Last Night’s TV – The Force

by Lynn Connolly


My first impressions of this Channel 4 programme included some dislike for the senior investigating officer of Operation Fletcher. DCI Hogg seemed altogether too cheery and blasé considering that he was dealing with the burnt body of a young woman who’d clearly died an horrific death, but there he was on the screen grinning while describing the crime.

However, as the programme wore on, I discovered that this is just Jason Hogg’s persona and not intentionally meant to be heartless. In fact, he and his team have a lot of heart, though not of the bleeding, intense kind that we’re used to seeing on TV police dramas.

Nobody on Operation Fletcher was seen overnight in the incident room rifling frustratedly through the files with stubble on his – or indeed, her – chin, complete with rumpled suit and a drawer containing a whisky bottle, but as fiction does of course mirror reality, there were any number of similarities with fictional police shows.

However, the real team working Operation Fletcher might also have been at home in the cast of The Office; indeed, the whole shebang was rather like a bastardised version of The Office meets Midsomer Murders.

The victim – at first unknown but later discovered to be a young polish girl – was found burnt beyond recognition inside what was later deduced to be a suitcase. This happened on land owned by the Palmer-Tomkinson family in the middle of a leafy, affluent village and fortunately for the police, it turned out to be a village full of curtain-twitchers who live for neighbourhood watch meetings.

The murderer, later revealed to be a Mr Haque of Bangladeshi origin, was seen by several villagers lurking about in his old Vauxhall Cavalier and later, smacking his car into someone’s wall. An on-the-ball local resident took down his number plate – somewhat suspicious to see a ‘foreign’ person in their midst, and in a old car at that – and within a week, the team were onto Mr Haque.

We witnessed the painstaking skills of the team though in tracking down the paint and bumper residue that was left on the wall following Haque’s fender-bender, and I have to say, good old fashioned police work prevailed and DCI Hogg and his team worked hard to make an airtight case. It was indeed admirable that they left no stone unturned to secure a conviction against Haque.

What did surprise me though was that DCI Hogg encountered not just resistance but a stone wall from Vauxhall UK when he asked for their assistance in tracing the paint residue they had as evidence. As DCI Hogg himself commented, one would’ve thought that most people would bend over backwards to help the police solve such an horrific crime, but not, it would seem, Vauxhall UK.

However, in the end – but nailbitingly close to not doing – the team got their man and Haque was charged with the murder of Sylwia Sobczak with whom he’d been having a relationship.

But I was rather astounded to see DCI Hogg struggling to get an extremely important email through to the CPS at the eleventh hour and being foiled by the system’s firewall. As Hogg explained, it was probably because the mail “contained the word sex”. How, oh how can that happen?! When police forces and the CPS deal with sex crimes, which bright spark thought to build a block on mails containing that word into the firewall? Ludicrous.

But all the hard work done by the team on Operation Fletcher was about to pay off; the hours and hours spent poring over CCTV, the cadaver dogs sent into several addresses, the DNA profiling, the behavioural and geographical profiling, the hours spent tracing the paint flakes and of course, the work done by the team involved in the gruesome autopsy all came together to ensure Haque would be charged with the horrible crime he’d committed.

However, Haque killed himself while on remand so DCI Hogg didn’t get to have his day in court with him, which must’ve been something of a disappointment, but as one officer commented, that was “probably the only good thing he’s [Haque] ever done.”

This was an absolutely fascinating programme, but it was easy to forget amid the fly-on-the-wall stuff that this was a real young woman who’d died, and she had a real family and real friends who were all going to be traumatised by her terrible death.

The doctor carrying out her post-mortem however was one of the first people to bring that reality home when he said quietly, “poor lassie” as he took swabs from her ruined body.

And in the end, despite his first appearing aloof and uncaring about the body that’d been found, DCI Hogg proved he’s a dedicated police officer – as were the rest of his team – and albeit that it was unspoken, they all took it upon themselves to represent the poor young woman who’d died so horrifically. And well done to them for it.

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.