A lot of documentaries are made about real-life crimes and, while we do enjoy them, there’s nothing quite like watching the story unfold in a well-made TV drama. Here are the ones that have impressed us over the years (but be warned, some clips may contain scenes you find disturbing)…


1. Hot Money (2001)

Between 1988 and 1992, a team of cleaners at the Bank of England incinerating plant in Essex stole over £600,000. Led by a worker portrayed by Caroline Quentin, the ladies stashed notes in their underwear in a series of regular thefts!

2. A is for Acid (2002)

Surprising casting here with Men Behaving Badly star Martin Clunes in the role of notorious acid-bath murderer John Haigh. In the 40s, Haigh disposed of the bodies of six people in vats of acid and was only caught when the gallstones of one of his victims failed to dissolve and were detected by the pathologist who examined residue from the acid bath.

 3. The Brides In The Bath (2003)

George Joseph Smith was hanged in 1915 for the murder of his three wives who he killed by drowning them in the bath and trying to make their deaths look like accidents. Martin Kemp is the killer husband.

4. Appropriate Adult (2011)

This two-parter stars Emily Watson as Janet Leach and Dominic West as Fred West. Trainee Social Worker Janet acted as an appropiate adult during the questioning of Fred West in 1994. Janet was there to ensure there could be no suggestion that West did not understand any part or the process. However, Janet is soon intimidated by the situation and West believes he’s built up a special rapport with her. He chillingly refers to Janet as his only friend and confesses to her things that he refuses to tell the police.

 5. Mrs Biggs (2012)

Sheridan Smith is Charmian Biggs, the daughter of a Headmaster who had a strict upbringing. Charmed by Ronald Biggs (Daniel Mays) who she meets on the train, the couple embark on a whirlwind romance. Before long, Ronnie descends into crime, most famously the 1963 Great Train Robbery and her marriage to the well-known fugitive makes a moving tale of dishonour, deception and love.

6. The Great Train Robbery (2013)

Another insight into the 1963 Great Train Robbery. In this two-part series, the story is told firstly from the point of view of the robbers with Luke Evans as Bruce Reynolds and then from the police’s perspective, who set out to identify and catch the robbers. Jim Broadbent stars as Detective Chief Superintendent Tommy Butler who led the case.

7. The Secret (2016)

James Nesbitt is Colin Howell, a two-time murderer. Howell was a respectable dentist, lay preacher and pillar of the community who, in 1991, became a double killer in partnership with schoolteacher Hazel Buchanan (Genevieve Riley) who he’d embarked on an obsessive affair with.

8. Dark Angel (2016)

Victorian poisoner Mary Ann Cotton is portrayed by Joanne Froggatt. Cotton who became known as the dark angel, marries several unsuspecting men before poisoning them with arsenic and cashing in on hubby’s life insurance! Although her financial situation improves, so do the chances of her being caught!

9. In Plain Sight (2016)

Over two years in the 50s, Peter Manuel was responsible for almost a third of all killings in Scotland. He murdered at least eight people including a 10-year-old boy. Martin Compston takes on the role as Manuel, while Douglas Henshall is Detective William Muncie his nemesis who put him away years before for attacking women and burgling homes. Can he bring him to justice once more?

10. Little Boy Blue (2017)

This gets its name from the fact that Rhys Jones was an avid Everton fan, whose kit is blue. The 11-year-old boy was killed in 2007 in Croxteth, and this drama reveals his parents, Melanie and Steve’s ordeal, and how Rhys’ murderer and associates were brought to justice. Stephen Graham stars as Dave Kelly, the Detective Superintendent on the case.

11. Three Girls (2017)

This powerful tale is based on the experiences of three young girls in 2012, who were groomed, sexually abused and trafficked by British Pakistani men in Rochdale and the failure of the authorities to do anything about it. Maxine Peake portrays Sara Rowbotham, a sexual health worker who blew the whistle, but was repeatedly ignored or silenced by police, child protection services and the local council.

 12. The Moorside (2017)

The story of a community rocked by a child’s disappearance. In 2008, 9-year-old Shannon Matthews is reported missing. Sheridan Smith (yes, her again) takes on the role of Julie Bushby a close friend of Shannon’s mother Karen. Julie leads the frantic search and neighbours rally round grief-stricken Karen. When hope is fading, Shannon is found with a man that her mother Karen knows. The once-supportive community is now shocked and demanding answers…

13. Murdered for Being Different (2017)

Starring Abigail Laurie and Nico Mirallegro as 20-year-old Sophie Lancaster and her boyfriend Robert Maltby. Sophie is kicked to death in a park by a gang of kids she didn’t know and Robert was beaten into a coma. The couple were randomly attacked in 2007, because they were dressed as Goths. This tells the story of a young relationship and of the violence that destroyed them, for being different…

Do you have a favourite true crime drama? Tell us below…