ITV’s In Plain Sight is new three-part mini-series based on the true story of Lanarkshire detective William Muncie’s quest to bring to justice notorious Scottish killer Peter Manuel.
Douglas Henshall (Shetland) takes the role of William Muncie whilst Peter Manuel is played by Martin Compston (Line of Duty).
Muncie first arrested Manuel in 1946 for housebreaking, but also successfully convicted him for a string of sexual assaults. Manuel vowed revenge. Released from prison in 1955, Manuel embarked on a two-year killing spree, claiming eight lives in the close-knit communities of South Lanarkshire.
Manuel evaded capture for so long because he was unlike anything the local police had ever encountered: A murderer without any discernible motive whose victims were chosen at random. Muncie was the one man who had Manuel’s measure and doggedly refused to give up until Manuel was brought to justice.
The cast also includes Brian McCardie as Samuel Manuel, Denis Lawson as Lawrence Dowdall, Shauna Macdonald as Agnes Muncie, Joanna Roth as Bridget Manuel and Gary Lewis as William Watt.
Wednesday 7 December 2016, 9pm
Detective William Muncie is celebrating his 40th birthday at home with his friends and family when a birthday card is hand delivered. The card is signed Peter Thomas Manuel and takes Muncie back to 1946 when he saw Manuel arrested and imprisoned for the sexual assault of three women.
Nine years later Manuel is out of prison and back on Muncie’s patch with revenge on his mind. He attacks a young woman, Mary McLauchlan, and keeps her with him in an open field for most of the night before returning to his home.
Mary reports the attack and says she thinks she knows who did it. Manuel is brought to the station where she identifies him in a line up. Under questioning by Muncie, Manuel does not deny being in the field, but says he was not with Mary, he was poaching. Muncie warns his team that Manuel is a real threat to the woman of the community and they must do all they can to make sure they obtain a conviction. He is concerned about the length of time Mary was held in the field unsure what Manuel was up to. Then he hears that he is going to mount his own defence.
Manuel manages to secure a not proven verdict on the attack, saying he had been romantically involved with Mary and had been trying to tactfully end their affair that night which was why they had been together so long. Muncie promises a distraught Mary that he will not rest until Manuel is behind bars.
It is Christmas time and Muncie arrives home to another personal delivery, a Christmas card from Manuel. He confides to Agnes, his wife, that he is afraid that Manuel won’t leave a witness next time.
On January 4th the brutally beaten body of a young woman, Anne Kneilands, is found on a local golf course.
Wednesday 14 December 2016, 9pm
It is September and nine months after the death of Anne Kneilands the police are no further forward in finding her killer.
Detective Muncie is sure he knows the culprit. Even though not part of the investigation he goes to Manuel’s home to try and reason with his father who gave him the alibi he needed to be free of the investigation. Samuel Manuel is uncooperative and angry about Muncie’s accusation.
On 17 September, Muncie hears the news that the Watt family, a mother, daughter and Mrs Watt’s sister had all been shot dead in their beds. Although the modus operandi was different from Manuel’s usual violence, Muncie was immediately concerned this was his doing. Again, although not part of the investigating team, Muncie goes to the Watt house and discovers enough evidence that it was Manuel to take his findings to Inspector Leish, the man in charge.
Leish has already decided the husband William Watt was the murderer. Two eyewitnesses said they had seen him close to his home that evening. Peter Manuel, in Barlinnie serving time for petty theft at the time, approaches Watt’s solicitor Laurence Dowdall and offers information that will prove his client, Watt, did not commit the murders. Between this intervention and some more detective work on Muncie’s part William Watt is released without charge after 67 days behind bars.
With no concrete evidence against Manuel, Muncie is forced to wait for his next move and this time Manuel approaches Watt and Dowdall directly again offering to meet them and reveal the name of the real killer. They go to Muncie for advice and 18 he suggests they meet in a public place, together, and try to get him to say something incriminating which they could then corroborate.
Manuel meets them but they get nowhere. Another chance for him to show how much power he has and how useless the police are. On 28 December a young woman, Isabelle Cooke is reported missing. On 29 December Peter Manuel hands himself in for questioning.
Wednesday 21 December 2016, 9pm
Manuel has a typed sheet of all the places he has been since the reported disappearance of Isabelle Cooke; Muncie has to release him without charge. Without a body there’s no arresting him. A search operation is organised with local volunteers scouring the countryside in search of the missing girl. Muncie has no doubt she is dead. Eventually the girl’s coat is discovered and identified by Isabelle’s distraught mother.
Two days later, in the early hours of New Year’s morning the Smart family, Peter Doris and 12-year-old Michael are all shot dead in their beds.
Peter Manuel drives their stolen car to the River Clyde where he disposes of the gun and en route picks up a policeman heading to a muster point for the continuing search for the missing, now presumed dead, girl.
It is not until 6 January that the bodies of the Smarts are discovered because the family had been going away for a short holiday and had not been missed.
Muncie puts Manuel under 24 watch and enlists the help of an ex-con, Joe Brannon to be the ears of the surveillance. Peter Manuel is being very chatty at the moment, pumped up and full of himself.
Meanwhile, families are sending wives and daughters away; shops are cleaned out of padlocks and deadbolts. People are sleeping with knives by their beds. It is an entire community in terror of their lives.
Finally Muncie has a break through. He remembers looking through Peter’s Smart’s wallet at the crime scene and being heartbroken at the sight of the family photographs kept in it. Now he remembers the wallet was empty – no cash at all. Finally Manuel has made a mistake. Muncie speaks to Brannon who confirms that while Manuel had been hard up on Hogmanay, by New Year’s Day he was spending cash everywhere buying rounds for everyone and all with brand new one pound notes.
Muncie goes to Peter Smart’s bank and is told that he withdrew £15 in new one-pound notes on New Year’s Eve. He sends his team of officers to the pubs and clubs Manuel visited on New Year’s Day to find the ones that matched the number on the Smart notes.
They finally arrest Manuel and when Muncie questions him he tells him they have also arrested his father Samuel as an accessory to murder. This touches a spot with Peter who immediately offers to make a full confession if they release his father and says he will take them to where he buried Isabelle Cooke.
Finally the man they called the Beast of Birkenshaw was imprisoned 2 years after he began a killing spree, which left 8 people dead, and a community traumatised.
He was hanged in July 1958.
Detective William Muncie went on to investigate over 50 murders and solved every one of them.
Watch the trailer…
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