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Sheridan Smith drama The Moorside Premieres 7 Feb on BBC1



The Moorside BBC 2017 Sheridan Smith (centre)

Strong two part drama The Moorside, based on the true story of the disappearance of Shannon Matthews, premieres on BBC One on Tuesday 7 Feb at 9.00pm.

Following the disappearance of nine year-old Shannon Matthews from The Moorside Estate in Dewsbury, the police and community mount a frantic search. Despite their efforts, no trace of her can be found and within a few hours the police investigation takes on the scale of a murder enquiry.

Emotional public appeals for information from her mother Karen Matthews amount to nothing, and the community, led by Julie Bushby, stand by her and make extraordinary efforts of their own to find Shannon.

Despite the support, doubts are beginning to creep in for some regarding Karen’s behaviour. Friend and neighbour Natalie (Sian Brooke) struggles with her conscience as she becomes convinced that Karen knows more than she is revealing.

Just as all hope is close to fading, Shannon is found alive. The wild celebrations of Julie and the community are rapidly cut short when they learn that Shannon was being held by a man known to Karen.

Sheridan smith says of the role “the story is a fascinating mixture of what I thought I knew and a whole lot more that I had no idea about. The themes of faith and trust in human nature, and the way the whole community came together really inspired me.”

The Background to the drama

This drama is not focused on Shannon Matthews herself; her abduction is not portrayed nor her experience during the time she was missing. The drama tells the story of the women who led the campaign to find Shannon. Karen Matthews is not the central character.

Shannon was nine when she disappeared from her home in the Moorside estate in Dewsbury in February 2008. She was discovered 24 days later at the home of Michael Donovan, less than a mile away. Her mother and Donovan were jailed for kidnap, false imprisonment and perverting the course of justice.

Jeff Pope and Neil McKay worked together on the award-winning drama Appropriate Adult, which looked at the story of serial killer Fred West from the point of view of trainee social worker Janet Leach. They have a reputation for factual drama based on detailed research that focuses not on the crime itself but on ordinary people caught up in events, whose perspective gives a fresh eye on these important news stories.

Written by Neil McKay, directed by Paul Whittington (Mrs Biggs, The Widower, Cilla) directed by Ken Horn and executive produced by Jeff Pope for ITV Studios

Our picture shows Natalie Brown (Sian Brooke), Julie Bushby (Sheridan Smith), Karen Matthews (Gemma Whelan)

The Moorside Episode 1 (of 2) airs on Tuesday 7 February 2017 from 9.00pm-10.00pm on BBC One.