Extras actor Stephen Merchant will play ‘Grindr killer’ Stephen Port in a BBC fact-based drama about the east London murderer’s four victims and their families’ fight for justice.
Merchant will star alongside The Moorside‘s Sheridan Smith, who will play Sarah Sak, the mother of Port’s first murder victim Anthony Walgate.
The new BBC One drama The Barking Murders, directed by David Blair, will look at the Port murders between 2014 and 2015 at his flat in Barking from the perspective of the victims’ families.
Stephen Merchant stars in drama on Stephen Port murders
Between 2014 and 2015, Port raped and killed four men—Walgate, Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth and Jack Taylor—he met on dating websites by drugging them with fatal quantities of GHB.
Port is currently serving a life prison sentence for the murders.
The drama will also star Jamie Winstone as Donna Taylor, one of Taylor’s sisters.
The Barking Murders will be written by Neil McKay with Jeff Pope as executive producer.
Factual drama will “shed light” on Stephen Port murders, says Stephen Merchant
“This is a story that can’t be ignored—how four young lives were lost and their families’ brave attempt to uncover what happened,” said Merchant in a BBC press release.
“This factual drama will shed light on their story, so it’s a privilege to be a part of telling it with the brilliant combination of Jeff Pope, Neil McKay and the BBC.”
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Smith said: “I love playing real life characters—especially an inspirational woman like Sarah Sak—but with it comes responsibility.
“Along with the other families, Sarah went through so much heartache and it would have been easy for her to just accept what she was being told by the police, but something inside made her keep fighting for her son.”
In 2017, a BBC documentary called How Police Missed the Grindr Killer looked at how Barking and Dagenham Police failed to link the four killings, instead assuming that the men had died from self-inflicted chemsex drugs overdoses, until Port’s last murder.
The force was heavily criticised by the victims’ families.
The families of three of the victims have crowdfunded for a fresh inquest into the deaths of the four men, after open verdicts were previously recorded.
McKay and Pope previously worked together on BBC One drama The Moorside, which detailed the impact the disappearance of Shannon Matthews had on the local community in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire.
Filming for The Barking Murders is set to start in spring.
“Four young men with their entire future ahead of them lost their lives in a brutal and tragic way,” said McKay.
“This is a story not only of the consequences of that loss but also of the extraordinary courage and resilience shown by those who loved them as they sought truth and justice. It is a privilege to be able to tell it.”