Midsomer Murders returns to ITV1

When a young woman is dressed like a bride and drowned in a bath, it triggers a spate of ghoulish wedding-themed murders in Great Worthy. The case takes Barnaby and Jones to a donkey sanctuary, a heritage steam railway, and a pub run by an ex-copper and former brothel madam. Could history be repeating itself?

A 23-year-old woman is drowned in a bath wrapped in net curtains and made to look like a bride with a chilling lipstick message on the mirror. She wears a ring and a bouquet of cheap flowers is placed on the toilet seat – but Dianne Price had no plans to marry.

Jo Starling, who shared a cottage with Dianne in Great Worthy, tells Barnaby that her friend split up with her boyfriend a few months ago. Their landlord Bernard Flack seems a bit creepy. Vet Fran Carter recognises the flowers from Jugg’s Lane filling station, run by Malcolm Merryman, who’s a slave to his elderly parents.

Barnaby questions Dianne’s friend Sam Tomlin, who runs a donkey sanctuary with his mum Liz. He discovered that Liz retired as village registrar after getting disillusioned with people breaking their marriage vows.

Kindly teacher David Orchard was giving Dianne French lessons in his free time, while cop turned publican Matt Rowntree seems disturbed by a visit from Jones. Flack and his bitter wife Yvonne are also uneasy when Barnaby calls at their hardware shop.

Barnaby tells his wife Sarah about a case from 1912 – the brides in the bath murders – while Jones is still struggling with his new boss’s love of psychology.

Jo is packing to stay with Fran and refuses Sam’s offer of help. Sam goes to the Signalman pub instead where Rowntree’s wife Nikki, a former brothel madam, is looking gorgeous amid the misery. Later, she cheers up her husband by dressing like a bride.

The next morning, Frank Bertram arrives at the heritage steam railway site to find an antiquated trunk decorated with a bouquet and white ribbon – and a pool of blood underneath it. It’s Fran. She’s been strangled, dismembered and covered with confetti. It reminds Barnaby of another old case, from Brighton railway station in 1934.

Ever-helpful Orchard, who has a fiancée in South Africa, is doing jobs for the elderly Merrymans and Liz. Yvonne warns Flack to be careful. Liz tells the detectives that Fran once had plans for a civil partnership. Sam is angry with his mother and worried the past is catching up with them.

Malcolm goes home from the pub and finds one of the garage cars decorated with wedding ribbon and tin cans. His aging parents have been viciously killed and lipstick writing on their bedroom mocks them with the words ‘Bridal Suite’.

Then, as Flack spies on Jo in the cottage, there’s the sound of a person whistling “Here Comes the Bride’. A terrified Jo is confronted by someone she thought was a friend – can Barnaby and Jones get there on time?

Wednesday, 20 April 2011, 8:00PM – 10:00PM ITV1