Northern Ireland news

British soldier who served in Northern Ireland real life inspiration for Line of Duty storyline

Actor Martin Compston published this `spoiler' picture on Twitter of the AC-12 team arriving on the scene after last week's cliffhanger

THE death of a British soldier who served in Northern Ireland is believed to be the real life inspiration for the plot in the latest series of popular BBC crime drama Line of Duty.

The Belfast-filmed show has remained faithful to more than its tradition of high-octane action sequences and heart-stopping cliffhangers - also mining real life cases for its storylines.

While the wait to find out tomorrow night if Vicky McClure's popular DI Kate Fleming character survives a Mexican stand-off with child criminal turned police constable Ryan Pilkington, fans of the drama have been piecing together the true life crimes which inspired the plot.

Previous series saw references to high profile, paedophile rings with prolific sex offender Jimmy Savile photo-shopped into pictures with characters.

Writer Jed Mercurio has himself confirmed the origins of reporter Gail Vella - whose murder is at the centre of the latest `case'.

Mercurio said his inspiration came from "thinking of investigative journalism, which deserves a lot of admiration, such as the work of Maltese reporter Daphne Caruana Galizia, who spent much of her career investigating high-level corruption, and was assassinated".

Ms Caruana Galizia, murdered in 2017 after revealing massive corruption in the country, had the maiden name Vella and her car model was identical to the fictional character's.

The case Vella was investigating was the death in custody of Lawrence Christopher, a young architect assaulted by a group of white youths and erroneously arrested by police who made mocking monkey noises through the door.

His name is a portmanteau of Stephen Lawrence and Christopher Alder, with fans sharing information online to piece together the striking similarities in the three cases.

Stephen Lawrence was an 18-year-old student who was hoping to become an architect like the fictional character when he was stabbed to death in 1993 by a group of white youths in an unprovoked attack.

A subsequent report into the police investigation into the murder finding that the force was "institutionally racist".

Christopher Alder (37) was a trainee computer programmer and former British Army paratrooper who had served in the Falklands War and commended for his service in Northern Ireland.

He died in police custody in 1998 having earlier been the victim of an assault outside a nightclub, arrested to prevent a breach of the peace after exhibiting "extremely troublesome" behaviour at hospital.

"Partially dragged and partially carried" handcuffed and unconscious from a police van to the custody suite, officers laughed - speculating he was faking illness.

Mr Alder could be heard making "gurgling" noises but an officer who heard it claimed he ignored it believing "he was putting it on".

The audio track of the CCTV footage appears to show that the officers made monkey noises.

He died shortly afterwards with five police officers tried for manslaughter and misconduct in public office acquitted on the orders of the judge.

His clothes were destroyed by police investigating the death and never forensically examined, with a civil jury finding that a man was unlawfully arrested and charged with his assault on the night he died "to divert attention away from the part the police themselves played in Mr Alder's death".

A 2006 Independent Police Complaints Commission report concluded that four of the officers present in the custody suite were guilty of the "most serious neglect of duty" and "unwitting racism".

In November 2011 the government formally apologised to his family, admitting that it had breached its obligations with regard to "preserving life and ensuring no one is subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment" and failed to carry out an effective and independent inquiry into the case.

Viewers have just two more episodes to see if the fictional Lawrence Christopher gets justice.

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