"If there is one mission statement for us. It’s to challenge people to revaluate how they look back on these events."

Writer Kevin Sampson, who previously wrote ITV Hillsborough drama Anne, wants his new series The Hunt For Raoul Moat to pull apart the myths and misconceptions that still overshadow the notorious 2010 manhunt.

His three-episode drama focuses on the victims of Moat: Christopher Brown, Samantha Stobbart and PC David Rathband. The series also zooms in on the police who put themselves in the firing line and a local journalist who wanted to tell Moat’s real story.

The drama seeks to remind viewers of Moat’s horrific crimes, what it meant for the local community of Rothbury and the North East as a whole and explores the dangers of false narratives built on social media and 24-hour news channels, which feels even more pertinent 13 years on.

The Hunt For Raoul Moat  starts on ITV and ITVX on Sunday, 16 April. Ahead of the series, we heard from the show’s creative team and cast about how they made the show and their view on the ethics of true crime dramas.

A voice for the victims

 JOSEF DAVIES as Chris Brown and SALLY MESSHAM as Samantha Stobbart. ITV

"Before we even considered going to a broadcaster, the first thing we did was reach out to Chris Brown’s family and get a sense about how they felt about this being played out in a prime-time television drama,” said writer Kevin Sampson.

"We wanted a sense of how they would prefer the story to be told. They were really supportive and the message they had was that they felt Chris had been forgotten. The fact that it was referred to as the Raoul Moat case prolonged the pain for them. They didn’t want him to just be the guy that Raoul Moat shot. That was the starting point."

The decision to begin episode 1 patiently exploring the relationship between Chris Brown and Samantha Stobbart and the early stages of them falling in love was a deliberate creative choice.

"It was partly to honour them, but from an audience’s perspective to also feel that pain as well and go through some of those emotions."

'The one where Gazza turned up with the fishing rod'

LEE INGELBY as Neil Adamson ITVX

"From the very start, when we started researching or planning, everyone who was not intimately involved in the case, the first thing they would say is, ‘Oh yeah, the one where Gazza turned up with the fishing rod’," said Sampson.

"That trivialises and undermines the tragedy of what really happened. If there is one mission statement for us it’s to challenge people to revaluate how they look back on these events.

Executive producer Jake Lushington (Vigil, The Suspect) added: "For us, the story we’re talking about is Raoul Moat’s crimes, his victims and the efforts to bring him to justice.

"We refer to it, we say it happens, but for us it’s not the story we’re trying to tell. We’re not minimising the impact, it didn’t have any impact on the story of the people really involved."

Sampson added:  "I think clearly Paul Gascoigne at that point wasn’t in a good place. If we had thought there was a good reason to dramatise it, you would have to question your motives and intentions in potentially sending up someone who was going through a hard time."

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'It was never the intention to get into Moat’s point of view'


"There was this parallel narrative and a swathe of the population who were inclined to view Raoul Moat in heroic terms and as some sort of counter-culture figure," recalls Sampson.

"But in terms of reaching out to his family and asking for perspective, we weren’t ever considering fetishising a man on the run.

"What we did do responsibly was notify them and invite comments from them on our intentions and there was also a duty of care to Moat’s children, to let them know that this was happening."

Matt Stokoe, who plays Moat, admits that he was a victim of the "sensationalised narrative" surrounding the killer.

"This story had become so big and mythologised that I wasn’t sure what was and wasn’t fact," said Stokoe.

"You always feel a degree of imposter syndrome as an actor, but when you have all this evidence and mountains of stories about this man and his reputation, it’s quite daunting to find your way into that without just doing an impression. That was where the fear came from."

'Certain types of figure have effectively monetised misogyny'

LEE INGELBY as Neil Adamson ITV

Reflecting on the support that Moat found in corners of the internet and nascent social media in 2010, Stokoe said that sadly he wasn’t surprised by the sympathy the killer received.

"No matter how horrific the person, there always seems to be some support for them," reflected Stokoe.

"When we look around the world, certain types of figure and influences have effectively monetised misogyny and are celebrated by impressionable young men and sub-sections of society.

"And we happen to have made a TV show, zooming in on a person who represents that, just before social media catches fire. It doesn’t surprise me because it feels like quite a familiar pattern."

'Through osmosis there is a sadness that creeps in'

Matt Stockoe as Raoul Moat in The Hunt for Raoul Moat ITV

Stokoe admits that despite being in a "robust place" before filming, he couldn’t help but be affected by playing such a dark character.

"I felt like I was making a different show to everyone else. The police and the rest of the cast had a camaraderie and saw each other every day on set," he said.

"I was mainly filming on my own in a tent in the wood, or in the gym or in my hotel room. It was that on a loop for a few weeks. When the subject matter is so heavy and you’re taking it seriously and you give it the effort that it deserves, there is an accumulative pressure that builds up.

"I'm not the sort of person who is method or who feels the need to go to a dark place and all those stereotypes. But as dramatic as it sounds, by the end of it, I felt like my central nervous system didn’t really know the difference.

"It took a few weeks to realise that I was moping around almost and feeling sorry for myself. Even though there was nothing to inform that."

He added: "I had to take some time to decompress. It was about cleansing. I got to shave the mohawk off. Shedding all of that felt quite freeing."

'Our aim is to shine a light on British history'

"What drama does is that it informs with emotion. And it has the ability to take you to places that a documentary can’t," said Lushington.

"Thirteen years is not the shortest period of time, but it’s also in living memory and a very traumatic event.

"But there is a danger if we don’t tell this story, within the lifetime of people who were there and remember, this legend of the man against the system, a man outwitting the cops and with right on his side – which some people believed and probably some still do – it won’t be challenged.

"Obviously, we don’t want to needlessly upset people and throw it in people’s faces, but ultimately, we want to shine a light on these events so people can really wrestle with what it did mean, who really suffered and what really happened."

Kevin Sampson added: "I don’t think there is any useful metric for what is too soon. The Little Boy Blue drama [about the murder of 11-year-old Rhys Jones] played out in my community in Liverpool, relatively soon after those events took place and it was all the more powerful for it. Those events lived in our minds in a vivid way.”

The writer concluded: "I go back to my first meetings with Chris Brown’s family and they wanted this story to be told and addressed as quickly as possible. They are getting a degree of comfort from the drama and that it will address some of the things that have caused so much pain."

Watch The Hunt For Raoul Moat on Sunday, 16 April on ITV1 and ITVX.

Catch all the shows you love on BT TV

Watch the latest shows and sport from Sky with a NOW Membership, Netflix, and Discovery+ all in one place.