All the true crime TV dramas coming in 2021

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Photo credit: Sky
Photo credit: Sky

True crime dramatisations dominated our television screens last year, and the nation's appetite for the macabre shows no signs of abating in 2021.

BBC, ITV and Netflix will air dramas based on some of the most infamous cases in the UK and beyond, and feature acclaimed actors transforming into real-life serial killers.

Here are the best true crime series released this year...

The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe (ITV)

Photo credit: MEGA - Getty Images
Photo credit: MEGA - Getty Images

The extraordinary true story of how John Darwin faked his own death to claim life insurance and avoid bankruptcy will be told in a new ITV drama, The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe

The four-part series will star Eddie Marsan as former teacher and prison officer John and Monica Dolan as wife Anne, who was complicit in deceiving the world that John had disappeared whilst canoeing off the coast of Seaton Carew in Cleveland.

The drama will be written by Unforgotten screenwriter Chris Lang, retelling how John concocting the scheme to defraud insurance companies, unbeknownst to their two sons.

It will be based on the unpublished manuscript by David Leigh, who was the first journalist to track down Anne as she was attempting to set up a new life in Panama.

The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe will air on ITV later this year.

Stephen

Photo credit: ITV
Photo credit: ITV

Sharlene Whyte, Steve Coogan and Hugh Quarshie play leading roles in Stephen, the three-part sequel to ITV's award-winning drama, The Murder of Stephen Lawrence.

Whyte (Small Axe, We Hunt Together) takes the role of Doreen Lawrence with Hugh Quarshie (Breeders) reprising his performance of Neville Lawrence from the original series. Coogan takes the role of DCI Clive Driscoll who led the investigation into the murder of the Lawrences' beloved son, Stephen. The drama will chronicle the events from 2006, thirteen years after Stephen’s death on the evening of 22 April 1993 in a racially motivated attack whilst waiting for a bus in Well Hall Road, Eltham.

Even though Doreen and Neville Lawrence knew the identity of their son's killers, the original investigation had failed to convict those responsible, and their extraordinary campaign for justice led to a public inquiry which branded Metropolitan Police institutionally racist and brought about sweeping changes in the law and police practices, and transformed thinking and understanding of racial inequality in the UK.

Yet six years on from the Inquiry no progress had been made into the case. The drama tells the story of the ongoing struggle by Doreen and Neville Lawrence to achieve justice and how a detective, DCI Clive Driscoll – working closely with the Lawrences – puts together an investigation that finally – more than 18 years after his death – secures the convictions of two of the gang who committed the murder of Stephen.

Stephen is available to catch up on ITV Hub now.

The Investigation (BBC Two)

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

BBC Two's humane and dignified six-part drama explores the investigation into the brutal murder of Swedish journalist Kim Wall in Denmark in 2017.

The Investigation makes a bold statement in the genre of true crime dramatisations by refusing to name the murderer, to avoid glorifying the criminal and instead shift the focus on Kim Wall, her family, and the murder squad's work in solving the crime.

The Killing and Borgen's actor Soren Malling plays the head of Copenhagen Police homicide unit Jens Moller who was in charge of Kim Wall's case.

The Investigation is available to stream on BBC iPlayer now.

Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story (Netflix)

Photo credit: Getty
Photo credit: Getty

Ryan Murphy's latest Netflix series will focus on US serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, who will be played by American Horror Story actor Evan Peters. Peters joins Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water, Six Feet Under, Olive Kitteridge), Niecy Nash (When They See Us) and Broadway star Penelope Ann Miller.

Monster will chronicle the story of one of America's most notorious serial killers (Peters), unfolding from the point of view of Dahmer's victims, and delves into the police incompetence and apathy that enabled him to go on a multiyear killing spree.

Monster will launch on Netflix later this year.

Dr Death

Photo credit: Raymond Hall - Getty Images
Photo credit: Raymond Hall - Getty Images

Joshua Jackson will play Christopher Duntsch, a Texas-based surgeon who was accused of maiming four patients and killing two others in new series Dr Death.

The true-crime adaptation is based on the Wondery podcast of the same name and is set to air on new US streaming platform Peacock in the US.

In 2017, Duntsch was convicted of maiming one of his patients and sentenced to life in prison.

Alec Baldwin, Christian Slater and AnnaSophia Robb will also co-star in the series.

Dr Death is available to stream now on Amazon Prime via StarzPlay.

Manhunt II: The Night Stalker (ITV)

Photo credit: ITV
Photo credit: ITV

Martin Clunes returns as former London Metropolitan Police detective, DCI Colin Sutton in ITV's Manhunt II: The Night Stalker.

The four part drama tells the real life story of the police pursuit of a notorious serial rapist, whose 17 year reign of terror left thousands of elderly people in south east London living in fear. It is based on the diaries of Colin Sutton.

Manhunt series 1 featured Clunes as DCI Sutton, which told the real life story of how the murder of Amelie Delagrange in 2004 was eventually linked to the murder of Marsha McDonnell in 2003 and the abduction and murder of Milly Dowler as she travelled home from school in 2002.

Manhunt II: The Night Stalker will air on ITV later this year.

The Yorkshire Ripper (ITV)

Photo credit: ITV
Photo credit: ITV

From the makers of Des [pictured above] and White House Farm, ITV's The Yorkshire Ripper will depict one of the most notorious and shocking serial killer cases in the world, the hunt for Peter Sutcliffe, named the Yorkshire Ripper.

Between October 1975 and January 1981, police undertook the biggest manhunt in British criminal history, and the search for Sutcliffe lasted five years, involving over a thousand officers and changed the way the British police worked forever.

Written by George Kay (Criminal), the true crime drama will follow the desperate, cat and mouse hunt for Sutcliffe focusing upon the police investigation and the lives of the victims.

Casting has yet to be announced.

The Yorkshire Ripper will air on ITV later this year.

Four Lives (BBC One)

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

Stephen Merchant has transformed into real-life serial killer Stephen Port for BBC One's upcoming factual drama, which has now changed its name from The Barking Murders to Four Lives.

The series aims to go behind the sensational headlines by telling the case from the perspective of the families of Stephen Port's victims, and focus on their fight to uncover the truth about what had happened to their lost sons and brothers in the face of a now widely criticised police investigation.

The series is created by Jeff Pope and Neil McKay, whose credits include The Moorside, a dramatisation of the 2008 disappearance of 9-year-old Shannon Matthews, and Appropriate Adult, about serial killer Fred West.

The cast also includes Sheridan Smith, who plays Sarah Sak, the mother of 23-year-old victim Anthony Walgate, and Jaime Winstone.

Last year, actor Michael Jibson confirmed that the series was being postponed due to the ongoing criminal case.

Four Lives will launch on BBC One later this year.

The Staircase (Sky Atlantic)

Photo credit: Getty
Photo credit: Getty

Colin Firth and Game of Thrones actress Sophie Turner will star in a new series inspired by true events.

The crime drama will explore the life of novelist Michael Peterson (played by Firth), who was convicted of murdering his wife Kathleen in 2003. Kathleen was found dead at the bottom of the stairs of their sprawling family home in North Carolina.

Turner will play Margaret Ratliffe, the adopted daughter of Peterson who went to live with his family after her mother was also found dead at the bottom of the stairs in Germany. Ratliffe maintains Peterson's innocence.

The cast also features Toni Collette, Juliette Binoche, Rosemarie DeWitt and Parker Posey.

The Staircase will launch on Sky Atlantic in 2022.

Impeachment: American Crime Story (FX and BBC Two)

Photo credit: Matt Winkelmeyer - Getty Images
Photo credit: Matt Winkelmeyer - Getty Images

The current instalment in Ryan Murphy's anthology series focuses on Bill Clinton's abuse of power and subsequent affair with Monica Lewinsky between 1995 and 1997.

Booksmart's Beanie Feldstein plays Monica, who was a 22-year-old White House intern at the time, while British actor Clive Owen plays Clinton, who was 49 at the time. Sarah Paulson stars as Linda Tripp, and Annaleigh Ashford as Paula Jones.

Murphy recruited Monica Lewinsky to produce the series, so we will finally see the story from her perspective.

American Crime Story: Impeachment will air later this year on FX and BBC Two.

Landscapers (Sky Atlantic and NOW TV)

Photo credit: Sky
Photo credit: Sky

This four-part crime drama follows the shocking story of Susan and Christopher Edwards who murdered Susan's parents and buried their bodies in the garden.

Susan and Christopher Edwards shot Patricia and William Wycherley and buried them at the Wycherley home in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, in 1998.

The couple then stole thousands of pounds, and spent many of it on Hollywood memorabilia, before being found guilty in 2014.

Oscar-winner Olivia Colman will play Susan, and Giri/Haji and Flowers' star and writer Will Sharpe will direct.

Landscapers will launch on Sky Atlantic and Now TV later this year.

Deceit (Channel 4)

Photo credit: Channel 4
Photo credit: Channel 4

The Virtues actress Niamh Algar leads the cast in a four-part drama examining the controversial 'honeytrap' operation at the heart of one of Britain's most high-profile cases.

The four-part series shines a light on the high-pressure investigation into the devastating murder of Rachel Nickell in 1992. Revealing the complicated and toxic sexual politics of the early '90s and the police's obsession with the wrong man, a female undercover officer, codename 'Lizzie James', is asked to become sexual bait for a suspected killer.

With access to previously unheard audio, video and written materials, My Name is Lizzie includes scenes of verbatim dialogue as part of a fictionalised retelling of events, taking viewers behind the scenes of one of the UK’s most flawed and controversial police investigations.

Deceit is available to catch up on 4OD now.

Anne (ITV)

Photo credit: BBC One
Photo credit: BBC One

ITV's four-part drama follows the real-life story of activist Anne Williams, who dedicated her life to campaigning for justice following her son’s death at Hillsborough. Written by novelist Kevin Sampson, who was present at Hillsborough Stadium on the tragic day that 96 football fans died, Anne stood defiantly alongside other parents and their families who fought for justice for the 96 loved ones who lost their lives at a football match.

Determined to unearth the truth about Hillsborough, Anne refused to believe the official line on how the disaster unfolded, seeking new medical opinion, tracking down witnesses whose statements were altered, and leaving no stone unturned in her fight for truth and justice.

Maxine Peake (above, in BBC One's award-winning Three Girls) will star as Anne Williams.

Anne will air on ITV later this year.

Inventing Anna (Netflix)

Photo credit: Jose Perez/Bauer-Griffin - Getty Images
Photo credit: Jose Perez/Bauer-Griffin - Getty Images

Ozark's Julia Garner plays real-life con artist Anna Delvey, the Instagram-legendary German heiress who stole the hearts of New York's social scene – and stole their money as well.

Shonda Rhimes' drama follows a journalist as she investigates the case of Anna Delvey. When Anna and the reporter form a dark, funny love-hate bond as Anna awaits trial, our reporter fights the clock to answer the biggest question in NYC: who is Anna Delvey?

The series is inspired by the New York Magazine article How Anna Delvey Tricked New York’s Party People by Jessica Pressler.

Inventing Anna will air on Netflix later this year.

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