The Long Shadow full season guide: plot, cast, and more

The Long Shadow on ITV1 shows the detectives hunting for serial killer Peter Sutcliffe, played by (from left) Kris Hitchen, Lee Ingleby, Stephen Tompkinson, Toby Jones and Jack Deam.
The Long Shadow shows the detectives hunting for serial killer Peter Sutcliffe, played by (from left) Kris Hitchen, Lee Ingleby, Stephen Tompkinson, Toby Jones and Jack Deam. (Image credit: ITV)

The Long Shadow is a true-crime drama, available to stream now on ITVX, that goes back to the 1970s and early 1980s to follow the victims and survivors of Peter Sutcliffe, the infamous serial killer who was branded "The Yorkshire Ripper" by a terrified public and sensational tabloids. The seven-parter features a stellar cast that reads like a who’s who of British TV royalty!

From the makers of Des and White House Farm and written by George Kay (Hijack), and starring the likes of Toby Jones, Lee Ingleby, Daniel Mays, David Morrissey and Katherine Kelly, the seven-parter focuses on the victims and the detectives at the heart of the investigation, bringing a fresh perspective to the shocking murders.

Katherine Kelly plays Emily Jackson, one of Sutcliffe's victims. Speaking about the impact on the local community, Katherine, who "grew up on the border of western South Yorkshire", said: "It still lives within those people who lived through that time. It changed everything. And it was indeed a long shadow, there was nobody that wasn't touched by that period of time." 

So here’s everything we know so far about The Long Shadow...

The Long Shadow episode 1 recap

Katherine Kelly as Emily Jackson, with husband Sydney. She became Sutcliffe's second victim in 1976. (Image credit: ITV)

The Long Shadow.

The Long Shadow detectives played by Lee Ingleby and Toby Jones. (Image credit: ITV)

The Long Shadow release date

The Long Shadow is a seven-part series that was released at 9 pm on Monday, September 25 2023 on ITV1, with subsequent episodes broadcast every Monday evening from thereon. The whole series is available to watch on ITVX

As it's co-produced by Sundance Now we're expecting it to arrive on there in the US. We'll update you with the US release date in due course.

* How to watch The Long Shadow online: stream the ITV drama

The Long Shadow plot

The Long Shadow is based in part on Wicked Beyond Belief by Michael Bilton, a critically acclaimed account of the case. It sensitively tells the stories of the victims who crossed Sutcliffe’s path, as well as their families and survivors. It also highlights alarming parallels between the so-called Yorkshire Ripper’s terrible crimes and tragic events in our more recent history.

Between 1975 and 1980, Peter Sutcliffe terrorised Yorkshire in a killing spree that left 13 women dead and seven others lucky to be alive after they managed to survive his brutal attacks.  His horrific crimes left a deep scar on the nation’s psyche and have been the subject of numerous films and documentaries, but the grief and pain that continues to be felt by his victims’ families is often forgotten. 

Opening in October 1975, with the murder of Wilma McCann, a mother of four young children from Leeds, this week’s first episode goes on to follow the story of Sydney Jackson and his wife Emily, who would be Sutcliffe’s second victim. Like many people in Britain during the period, the Jacksons were struggling to make ends meet in tough economic times, and Emily made the difficult decision to become a part-time sex worker in a bid to support their three children. 

The police initially suspect Sydney of killing his wife, until it soon becomes clear the two murders are linked – and the start of a terrifying killing spree. 

As the series progresses, Sutcliffe’s crimes launch the biggest police manhunt Britain has ever seen, but many of the detectives harbour misogynistic attitudes that hamper their investigation. However, one detective who understands the situation is DCS Dennis Hoban (Toby Jones) who takes up the case in its early stages.

Sutcliffe avoided detection for years due to a series of missed chances by police to catch him. He eventually confessed in 1981 after a police check discovered stolen number plates on his car.

The Ripper stalks his victim Emily Jackson (Katherine Kelly).

The Yorkshire Ripper's victim Emily Jackson (Katherine Kelly). (Image credit: ITV)

Is there a trailer for The Long Shadow?

Yes a trailer has been released by ITV which shows Katherine Kelly as Sutcliffe’s victim Emily Jackson, Daniel Mays as her husband, plus David Morrissey, Lee Ingleby and Toby Jones as the detectives at the heart of the investigation. It's captured those harrowing events of the 1970s very well. Take a look below...

The Long Shadow cast — Toby Jones on playing DCS Dennis Hoban

In The Long Shadow, Toby Jones stars as DCS Dennis Hoban, who initially led the investigation into the killings. Dorothy Atkinson plays his wife.

Toby says: "I hadn’t played a detective before and this was an opportunity to play a detective in a drama based on actual facts. Hoban’s character really appealed to me and I enjoyed the fact that we get to see a detective in retirement, when he’s not on a case that has completely obsessed him. 

"When we join the story, Hoban’s in charge and thinks he’s exploring one murder and then two. He’s right at the beginning, so his story is about how those cases mushroom out of the control of the police. Then he’s jettisoned as lead inspector and his journey goes from confidence and certainty to disappointment and uncertainty and, ultimately, death."

* Toby Jones is known for his roles in Detectorists and Sherlock, plus upcoming Mr Bates vs The Post Office as well as films like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Captain America, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and, most recently, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

Toby Jones playing DCS Dennis Hoban.

Toby Jones playing DCS Dennis Hoban. (Image credit: ITV)

David Morrissey as DCS George Oldfield

David Morrissey plays DCS George Oldfield, who famously took on the case, which ended up placing a huge strain on his health. He’s starred in The Walking Dead, The Missing, Britannia, The Singapore Grip and Sherwood.

David Morrissey as DCS George Oldfield.

David Morrissey as DCS George Oldfield. (Image credit: ITV)

Katherine Kelly on playing Emily Jackson

The Long Shadow does look closely at the story of the victims and their families and Katherine Kelly is playing Emily Jackson, one of Peter Sutcliffe’s earliest murder victims. 

Katherine says: "Emily is a woman in extremis. Her husband is involved, and they make a decision in order to look after their family that costs her everything. She was the only married murder victim. What’s important to remember about Emily is that there was no such thing as the 'Yorkshire Ripper' at that point. It was only after her death, when they linked her and Wilma McCann’s murder, that they realised that they were dealing with a serial killer. The fear and terror of him wasn't looming. What was looming for her was the fear and terror of having no money and being evicted. And so she stumbled across a way to solve that, which she thought she could do.

"What's interesting is that before that, they lost their oldest son, Derek, in a very tragic household accident. The family was changed by his death, they were never really the same after that. Derek was only about 15 when he died, so they were already a family dealing with horrendous personal tragedy. But it's also important to say that there is a lot of joy in Emily's story. There was no looming serial killer at that time. They have a beautiful Christmas together, they go out to the club dancing. Their story sets the social norms of the time.

"At the time, the focus was on the killer because they needed to find him to stop it. And so this is the first examination on screen of not just the murder victims, but also other victims who were dismissed at the time. I hope viewers feel that it’s authentic and that it’s been made with sensitivity and with integrity."

* Katherine Kelly is best known for playing Becky McDonald in Coronation Street and has also starred in Mr Selfridge, Innocent, Criminal: UK and Liar 2.

Katherine Kelly plays Ripper victim Emily Jackson.

Katherine Kelly as Yorkshire Ripper victim Emily Jackson. (Image credit: ITV)

Daniel Mays and Katherine Kelly as Sydney and Emily Jackson.

Daniel Mays and Katherine Kelly as Sydney and Emily Jackson.  (Image credit: ITV)

Daniel Mays on playing Sydney Jackson

Daniel Mays plays Emily Jackson’s husband Sydney, who knew she was doing sex work to help the family make ends meet.

Daniel says: " I was incredibly moved by the plight of the Jackson family. And, from an acting point of view, there is a lot to play with. Sydney couldn’t read, write or drive, so Emily was the driving force behind the family, literally. He would go along with his wife to make sure she was OK when she was with other men, but would sit in the bar getting drunk. This comes at a huge price to Sydney and, while he’s sort of an unlikable character, he also has to deal with this unimaginable sorrow."

* Daniel Mays is known for Ashes to Ashes, Line of Duty, Des, White Lines, and the films Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, 1917 and Fisherman’s Friends. He starred in the festive film Your Christmas Or Mine? in 2022 which has a sequel in 2023.

Daniel Mays plays the husband of Ripper victim Emily Jackson.

Daniel Mays playing Sydney, the husband of Ripper victim Emily Jackson. (Image credit: ITV)

Jill Halfpenny on playing Doreen Hill

Jill Halfpenny plays grieving mum Doreen Hill, with The Durrells' star Daisy Waterstone as her daughter Jacqueline Hill who was the final victim of serial killer Peter Sutcliffe in 1980..

Jill Halfpenny says: "Doreen Hill is a very forward-thinking woman who has ambitions for her children. When we first meet her, she's so proud that her daughter Jacqueline is going to university. She's so proud that her daughter wants to do the things she wants to do. Had Doreen been given the chance in her own career, maybe she would have been a bit of a trailblazer. She’s quiet, she's not loud. She's not audacious, but she's quietly steely and confident. She can’t understand why people can't do whatever they're capable of doing, no matter where they're from, or what sex they are.

"They sent Jackie to a university down towards Leeds because they'd been told over and over again that the killer was up in the north east, which is where they were from. They thought that it was a sensible decision to send their daughter to a university that wasn't in the north east. They thought that Leeds would be safer, and then that’s where her murder happened. It was such a cruel blow."

Jill Halfpenny as Doreen Hill in The Long Shadow.

Jill Halfpenny as Doreen Hill in The Long Shadow. (Image credit: ITV)

Lee Ingleby as DCS Jim Hobson

One of the investigating police officers in The Long Shadow is DCS Jim Hobson played by Lee Ingleby (The Hunt For Roaul Moat, Screw, The A Word).

Lee Ingleby as DCS Hobson in The Long Shadow

Lee Ingleby as DCS Hobson in The Long Shadow. (Image credit: ITV)

Who else is starring in The Long Shadow?

Former Emmerdale star Charley Webb (aka Debbie Dingle) plays WPC Anna Lawson (see picture below) who quizzes sex workers for clues about the killer’s identity, but finds many unwilling to talk. Cara Theobold is playing WPC Jill Adams (see picture below) who goes undercover as a sex worker in a bold bid to trap Sutcliffe. Liz White plays PS Meg Winterburn, Adam Long plays the younger detective Chris Gregg while Shaun Dooley plays an older DCS Chris Gregg.  

Gemma Laurie is Sutcliffe's first known victim Wilma McCann, while her children are played by Alexa Goodhall as Sonia McCannon and Dylan Hall is Richard McCann. Jasmine Lee-Jones plays Marcella Claxton who is attacked by Sutcliffe but survives, while Molly Wright is sex worker Donna Deangelo. Shaun Thomas plays Neil Jackson the son of Sutcliffe's victim Emily Jackson.

Peter Sutcliffe is played by Mark Stobbart. Also look out for Steven Waddington who is DS Dick Holland, Alexa Davies who plays campaigning lawyer Ruth Bundy, while Chloe Harris is WPC Jenny Bush, Jack Deam is DI Les Hanley (see picture below), Michael McElhatton is Chief Constable Ron Gregory and Kris Hitchen is DC John Nunn. 

Stephen Tompkinson plays police forensics chief Professor Gee, who spots the clues that links the early victims. Robert James-Collier (The Inheritance, Downton Abbey) plays detective Jack Ridgeway from Manchester. Ruth Madeley is a police officer who takes phone calls and John Henshaw plays local newspaper editor Mike Dugdale.

* The Long Shadow cast: who's who

Lee Ingleby (on left) as DCS Jim Hobson.

Jack Deam as DI Les Hanley (on right) with Lee Ingleby as DCS Jim Hobson. (Image credit: ITV)

Charley Webb as WPC Anna Lawson.

Charley Webb as WPC Anna Lawson. (Image credit: ITV)

Cara Theobold plays WPC Jill Adams in The Long Shadow.

Cara Theobold as WPC Jill Adams in The Long Shadow. (Image credit: ITV)

Jasmine Lee-Jones as Marcella Claxton

Jasmine Lee-Jones as Marcella Claxton, who survives an attack but Sutcliffe but who's testimony is dismissed by detectives. (Image credit: ITV)

The Long Shadow episode guide and recaps

Here's our brief episode guide to all seven episodes of ITV1 series The Long Shadow...

Episode 1: Monday September 25, 9pm
The first episode begins in October 1975, with the murder of Wilma McCann (Gemma Laurie), a mother of four young children from Leeds. There are heartbreaking scenes as her children are told what has happened to Mummy and their picture is taken holding their favourite toys. This episode also follows the story of Emily Jackson (Katherine Kelly) and her husband Sydney (Daniel Mays). Like many people in Britain during this period, the Jackson family were struggling to make ends meet and Emily made the difficult decision to become a part-time sex worker, a decision that ultimately led to her becoming Sutcliffe’s second victim in early 1976. DCS Dennis Hoban (Toby Jones) and his second-in-command DCS Jim Hobson (Lee Ingleby) led the investigation into Wilma and Emily’s murders, yet they had no idea the killings were the start of a horrific murder spree. 
* The Long Shadow episode 1 recap: "She was a mother"

Episode 2: Monday October 2, 9pm
The Jackson family receives the devastating news that Emily has been murdered. Neil accompanies his father to the mortuary, where he is faced with the terrible duty of identifying his mother. Sydney breaks down under questioning by Dennis Hoban and DCS Jim Hobson, realising that he too is now a suspect. He admits he knew what his wife was doing and is soon exonerated. Time passes and across the city, a young woman called Marcella Claxton is attacked and left for dead. She describes her attacker in detail, but her testimony is ultimately disregarded. At Millgarth Police Station – the centre of the investigation – various men are interviewed in relation to Emily’s murder, having been seen driving through the red-light district. The investigation expands, but Hoban continues to be thwarted. When a third body is found – that of Irene Richardson – it dawns on the detectives that there might be a multiple murderer at large. Over a year in and bereft of serious leads, Dennis Hoban finds himself side-lined from the investigation.
* The Long Shadow episode 2 recap: 'He's coming back'

Episode 3: Monday October 9, 9pm
It's been nearly two years since Peter Sutcliffe claimed his first victim, yet with the police no closer to catching him than they were back in 1975, Chief Constable Gregory decides it's time for a change. After the murders of another sex worker Patricia 'Tina' Atkinson in Bradford and 16-year-old Jayne MacDonald in Leeds, DCS George Oldfield (David Morrissey) is put in charge of the case and he promises Jayne's father he'll catch his daughter's killer soon… 
* The Long Shadow episode 3 recap: 'A normal girl who's done nothing wrong'

Episode 4: Monday October 16
Peter Sutcliffe’s killing spree continues with murders in Manchester and Huddersfield, but the police are no nearer capturing the so-called Yorkshire Ripper despite a massive operation. Then they hear about Maureen Long who has seemingly survived a Ripper attack and PS Meg Winterburn (Liz White) is sent to befriend her to get any more vital clues. The investigation soon turns its focus to cab drivers and the police think they have a hot lead. Then a mysterious letter arrives which seems to contain information unknown to the public. Is it really from the Yorkshire Ripper..?
Meanwhile Robert James-Collier enters the drama as detective Jack Ridgeway who works out of the Manchester area where a sex worker, Jean Jordan, has been found murdered in similar circumstances to the previous Yorkshire Ripper’ killings. It’s a big shock to the investigating team as it means the man they are after has crossed the Pennines from the Leeds and Bradford area to a new ‘hunting ground’ for women victims in Manchester. Jack talks to the Leeds detectives about the case before forensics expert Professor David Gee (Stephen Tompkinson) confirms the attack is another Ripper slaying. 
* The Long Shadow episode 4 recap: 'He's got the best alibi there is'

Episode 5: Monday October 23
After further murders in Manchester and Halifax, the hunt for the serial killer intensifies. Lead detective George Oldfield (David Morrissey) is stunned when a tape arrives with the Yorkshire Ripper seemingly giving details of his crimes and taunting the police team. The voice is from north east England leading the police narrow their search. Meanwhile, Jacqueline Hill, played by The Durrells star Daisy Waterstone, has her life ahead of her as she starts university in Leeds. But her proud mother Doreen Hill (Jill Halfpenny) is worried about the local killings…
* The Long Shadow episode 5 recap: 'I'm Jack'

Episode 6: Monday October 30
We see evil Peter Sutcliffe for the first time, played by Line of Duty star Mark Stobbart, as the serial killer carries out his last few murders while living in Bradford with his wife Sonia. Sutcliffe’s last victim is Jacqueline Hill (Daisy Waterstone), a Leeds university student he murders while walking home from a careers’ meeting. Her brutal killing sparks a wave of protests from women all over Yorkshire demanding a curfew on men, while Jacqueline’s grieving mum Doreen (Jill Halfpenny) is left bereft and angry…

Episode 7: Monday November 6
After Peter Sutcliffe’s five-year murder spree, the evil serial killer is finally apprehended. On the night of January 2 1981, police in Sheffield spot Sutcliffe (Mark Stobbart) parked up in his car with a local sex worker, arresting him just moments before he could murder his 14th victim. It's discovered he has false number plates and he's asked to come with the police, but not before hiding his hammer beside a building when he asks to take a pee. As he's questioned it becomes clear they have the Ripper in custody and the arrest scene by the police officer who finds Sutcliffe's hammer. It's not long before Sutcliffe finally confesses his crimes, but detectives are dismayed to find he speaks with a Yorkshire accent. ACC George Oldfield (David Morrissey) had been convinced the tape message he received in 1979, featuring a man with a north east England accent, had been for real and made it the focus of his investigation. Now Doreen Hill, mother of Sutcliffe’s final victim Jacqueline, and the families of his other victims are left wondering whether Sutcliffe should have been caught earlier. Doreen later appears on a TV news show to confront police commander Ronald Gregory (Michael McElthatton) who faces a tough grilling.
Events also fast forward to 2005, so 24 years after the conviction of Sutcliffe. Shaun Dooley plays detective Chris Gregg, who was a young police officer in the Leeds investigation team led by George Oldfield back in the 1970s and early 80s. Now a senior officer, DCS Gregg pays a visit to Richard McCann (Mike Noble) the son of Sutcliffe’s first victim Wilma McCann and hears from Richard how his mother’s murder back in 1975 affected his life and those of his siblings who were put into care from an early age. The scenes are heartbreaking, especially as the real Richard McCann is also featured. RIchard is now a motivational speaker and his life and career today is shown.

The Long Shadow episode 1.

Gemma Laurie as Sutcliffe's first victim Wilma McCann in The Long Shadow episode 1. (Image credit: ITV)

The Long Shadow episode 4 recap

Liz White as S Meg Winterburn in The Long Shadow episode 4. (Image credit: ITV)

Behind the scenes, locations and more on The Long Shadow

The Long Shadow is written by George Kay (Hijack) and executive produced by New Pictures co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Willow Grylls (Des, White House Farm, The Missing) with renowned director Lewis Arnold (Time, Sherwood, Des) directing the series. 

The drama is produced by Matt Sandford (Des, White House Farm, Cobra – as script editor), series produced by Sarah Lewis (Noughts + Crosses, McDonald & Dodds) and co-produced by Alison Matthews (Trigger Point, Champion). George Kay, Lewis Arnold and Elaine Pyke also serve as executive producers. Polly Hill is overseeing the production of the drama for ITV. 

ITV’s Head of Drama Polly Hill commissioned The Long Shadow, which was produced in association with Sundance Now, which holds exclusive rights in the US and Canada, and All3Media International. She says: “George’s scripts and Lewis’ direction together with this wonderful cast have produced a sensitive and brilliant drama that we are proud to have on ITV.”

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.

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