Martin Compston: 'I postponed my honeymoon to play a psychopath in In Plain Sight'

Line of Duty hero Martin Compston plays real-life serial killer Peter Manuel in ITV's new three-part drama In Plain Sight...

Families in Lanarkshire lived in fear of their lives when a brutal serial killer went on a two-year killing spree in the mid-1950s.

Line of Duty star Martin Compston now plays the notorious murderer Peter Manuel in ITV drama In Plain Sight (premieres Wednesday, December 7) that's based on the horrifying real-life events, and we caught up with Martin during its filming to find out more...

How did you find  filming this drama? "Well, I got married the day before we started filming so we had to postpone the honeymoon. But so far, she’s been a very forgiving wife!"

Was it hard to play such an evil man? "It was a challenge! You have to be aware that these were real people and they will still have family members out there. You have to be respectful of that.

"The drama is very much about bringing him down and I think we’ve done it really well. It’s kind of what you don’t see that fires your imagination. There are small insights into the absolute madness of him. There are no redeeming features in Manuel, put it that way."

Had you heard of Peter Manuel before this project? "Yes, Manuel was a bogeyman in Scotland for many years, so I’d heard quite a lot about him growing up in Greenock. But I wasn’t aware of the depth and the severity of his crimes. He was so evil and an absolute psychopath. He had a terrible bloodlust inside him and often broke into houses to kill people. One of his calling cards was pouring soup over the floors and throwing it on the walls."

What was his background? "He’d been a burglar and definitely had some sort of heightened sense at night – he was a lot more confident in the dark. He was breaking into all these houses and nobody could hear him and he could find his way through fields and woods in the dark."

As a teenager, Manuel had been arrested for house-breaking by detective William Muncie (played by Douglas Henshall). What was their relationship like? "Manuel enjoyed playing a cat-and-mouse game with detectives because he thought he was clever and smarter them. He thought of himself as this master criminal and he just loved all the press attention on the murders. You do seem him unravel through the drama and start losing it big time by the end."

So how did Manuel eventually get caught? "He actually couldn’t handle the fact that other people were getting the blame for his crimes. He was saying to the police, 'I know who did it,' and was then describing the crime scenes. Only the murderer would know that. He was a narcissist."

Was it good to use your native Scottish accent for a change? "Well, it’s one less thing to worry about. When I do an accent, like in Line Of Duty, I tend to stay in it throughout filming as it informs the character. But this character is very dark so I needed  to concentrate on that and not worry about pronouncing my vowels!"

In Plain Sight premieres on ITV on Wednesday, December 7, at 9pm


Nicholas Cannon
TV Content Director on TV Times, What's On TV and TV & Satellite Week

I'm a huge fan of television so I really have found the perfect job, as I've been writing about TV shows, films and interviewing major television, film and sports stars for over 25 years. I'm currently TV Content Director on What's On TV, TV Times, TV and Satellite Week magazines plus I previously worked on Woman and Woman's Own in the 1990s. Outside of work I swim every morning, support Charlton Athletic football club and get nostalgic about TV shows Cagney & Lacey, I Claudius, Dallas and Tenko. I'm totally on top of everything good coming up too.