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TV preview; Policeman who ended up Ripper's 14th victim.

IT'S got a gripping plot which would be absolutely perfectly for TV crime dramas such as Cracker or Prime Suspect.

But the incredible story of the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper proves that fact is often more fascinating than fiction.

This Is Personal - The Hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper recreates the police investigation which led to the arrest of killer Peter Sutcliffe, in the murder case which dominated the 70s.

The fact-based drama does not concentrate on Sutcliffe himself - a man who carried out 13 brutal murders before being caught by police.

Instead, it shows how the bizarre case dominated the life of Assistant Chief Constable George Oldfield, of the West Yorkshire police force.

In This Is Personal, Oldfield is played by stony-faced Alun Armstrong.

For more than three years, he led his team of overworked cops on the hunt for Sutcliffe.

Mistakes were made by the inquiry team. And as fear mounted over the horrific murders, Oldfield and his staff were under enormous pressure from the Press and public alike to nail the killer.

The drama - to be screened on Wednesday on ITV - follows the same ground as the recent ITV documentary about the Ripper case - Britain's biggest murder manhunt.

But don't be put off. Armstrong is excellent as the conscientious detective. Actor Craig Cheetham plays the role of Peter Sutcliffe.

The true life investigation has plot twists and turns TV scriptwriters can only dream of.

It's hard not to feel some sympathy for Oldfield as he pursues the ultimate red herring in the case.

That was when the Yorkshire squad received the chilling "I'm Jack" audio tape in which a man claiming to be the murderer goaded the police.

Of course, the cassette turned out to be a hoax.

As Oldfield and his men followed what they believed was a concrete line of inquiry, the trail of the real Ripper had gone cold.

But as the pressure grew to nail Sutcliffe, so did the cost of the case, which eventually ran into millions of pounds. Armstrong's portrayal of Oldfield is very convincing - given that actual news footage of the detective from the recent documentary is still fresh in the memory.

The drama shows how, ultimately, the strain of the case was to claim another victim - Oldfield himself.

He was taken off the case before Sutcliffe was finally captured in 1981.

The detective never led another murder hunt, and his health suffered. He died in 1985. The buck stopped at Oldfield for the mistakes made during the case.

He carried the can for not snaring Sutcliffe sooner.

In spite of Armstrong's fine performance it would be interesting to discover how Oldfield's real life family views this piece. The two-part drama concludes next Wednesday.


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Question Of Sport

(BBC 1 - Mon)

Ally McCoist and John Parrot wisecrack through another show with guests Graeme Souness, Frank Bruno, Roger Black and John Francome.


Nobel Prize Peace Concert (ITV - Mon)

This star-studded concert from Oslo celebrates Nobel prize winners with special performances by Tina Turner, The Corrs and Sting.


The Naked Chef

(BBC 2 - Tues)

In this microwave and fast food age, Jamie Oliver asks his three young cousins to help create a pasta feast for all the family. This I've got to see.


Question Time (BBC 1 - Thurs)

I'll be watching to see if volatile Scots chef Gordon Ramsay blows his top when faced with the no-nonsense Question Time audience.
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Sloan, Billy
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 23, 2000
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