A Place of Execution

A Place of Execution…

A Place Of Execution TV series

The TV series…

A Place Of Execution – written by Val McDermid and adapted for TV by Patrick Harbinson was made into a 3-part TV drama shown on ITV 1 (1st episode screened 22 Sept 08). It was produced by Coastal Productions in collaboration with ITV.

A three-part drama based on the novel was screened on ITV in the UK from 22 September to 6 October 2008. The series was nominated for The TV Dagger at the 2009 Crime Thriller Awards, and star Juliet Stevenson was awarded Best Actress on 21 October 2009. It also aired in the US as part of the anthology series Masterpiece: Mystery!. The teleplay won the 2010 Edgar Allan Poe Award for best television episode teleplay from the Mystery Writers of America.


On a freezing December night in 1963 a 13-year-old girl vanished without trace – the mystery was never solved. More than 40 years later, the dramatic events surrounding the disappearance and the hunt for the killer resurface when a high-flying TV journalist makes a documentary about the case. But what she finds will shatter the past – and the lives of everyone involved…

Cast & Characters


Juliet StevensonCatherine Heathcote – Juliet Stevenson
Catherine is a high profile documentary maker, who made her name in war zones and refugee camps. Now back home after a painful divorce, she’s turned her attention to the disappearance of teenager Alison Carter, a crime that rocked the rural community of Scardale in Northumberland in the 1960s. Catherine suspects that the true story may be very different from the one she thought she was telling…

Greg WisePhilip Hawkin – Greg Wise
Philip Hawkin inherited the title of Lord of the Manor in Scardale and doesn’t hide his contempt for the villagers. Handsome and unflappable, he also treats his wife Ruth as if she’s beneath him. When Alison disappears, Hawkin appears distant. His odd behaviour and the numerous photographs he has taken of his stepdaughter makes the police view him with suspicion.

Emma CunniffeRuth Hawkin – Emma Cunniffe
Ruth is devastated when her 13-year-old daughter Alison goes missing after taking her dog for a walk on the moors near Scardale. The loss of her daughter takes its toll on Ruth as she fears the worst. Ruth’s first husband died when Alison was a child and she now lives in grandeur at the Manor House with her second husband Philip Hawkin. Still beautiful, Ruth rarely emerges from her husband’s shadow and hides painful secrets from her childhood.

Lee InglebyDI George Bennett – Lee Ingleby and Philip Jackson
Ambitious, honest, hard working and compassionate, the young policeman approaches his job with both intelligence and dedication. The disappearance of Alison Carter in 1963 is George’s first chance to show his new bosses what he’s made of, and it launches him on a stellar career. More than 40 years on, the case continues to haunt him.

More about A Place Of Execution…
A Place Of ExecutionA Place Of Execution – Screened In US

…screened in two parts on PBS in the US – November 2009


“An absorbing ‘Masterpiece Contemporary’ production.”
-Daily Variety

Boston Globe

“The adroitly layered complexities of this story come undone slowly, ominously, with smallish, wonderfully subtle hints, and possibilities – a word here, a detail there, a fleeting look.”
-The Wall Street Journal

“Good stuff, and very satisfying.”
People Magazine

“A terrific production on so many levels, and one that will reverberate within you long after you’ve finished watching.”
Mystery Readers Blog (Includes interview with Val McDermid).

Juliet StevensonA Place of Execution: Juliet Stevenson interview – from itv.com


Juliet Stevenson found it easy to identify with her character’s all-consuming urge to find the truth about a missing schoolgirl.

She said: “I have always been haunted by the Suzy Lamplugh case – that girl was never found. How do families and parents of loved ones cope without the lack of closure? Also the McCanns – all parents have been identifying very strongly with that case. So our story is very current.”

The script was just one of the appeals of the drama for Juliet: “There was a lot going on sub-textually. Catherine is pursuing buried secrets from the past which have never been resolved but she also has secrets in her own life. The narrative drive and her internal life make for an interesting combination. I liked the whole package.

“I read the book, as I always like to, but my character differs a lot because in the book she doesn’t have a teenage daughter and that is a big part of the film. The very first script didn’t have a daughter either and I loved it when I read the second draft and discovered she is a struggling single parent, going through a difficult time. Her personal life is unravelling as the story unravels.”

Catherine is forced to confront her problems with her daughter Sasha (Elizabeth Day) when she accompanies her to Northumberland to investigate the story of missing schoolgirl Alison Carter (Poppy Goodburn).

Juliet explained: “Catherine is a workaholic. She’s passionate about her work; she’s very direct, full of energy and a perfectionist. Although she’s a strong woman she knows she’s probably not the best parent.

“She found parenthood difficult to plait into her working life, her marriage has fallen apart and she and her daughter are locked in mutual frustration, misunderstanding and anger.”

“Her own relationship with her mother is difficult and fractured too but I don’t think she realises it. She is a woman of her time.”

The drama, set in the present day with flashbacks to the 1960s, was filmed in Northumberland in two distinct parts.

The actress continued: “We never saw the 1960s cast, so my scenes are with Dave Hill and Philip Jackson in the present day. I didn’t get to see Lee Ingleby, Tony Maudsley and Greg Wise. The only actor who covers both eras is Joy Blakeman who plays Kathy Lomas. She is aged by prosthetics to go from her thirties to her seventies.

“The 60s section was filmed first and then us, almost like two different films. As we arrived all the other characters were saying fond farewells. We felt like the new kids on the block.

“It’s a strange feeling, almost as if the house belongs to someone else and you are walking into someone else’s bathroom. Lots of relationships have been established there. But of course in only a matter of days you take over the house – to flog the metaphor.

“We all stayed in the same hotel in Northumberland so we could sometimes all meet up in the evening. I loved filming it as I love the north east and my family also came up to see me.”

Greg WiseA Place of Execution: Greg Wise interview – from itv.com



Greg Wise was attracted to the role of village squire Philip Hawkin because of his enigmatic character.

Greg said: “I’m generally attracted to roles which can’t easily be explained, those which may not necessarily be the good or bad guy. They tend to have more depth. I’m not like Hawkin at all, which made the role appealing.”

Hawkin lives at the Manor House in Scardale with his wife Ruth (Emma Cunniffe) and stepdaughter Alison (Poppy Goodburn).

“Scardale is still frugal and closed from the outer community and Hawkin is considered with some suspicion by the locals. The wealth, house and land were inherited and he really owns the village and the surrounding land.”

Hawkin’s secluded world is turned upside down when Alison vanishes after going out to walk her dog on the moors.

Greg explained: “He still believes that Alison is out walking the dog when the police arrive and start their investigation. He’s tremendously concerned for the girl, but he doesn’t get the opportunity to express his feelings and that’s why suspicion is put on him.”

DI George Bennett (Lee Ingleby) notices tension between Hawkin and Ruth.

Greg added: “He’s fairly cold towards his wife. It’s her second marriage and Alison is her daughter from her first marriage. Time has worn Ruth down and Hawkin isn’t a very passionate man towards her.”

Greg was delighted to return to Northumberland to film the drama.

“We filmed in an area called Hexham and I’m actually originally from the north east so it’s been lovely being back. I was born in Newcastle so I’m a Geordie and my dad still lives there.

“I left when I was quite young but the accent is still there and I actually used it in a film I did last year called The Departed. It’s wonderful to be able to come back to the area of my birth.

“I spend a lot of time in London but I’m quite a country boy at heart. I love working and being in the city, but I don’t want to work all the time and I love being at home – it’s all about being able to find that balance. I think if you’re lucky enough to do that it makes it all worth it.”

Interview - Val talks to Janet RudolphA Place of Execution – Val talks to Janet Rudolph



Val talks to Janet Rudolph from Mystery Fanfare about A Place of Execution

Read the interview…

Val McDermid