Red Riding

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Red Riding
Red Riding trilogy (2009).jpg
Created byDavid Peace
Tony Grisoni
Country of originUnited Kingdom
No. of episodes3
Running time295 min.
DistributorIFC Films (US)[1]
Original networkChannel 4
Original release5 March (2009-03-05) –
19 March 2009 (2009-03-19)
External links

Red Riding (2009) is a three-part television adaptation of English author David Peace's Red Riding Quartet (1999–2002). The quartet comprises the novels Nineteen Seventy-Four (1999), Nineteen Seventy-Seven (2000), Nineteen Eighty (2001) and Nineteen Eighty-Three (2002) and the first, third, and fourth of these books became three feature-length television episodes: Red Riding 1974, Red Riding 1980, and Red Riding 1983. They aired in the UK on Channel 4 beginning on 5 March 2009 and were produced by Revolution Films. The three films were released theatrically in the US in February 2010.[2]

Set against a backdrop of serial murders from 1974 to 1983, including the Yorkshire Ripper killings, the books and films follow several recurring fictional characters through a bleak and violent world of multi-layered police corruption and organised crime. Although there are allusions to real-life crimes, the plot is fictional rather than a documentary or factual account of events. Both the books and films mix elements of fact, fiction, and conspiracy theory – a confection dubbed "Yorkshire Noir" by some critics – and are notable for a chronologically fractured narrative and for defying neat or trite endings and resolutions. The name of the series is a reference to the murders and to their location, the historic county of Yorkshire being traditionally divided into three areas known as ridings.

Plot summaries[edit]

Red Riding 1974[edit]

1974. Eddie Dunford (Andrew Garfield) is a cocky and naïve cub reporter for The Yorkshire Post. John Dawson (Sean Bean) is an unscrupulous local real estate developer, representing a group of investors. Their paths cross when Dunford investigates a series of murdered or missing schoolgirls, one of whom is found on Dawson's property, tortured, raped, and strangled. Dawson has used a combination of bribery (small ownership shares in a new shopping centre) and blackmail to secure the support of the local councillors, allowing him to purchase land and gain zoning approval to construct the shopping centre. He has also used the same bribes and blackmail with the newly formed West Yorkshire Metropolitan Police (WYMP), who harass the Romani people camping on the land he wants.

Dunford is spurred on by comments from people, including his gay reporter friend Barry Gannon (Anthony Flanagan), who warns of trouble then dies in an accident. An elusive male hustler, B.J. (Robert Sheehan), gives Dunford incriminating materials gathered by Gannon (some provided by Dawson) about local officials. During his investigation of Gannon's death, Dunford believes that he has found an ally in a reform-minded young police officer.

Dunford becomes romantically involved with Paula Garland (Rebecca Hall), mother of a missing girl. He learns from Paula that she is also sexually involved with Dawson, whom she has known all her life.

Dunford ignores corrupt WYMP officers' threats, complete with beatings, to lay off the story. Dunford convinces Paula to leave town with him, then briefly leaves her to deliver the Gannon materials to his police officer friend. When he returns, Paula is missing, so he storms a large party at Dawson's palatial home, celebrating the signing of the shopping center deal, to demand Paula be returned.

Dunford is arrested by corrupt cops, brutally beaten and psychologically tortured, then shown Paula's dead body. His supposed ally policeman has given the Gannon documents to Detective Superintendent Maurice Jobson (David Morrissey), who has them destroyed. The only remaining threat to the corrupt officials is that Dawson might talk, so police officers Tommy Douglas (Tony Mooney) and Bob Craven (Sean Harris) finish torturing Dunford, tell him that Dawson killed Paula (the viewer never knows for sure), then give him a loaded handgun to deal with Dawson.

Bloody and frantic, Dunford seeks out Dawson, eventually finding him at his private club. Dawson offers that he was "no angel" and that he had "a private weakness", implying that he is somehow connected to the murdered and missing girls. Dunford shoots Dawson dead and flees in his car, but reverses course when he finds himself chased by police cars. Dunford deliberately drives toward the pursuing police cars; a vision of Paula appears to him before his death in the ensuing collision.

Red Riding 1980[edit]

In 1980, following public outcry over the failure to catch the Yorkshire Ripper, a "squeaky clean" Manchester police detective, Assistant Chief Constable Peter Hunter (Paddy Considine), is assigned to travel to West Yorkshire to head the WYMP investigation, much to the chagrin of the former head, Bill Molloy (Warren Clarke). Hunter had previously worked on the Karachi Club massacre, a case he had to abandon due to his wife Joan's miscarriage. One member of Hunter's new, hand-picked team is Helen Marshall (Maxine Peake), his former adulterous lover. The two cases – massacre and serial killings – are linked by Officer Bob Craven (Sean Harris), who behaves in an openly hostile manner to the new team. Hunter correctly deduces that the Ripper inquiry is being side-tracked by the Wearside Jack tapes, and feels that the real Ripper has been interviewed and missed.

Hunter suspects that one of the Ripper's supposed victims, Clare Strachan, was not actually a Ripper victim. Hunter receives information on the murder from B.J., who is introduced through Reverend Laws (Peter Mullan). B.J. claims that Strachan was a prostitute working for Eric Hall, a now-dead WYMP policeman. Hall's wife requests that Hunter meet her, and after visiting her house – where Reverend Laws is also present – she provides Hunter with proof of Hall's work as a pimp and pornographer, and that she gave Hall's documents to Jobson. Jobson claims to have lost the files. Meanwhile, the former affair between Hunter and Marshall threatens to reignite.

Hunter interrogates Inspectors Dickie Alderman and Jim Prentice, who lets slip that the Strachan murder was probably performed by Hall, covered-up to look like a Ripper murder. Hunter also visits the now debilitated Tommy Douglas who later phones him demanding that they meet at his house. However, Hunter arrives to find Douglas and his daughter killed. Hunter is seriously intimidated when he receives covertly taken photos of himself and Marshall in compromising positions.

Near the end of Hunter's Christmas holiday, his Manchester house is burned down. Hunter then learns that his superiors have taken him off the Ripper case due to unspecified allegations of disciplinary breaches. He returns to West Yorkshire for a scheduled meeting with Jobson, but it appears, amid great fanfare, that the Yorkshire Ripper has been captured. The suspect confesses to all murders except that of Strachan, which he explicitly denies.

Hunter tracks down B.J. and forces him to reveal that five masked policemen burst into the Karachi Club minutes after Eddie Dunford's revenge, killing all civilian survivors and finding Bob Craven and Tommy Douglas wounded by Eddie. Strachan was a barmaid at the club; she and her friend B.J. witnessed the whole scene while hiding behind the bar, and were spotted by Angus and Craven as they fled the premises. B.J. is, therefore, the only surviving witness of the Karachi Club massacre, which forces him to flee town. Hunter's dialogue with B.J. also implies that Craven was the murderer of Strachan as well as Douglas.

Hunter returns to Millgarth Station, Leeds, to reveal this new information to Detective Chief Superintendent John Nolan (Tony Pitts). Nolan takes Hunter downstairs to the cells where Hunter enters to see Craven slouched back in a chair, shot through his head. He realises that Nolan was one of the five who took part in the Karachi Club shootings, but Nolan quickly shoots him dead. Alderman and Prentice plant the gun to make it look like Hunter and Craven shot each other. In a final scene, Joan Hunter is comforted by Reverend Laws at her husband's graveside.

Red Riding 1983[edit]

  • Director: Anand Tucker
  • Technique: taped with a Red One digital camera
  • Run time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
  • Rating: 2.05m

In 1983, Detective Inspector Maurice Jobson is plagued by guilt over his reluctant participation in the corrupt activities within the WYMP. It is revealed that it was he who tipped off Dunford about the arson in the Roma camp near Hunslet, in which Jobson took part under pressure by Molloy. It is also revealed that the camp site had to be vacated to pursue a £100mn joint investment between Dawson and the top echelons of the WYMP (including Jobson, Molloy, Angus, Alderman, Prentice, Nolan, Douglas and Craven) on a project for a shopping centre. It is also revealed that he knew about the innocence of Michael Myshkin (Daniel Mays), a mentally retarded man who was accused of the serial killings in 1974. Jobson is aware of a conspiracy within the WYMP protecting high-profile figures, including Dawson, from public exposure. Jobson's pangs of conscience are brought upon by his investigation into the recent disappearance of a young girl named Hazel Atkins, and lead him to open previous cases. He also starts an intimate relationship with a medium (Saskia Reeves), who seems to be in possession of valuable information concerning the more recent crimes.

Meanwhile, John Piggott (Mark Addy), a solicitor and the son of a notorious WYMP officer, decides to explore the Atkins case himself. His inquiries lead him to Leonard Cole (Gerard Kearns), the young man who found the swan-stitched victim in 1974 and who is now being framed for Atkins' disappearance. Cole is tortured and murdered by the police, his death disguised as a suicide. Using information given by Myshkin, Piggott finds a mine shaft hidden in a pigeon shed near Laws' home, where it is revealed that a paedophile and child-murdering ring was run in West Yorkshire by Reverend Laws, and that clients of this ring included significant figures of society, among them businessmen such as Dawson and policemen such as Piggott's own father.

It is implied that only when children with known, stable local families were abducted did the criminal structure run the risk of being made public. This was the main reason for the constables' indirect assistance in Dawson's demise, thereby solving the "two little problems" referred to by Angus (a nosy young journalist and a businessman with a dark secret) at the same time without compromising their million-pound investment on the commercial centre. It is clear that, at least after 1974, Laws counted on the complicity and even direct collaboration of high-ranking officials in the WYMP, although the extent of his grip on the police, the reasons why he did not share a fate similar to Dawson's and the degree of knowledge WYMP brass had of his and Dawson's activities prior to 1974 are left open to speculation.

Finally, it is also revealed that B.J. was the first child abducted by this criminal enterprise, and perhaps the only one who survived. He ends up returning to Laws' home to enact revenge, but in the last moment finds himself unable to do so due to Laws' mind-numbing, domineering influence on him. Seconds before Laws is about to drill into B.J.'s head with an electrical drill, Jobson appears with a shotgun and shoots the reverend three times, killing him. He then opens the hidden entrance to the mine shaft just in time for Piggott to emerge from it with a still-living Hazel Atkins in his arms. B.J. flees southward by train, reflecting on his upbringing, his experiences, and his "escape" from the past of West Yorkshire. Thus three characters – Jobson, Piggott and B.J. – achieve some measure of redemption in the end.


Character 1974 1980 1983
DI Dickie Alderman
Shaun Dooley
CC Harold Angus
Jim Carter
Hazel Atkins Tamsin Mitchell
Mr Atkins Andrew Cryer
Bet Lynn Roden
BJ (older)
Robert Sheehan
BJ (younger) James Ainsworth
Paul Bosker Ian Mercer Ian Mercer
Sgt John Chain James Weaver
Leonard Cole Gerard Kearns Gerard Kearns
Mary Cole Cara Seymour Cara Seymour
Sgt/DSI Bob Craven
Sean Harris
John Dawson Sean Bean Sean Bean
Marjorie Dawson Cathryn Bradshaw
Karen Douglas Charlotte James
Sharon Douglas Michelle Holmes
PC Tommy Douglas
Tony Mooney
Eddie Dunford
Andrew Garfield
Susan Dunford Rachel Jane Allen
Uncle Eric Graham Walker
HMIC Philip Evans James Fox
Sgt Bob Fraser Steven Robertson Steven Robertson
Barry Gannon Anthony Flanagan
Paula Garland Rebecca Hall
Gaz Danny Cunningham
George Greaves Berwick Kaler
Bill Hadley John Henshaw John Henshaw
Elizabeth Hall Julia Ford
Joan Hunter Lesley Sharp
ACC Peter Hunter Paddy Considine
Judith Jobson Lisa Howard
DSI/DCS Maurice Jobson
David Morrissey
Jim Kelly Gary Whittaker
Mr Kemplay Stewart Ross
Mrs Kemplay Jennifer Hennessy
Rev Martin Laws
Peter Mullan
Clive McGuiness Hilton McRae
HMCIC Sir John Marsden David Calder
DC Helen Marshall Maxine Peake
DCS/ACC Bill Molloy
Warren Clarke
Michael Myshkin Daniel Mays Daniel Mays
Mrs Myshkin Beatrice Kelley
DCS John Nolan
Tony Pitts
John Piggott Mark Addy
DI Jim Prentice
Chris Walker
Susan Ridyard Emily Millicent Mott
CC Clement Smith Ron Cook
Clare Strachan
Kelly Freemantle
Peter Sutcliffe Joseph Mawle
Kathryn Taylor Michelle Dockery Michelle Dockery
Steph Katherine Vasey
Tessa Catherine Tyldesley
Michael Warren Nicholas Woodeson
Jack Whitehead
Eddie Marsan
Aunt Win Rita May
Mandy Wymer Saskia Reeves

Historical basis[edit]

The television trailers for all three Red Riding episodes bore the tagline "Based on True Events". Nevertheless, none of the characters, nor the murder victims, bear the names of real people and only a few (see below) have obvious real-life models.

The wrongful prosecution and imprisonment of the character Michael Myshkin is a clear parallel to the real-life case of Stefan Kiszko, falsely accused of and convicted for the killing of 11-year-old Lesley Molseed in 1975. He was later proved innocent.

The mission and subsequent official vilification of Assistant Chief Constable Peter Hunter in Red Riding 1980 are strongly reminiscent of the case of John Stalker, a real life Deputy Chief Constable of the Greater Manchester Police who headed an investigation into the shooting of suspected members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army in 1982.

Awards and nominations[edit]

The films won The TV Dagger at the 2009 Crime Thriller Awards.[3]

Theatrical film adaptation[edit]

Columbia Pictures has acquired the rights to adapt the novels and films into a theatrical film. The studio was negotiating with Ridley Scott in October 2009 to direct. Rebecca Hall and Andrew Garfield may reprise their roles.[4]

The trilogy was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc in the U.S. by IFC Films on 5 February 2010.[5]

Overseas broadcasting[edit]

The series has been aired by Danish public broadcaster DR1 on two occasions under the title Pigen med den røde hætte (The Girl with the Red Cap). It has also been aired by SVT, Sweden's public broadcaster[citation needed], by Rai 4 in Italy,[6] by ARD in Germany,[7] and by SBS in Australia.[8]


  1. ^ Kay, Jeremy (14 May 2009). "IFC Films acquires cult drama Red Riding". (Emap Media).
  2. ^ See the Complete 'Red Riding' Trilogy in New York
  3. ^ Flood, Alison (22 October 2009). "British readers vote Harlan Coben their favourite crime writer". (Guardian News & Media). Retrieved 28 October 2009.
  4. ^ Fleming, Michael (15 October 2009). "Columbia caught 'Red'-handed". Variety. Variety Media, LLC. Archived from the original on 15 March 2016. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  5. ^ Blu-ray and DVD Art – The Red Riding Trilogy
  6. ^ Red Riding Trilogy. Accessed 20 January 2017
  7. ^ Krimi-Trilogie "Yorkshire Killer": Alptraum-Provinz im Bann des Rippers. Der Spiegel, 2 January 2011. Accessed 13 March 2016
  8. ^ The Red Riding Trilogy: 1974. Sydney Morning Herald, 11 November 2010. Accessed 10 February 2016

External links[edit]