Tracks - Part 1

Dark night. Torrential rain. The glaring headlights of a car recovery vehicle moving through a sodden, marsh-like building site. It stops, illuminating two faces in front of their stranded vehicles. One fed up and furious man, Ray Harper, and his teenage son Andy, visibly frightened. Once freed, the two vehicles disappear fast. And now the recovery driver finds his own vehicle stuck. As the wheels spin and the vehicle finally jolts free we see what he hasn’t – the semi-naked body of a young woman.

Morning. Connor is driving towards the grim discovery. In the clay are three sets of tyre tracks. Some sort of gathering? A party? The site is popular with doggers and druggies. Casts of the tracks are made. A girl fitting the victim’s description has just been reported missing – Maria Cole. She and her friend Becky were at a bar in Archway. CCTV outside the Archway bar shows Maria getting on a bus. The interior bus CCTV: Maria half-asleep on the upper deck. And we see why she got off. Some hoodies grab her bag as the bus pulls into a stop. Maria runs downstairs after them. Bus stop CCTV shows her chasing them, disappearing alone into the darkness, running towards her death.

The recovery driver leads Connor to Ray Harper, and an address in a wealthy part of Essex. A freshly washed Lexus SUV in the driveway. Ray Harper is a bullish self-made man, who can’t help boasting about his son – smart, popular, football team captain Andy who has a place at Oxford. Ray confirms the truck driver’s story, says Andy called him from the pit and he went to try and help. 17-year-old Andy seems confident, unshakeable, almost cocky, a slicker version of his dad. When asked why he was at the pit, he replies that he belongs to a mentoring scheme – every Wednesday night he coaches a younger kid from a failing school, Darren Lewis. They spent the whole evening at his flat – Darren is tagged for a shoplifting offence and on a curfew. When he left Darren’s flat, Andy took a short cut via the pit, and got stuck. Ray and Andy claim they know nothing about Maria. They didn’t see or hear anything suspicious at the pit – there was so much rain and noise.

Maria made a 999 call reporting her bag stolen, from a petrol station half a mile from the bus stop. CCTV of the petrol station: Maria making her 999 call. And beyond, a car on the forecourt. Andy Harper’s Astra. Then Connor notices something. There is someone sitting in the passenger seat – Darren. Andy has been lying. Walker goes to find Andy at school. Andy is still cool, confident. He knows it was wrong but claims he only took Darren out because he felt bad for him, all cooped up in the tiny flat with a crying baby and a sister who doesn’t care. Connor visits Darren’s flat at the estate. His story matches Andy’s. Verbatim.

After speaking to Andy’s ex-girlfriend, it transpires that Ray took his son to a lap-dancing club for his birthday. Moreover, Ray paid for a private dance for his son. The dancer? Maria Cole. But it didn’t go exactly as planned. A lap-dance wasn’t exactly Andy’s cup of tea. So they knew her. Connor surmises that when they saw her at the garage, the boys offered Maria a lift, took her to the chalk pit, tried to have sex with her, and killed her to cover up their humiliation and guilt. Under questioning both boys stick to their claim that they didn’t see Maria. Walker and Connor can’t get a hair’s breadth between their stories. Walker and Connor question each boy in isolation. Anything to get them to crack, to slip up and contradict.

Satch and Palmer wading through a mountain of debris found in the chalk pit. Finally, they come across a broken vodka bottle with Andy’s prints and Maria’s DNA. Andy and Darren are charged with the murder of Maria Cole.

Thursday 20 March 2008 9:00pm – 10:00pm on ITV1

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