Page last updated at 07:23 GMT, Friday, 23 April 2010 08:23 UK

'Tell me about your daughter'

By Tim Masters
Entertainment correspondent, BBC News

Five Daughters is a new TV drama that tells the true stories behind the murders of five young women in Ipswich in 2006.

The case sparked the biggest manhunt in the UK since the Yorkshire Ripper in the 1970s.

Paula Clennell (Nathalie Press) and Rochelle (Ruth Negga)
Paula Clennell, depicted left, was the fourth victim of Steve Wright

When BBC Drama producers approached the families of the five victims - via police liaison officers - they discovered the families had been upset by the media's coverage of the murders.

Writer Stephen Butchard, whose previous work includes The House of Saddam, travelled to Ipswich to piece together the final days in the lives of Anneli Alderton, Gemma Adams, Annette Nicholls, Paula Clennell and Tania Nicol.

Butchard spoke to the police, members of a local drug rehabilitation charity and to the families of the victims.

In the end, the film was made with the co-operation of three of the five families.

Here, Butchard explains some of the challenges he faced.


Why did you want to tell this story?

Everyone remembers this story, it happened in such a short space of time.

I just wondered "who were the girls?" That was quite a key thing - all we saw as TV viewers and newspaper readers was the pictures of the girls. We never really got beyond the names and labels.

I was interested in who they were, and what led them to being where they were, and what happened on the day.

What do you remember about watching this story on the news?

I was absolutely astonished what was going on - when it was over you do move on and forget about it quite quickly. But I never for a minute imagined I would be doing a drama about it.

Stacey Nicholls (Vicky McClure) and Rosemary Nicholls (Sarah Lancashire)
Annette Nicholls mother, Rosemary, is played by Sarah Lancashire

Speaking to the families, I realised it was going to be a huge responsibility to put something truthful on the screen.

What was it like meeting the families?

I had no idea what to expect. They were prepared to talk and they understood what we were trying to do

The first thing I asked was "tell me about your daughter".

Not "tell me about your daughter who was on drugs and on the streets", but "tell about your daughter when she was growing up and when she went to school, what subjects did she enjoy, what were her ambitions?".

It was important for me as a writer to hear about the person. We progressed quite naturally on how they became involved in drugs and onto the final days as well.

Ian Hart as Detective Chief Superintendent Stewart Gull
Ian Hart plays Detective Chief Superintendent, who led the investigation

How upset were the families about the press coverage?

It was a privilege that they were prepared to speak to me. The great thing about them was that they were speaking honestly.

They were all aware that their daughters were drug dependent, they were all aware of what they did to earn the money to fund the drugs.

They were quite distressed that these people that they knew and loved had ended up with the label of prostitute.

A story takes hold in the press and untruths come out. What they wanted to put across was the truth about how their daughters were.

Just because they were sex workers on the street it didn't mean that they were monsters or had crossed some line.

What kind of personal detail did you get from the families?

No-one had spoken to Annette Nicholls' mum before, and she mentioned they they'd found a book with her poetry in.

I asked the family could I see it, but they decided it was too personal, so I asked could they tell me what she wrote about.

They said it was about walking with the family and nature - the sort of things a young woman would write about.

 Anneli Alderton (Jaime Winstone)
The first episode focuses on Anneli Alderton, played by Jaime Winston

But she also wrote about standing on a street corner, and how lonely she felt and the shame that she felt. That particularly struck me as so important.

So I asked if I could write some poems in the voice of Annette. And in the drama itself I think they work well and they add to her personality.

Why use real news footage within the drama?

We looked at the news reports and came to the consensus that it would be better for the drama to put the real news footage in.

It helped build the sense of creeping fear around the streets and the sense of pressure on the police.

Was it too soon after the event to make this drama?

I was reassured when Paula's mum said I don't want people to forget Paula. I don't think their pain is ever going to disappear, whether it's done three years later or five years later...

What is important is that they were supportive of the process, and if they hadn't been it probably wouldn't have happened.

Five Daughters begins on BBC One on Sunday 25 April at 2100 BST.



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