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Page last updated at 14:57 GMT, Tuesday, 20 April 2010 15:57 UK
Five Daughters' dramatic account of the Suffolk murders
Five Daughters (Juliet Aubrey as Marie Alderton and Jamie Winstone as Anneli Alderton)
Five Daughters shows the relationships the murdered girls had with their families

The director of a BBC One drama about the Suffolk murders says she hopes it will offer an insight into the lives of the girls who were killed in 2006.

The three-part series Five Daughters was made with the help of three of the victims' families, Suffolk Constabulary and drug support group Iceni Project.

"To me these films aren't just about drugs and prostitution, it's about the love a mother has for their child.

"And that is totally enduring and very profound," said Philippa Lowthorpe.

Gemma Adams, Tania Nicol, Anneli Alderton, Annette Nicholls and Paula Clennell had been working as prostitutes in the Ipswich area when they were murdered.

"I think to not tell their stories is like writing them off somehow," said Philippa, who says input and support from the police, family liaison officers and the victims' families was essential in providing an accurate portrayal of the girls.

"When I was first asked to do this drama I thought maybe it was too soon, but once I started talking to everybody involved in it I became absolutely convinced it was a hugely important story to tell.

"The problems of drug addiction, forcing girls into prostitution and the lack of help there is for those kind of girls has to be shouted from the rooftops.

"Also to show that girls who get themselves into those situations, their lives have true value, just as much as anyone else.

"It's like a film of remembrance really."

Girls' relationships

The programme opens with the discovery of the bodies of Annette Nicholls and Paula Clennell - the last of the five to be found.

Viewers are then taken back a few months to see Anneli Alderton being released from prison, with Five Daughters focussing on her desire to 'go straight' and the building of her relationships with her mother and brother as well as with Gemma Adams.

Aisling Loftus as Gemma Adams and Jamie Winstone as Anneli Alderton
Aisling Loftus as Gemma Adams and Jamie Winstone as Anneli Alderton

Stephen Butchard, who wrote the screenplay, said these relationships are key to the drama.

"The most important people in their lives were their families," he said.

"It was identifying who they had daily contact with, who were their friends, who did they look out for themselves, and then see if you can bring out those relationships and overlay the events of the story.

"My opening question to each of the mums was 'tell me about your daughter', and that wasn't 'tell me about your daughter in the last month of her life'.

"What was she like when she was growing up? Who were her friends? What did she want to be when she left school? Trying to find out about them.

"They weren't expecting me to paint any picture of their daughter as an angel - what they wanted to see was the truth."

Suffolk via Bristol

Five Daughters was filmed in Bristol but the crew spent a lot of time in Suffolk getting to know the girls' families, key people involved with the investigation and others who play an important role in the story.

Brian Tobin had met some of the girls in his role of co-founder and director of Ipswich drug support group The Iceni Project.

He was shadowed by Sean Harris as part of a year-long period of research by the project team and Brian was impressed with the actor's job after seeing an advanced screening of the first episode.

Brian Tobin, The Iceni Project
Brian Tobin wants a long term strategy to end street prostitution

"It's a strange feeling but the chap who played me picked up a lot of my mannerisms. I was gobsmacked by the scene in the town hall - it was as if he was there, because that's how it happened."

Brian refers to a public meeting at the time of the murders when he spoke about his desire to see a long-term solution for street prostitution.

Four years later, Brian says the drama is bound to bring up some painful memories but hopes it will be for the good in the long term.

"I don't think it's a bad thing to raise the issues again," he said. "There's been a concerted effort to eradicate street prostitution, but it's a huge arena and there's still a lot of work to be done.

"If a programme like this can create more awareness and have some adult debate, instead of some of the rubbish that's been spouted on television and the media since the murders, it can only be good.

"I would like to see something like this drama go out into the schools and colleges. It's a true depiction of what happened and what life is really like out there.

"The average person on the street doesn't have a clue what goes on in the periphery of society but it's part of society nonetheless.

"Something positive has to come from those sad times."

Essential viewing

Liz Harsant, Leader of Ipswich Borough Council and trustee of the Somebody's Daughter charity, was also at the advanced screening of the first episode.

"I came with an open mind," she said. "I wondered if it would be salacious, but it wasn't at all.

"I think it's essential that people do watch it, it's not trying to sensationalise what happened in Ipswich because it's happening everywhere.

"We sadly had a mad man in the midst of it murdering these girls.

"The reality is prostitution exists and it exists because of drugs. If we can't face up to that as a nation I don't know where we're going."

Five Daughters is on BBC One at 9pm on 25, 26 and 27 April 2010.

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