been able to ask him specific questions about his life and crimes so that we can finally get some answers for his many victims. This is a remarkable access film about the country’s most notorious serial killer.”

The Ripper Speaks is the latest in a string of true crime commissions for C5, coming after ITN Productions’ documentary The Disappearance of Shannon Matthews.

Last month the channel’s commissions included National Treasure, National Disgrace (working title) and The Tragedy of Lesley Whittle (working title), also from ITN, as well as The Abduction of Milly Dowler from Acme and Who Killed Meredith? from Turquoise TV.

In related news, C5 has acquired five seasons of the Coco Content-produced architectural home design series Room To Improve from RTÉ Programme Sales.

Under the deal, C5 has picked up 32 hours of the show, covering seasons eight to 12, which will be stripped daily in a lunchtime slot from May 17.

The show follows Irish architect Dermot Bannon as he sets out to create a range of beautifully designed and cleverly built homes. Season 13 has already been greenlit by Irish public broadcaster RTÉ and is in production.

Other recent deals for Room To Improve include sales to The Home Channel in South Africa, AMC Networks for Spektrum Home in Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and Kontent for Russia and CEE. The show is also available on VoD via Amazon, Tubi and Shelter.

Meanwhile, Bannon will return to RTÉ One next month with a new two-part show, Dermot Bannon’s Sweet Spots (2×60′), in which he explores compact homes and spaces, travelling around Ireland to look at innovative design, architecture and engineering on a small scale.

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