"I was so nervous about meeting Rhys's mum" says Little Boy Blue star Sinead Keenan

The actress plays the bereaved mother of the murdered 11 year-old Rhys Jones, who was shot dead in Liverpool in 2007.

Sinead Keenan will be playing the bereaved mother of murdered 11 year-old, Rhys Jones, in ITV's poignant four-part drama Little Boy Blue and the actress has opened up about the moment she met the schoolboy's real mum.

Rhys was shot and killed as he walked home from football practice on an estate in Liverpool in August 2007. The senseless murder of an innocent young boy shocked Britain, yet for his parents, Mel and Steve Jones, the nightmare was only just beginning.

Now the tale of that fateful day and the Jones family’s battle for justice has been turned into a four-part drama, by the same people who made BBC hit The Moorside.

The production team was desperate for Mel and Steve Jones to approve the project, so Rhys’s parents were heavily involved in the series and Sinead felt honoured to meet Mel in the flesh.

“I went to their house and spent a couple of hours there,” she said. “They were very open, very warm and very generous with their time. I was a bit nervous. I’ve never played a real life person before, let alone a real life person we know about because of the worst possible situation you could find yourself in.”

Sinead also spoke of how playing Mel was one of the biggest challenges of her career.

“When I got the part I thought very hard about how I was going to play her. There’s so much stuff on the web, interviews and documentaries, but the only thing I could do as an actor was just try and put yourself in her shoes and imagining the unimaginable. Then hope to god you’ve done her justice and told Mel's story properly.”

The series, which also stars Stephen Graham as Dave Lewis, the detective hunting for Rhys’s killers, is based on real events and Sinead said she couldn’t believe some of the things the Jones family went through.

“When they went to see the body Mel tried to cuddle him,” explained Sinead. “The police officer told her to stop touching Rhys and then said: ‘If you touch him again I’ll arrest you’, because his body was evidence. It’s such a cruel process. When she told me that, it was unbelievable!”

As Little Boy Blue continues, the authorities catch up with Rhys’s murderer and the drama moves into the courtroom.

“The trial went on for three months and I just couldn’t believe some of the things Mel told me about it,” said Sinead. “The boys who had committed this terrible crime were joking about in the dock, throwing paper airplanes and acting with total disdain for the Jones family. Someone said it was as if they were in trouble for forgetting their homework.

“Then one day the judge told Mel that if she was going to continue to be emotional and upset, he’d prefer that she didn’t come in to court. She just couldn’t believe it. She had to sit and listen to the most horrific details about how her son was ripped away from her with the people who did it laughing and joking in her face.”

It's been nearly ten years since Rhys's death, but the Jones family are still struggling to move on from the loss of their son.

"There was no closure, it’s a complete misnomer," said Mel. "They have to live with it forever. They still live in the same house in Liverpool and Mel still can't turn right at the end of her road, because it will take her past the place Rhys died."

Little Boy Blue begins this week on ITV

Sean Marland

Sean is a Senior Feature writer for TV Times, What's On TV and TV & Satellite Week, who also writes for whattowatch.com. He's been covering the world of TV for over 15 years and in that time he's been lucky enough to interview stars like Ian McKellen, Tom Hardy and Kate Winslet. His favourite shows are I'm Alan Partridge, The Wire, People Just Do Nothing and Succession and in his spare time he enjoys drinking tea, doing crosswords and watching football.