'Steeltown Murders' Brings the Hunt for the Saturday Night Strangler to Acorn TV

Gareth John Bale as DC Geraint Bale, Philip Glenister as DCI Paul Bethell and Steffan Rhodri as Phil Bach Rees

Gareth John Bale as DC Geraint Bale, Philip Glenister as DCI Paul Bethell, and Steffan Rhodri as Phil Bach Rees

(Photo: BBC)

Acorn TV will premiere true crime drama Steeltown Murders this November, a four-part drama about the hunt for the Saturday Night Strangler, and the pioneering use of DNA evidence that helped finally identify a murderer, over a decade after his death. 

American audiences may not be terribly familiar with the story of Joseph Kappen, the first documented Welsh serial killer who raped and killed three teenage girls near Port Talbot in 1973. (He's suspected of committing a fourth murder in 1976, but that remains unconfirmed.) He was known as the Saturday Night Stranger because his victims were all lured into his car on Saturday evenings and then driven to rural locations where they were subsequently killed by strangulation. Though Kappen was questioned during the initial investigation, was never arrested for his crimes, and died of lung cancer in 1990. 

But that's not the end of this story. Thanks to ever evolving DNA testing technology, a profile of the killer's DNA was isolated on the clothing of two of his victims. These developments lead to a full reopening of the investigation into the murders, and Kappen was ultimately posthumously identified as a serial killer via familiar DNA profiling.

Split over two timelines, Steeltown Murders contrasts the policing methods of the 1970s with the foresneic breakthroughs of the early 2000s in a portrait of a town still dealing with the repercussions of an ulsovled case three decades on. Can justice every truly be found for these victims and their loved ones?

Siôn Alun Davies as Phil Bach, Rees Scott Arthur as DCI Paul Bethell and Dyfan Dwyfor as DS Vic Jenkins

(Photo: BBC)

The series takes its name from the fact that Port Talbot is a heavily industrial town and is dominated by a large steelworks that still produces over 5 million tons of steel slab a year. All 13,000 of its employees had to be ruled out as suspects during the initial investigation into the murders, as well as hundreds of itinerant workers due to the nearby construction of the M4 motorway. The scope of the search was daunting, particularly given the three-day working week imposed by the British government as the result of an energy shortage, and the investigation was dialed down in mid-1974. 

Steeltown Murders stars Philip Glenister (Life On Mars) and Steffan Rhodri (In My Skin) as DCI Paul Bethell and Phil ‘Bach’ Rees, with Scott Arthur (Good Omens) and Siôn Alun Davies (The Sandman) respectively playing their younger selves during the 1970s flashback sequences. 

They are joined by Keith Allen (The Pembrokeshire Murders), Priyanga Burford (Industry), Sharon Morgan (Gangs Of London), Nia Roberts (Red Rose), Elinor Crawley (Vikings), Gareth John Bale (35 Awr), Kriss Dosanjh (The Larkins), Matthew Gravelle (Broadchurch), Amy Morgan (Showtrial), Oliver Ryan (The Accident), Dyfan Dwyfor (A Very English Scandal), and more.

The four-part drama is written by Ed Whitmore (Manhunt) and directed by Marc Evans (Hinterland) with Hannah Thomas (Hidden) serving as producer in association with All3Media International. Executive producers are Ed Talfan, Jon Hill, Whitmore for Severn Screen, and Helen Perry and Rebecca Ferguson for the BBC. 

All four episodes of Steeltown Murders will premiere on Acorn TV on Monday, November 27.

Lacy Baugher

Lacy's love of British TV is embarrassingly extensive, but primarily centers around evangelizing all things Doctor Who, and watching as many period dramas as possible.

Digital media type by day, she also has a fairly useless degree in British medieval literature, and dearly loves to talk about dream poetry, liminality, and the medieval religious vision. (Sadly, that opportunity presents itself very infrequently.) York apologist, Ninth Doctor enthusiast, and unabashed Ravenclaw. Say hi on Threads or Blue Sky at @LacyMB. 

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