U Be Dead

Sunday, 5 September 2010, 9:00PM – 11:00PM on ITV1

Dr Jan Falkowski (Morrissey) and his fiancée Debbie Pemberton (Fitzgerald) could think of no-one who would want to stalk them with threatening texts and phone calls. Even when the stalker professed to being in love with Jan, they refused to take her increasingly manic behaviour seriously. That is until she broke into their houseboat and opened the gas taps, threatened Jan’s family and attempted to cancel their wedding.

In fear for their lives, they moved to an address nobody, including their parents, knew. In an attempt to flush the stalker out, Jan and Debbie eventually staged a fake wedding. Although Jan had now fallen in love with a younger woman, Bethan Ancell (Griffiths), he agreed to go through with the charade, shadowed by plain clothes officers. Warning texts and phone calls rained down on everyone connected to the wedding and Debbie was told to “prepare your funeral, not your wedding.”

Finally, the police began to close in. As a final text arrived – “U BE DEAD” – they surrounded the phone box it was sent from and arrested the woman who had been stalking Dr Jan Falkowski for two years. Maria Marchese (Dolan) was an unlikely stalker who had only met Jan a handful of times through a patient of his. After initially denying she was guilty of harassing Jan, she then claimed to be texting him because he had raped her. And she had DNA evidence to prove it.

Jan’s nightmare had just got much, much worse. The DNA evidence on Marchese’s underwear was compelling. As a rape suspect he was suspended from his psychiatric practice and, if found guilty, could be jailed for life. An extraordinary trial followed which fascinated the media and public alike.

‘This is not only a disturbing criminal case and nail-biting thriller, but it’s also a fascinating insight into human relationships, desperation and endurance. Some of the facts of this case defy belief and Gwyneth Hughes has worked tirelessly with the victims, police, families and lawyers to really get under the skin of what Maria Marchese put everyone through,’ said producer Elinor Day.

U BE DEAD is written by Gwyneth Hughes (Miss Austen Regrets, Mysterious Creatures, Five Days). The Executive Producer is John Smithson and the producer is Elinor Day (The Diary of Anne Frank for the BBC, Clapham Junction, Sherlock Holmes and The Case of The Silk Stocking). Jamie Payne (Primeval, Life Line, The Baby War) directs.

David Morrissey says: “I hope the film shows how psychologically damaging stalking is. Having a faceless enemy and the constant barrage of threats can drive someone to madness. The film also shows how a man and a woman have different needs and reactions to being stalked. By the same token, I think the performance of Maria Marchese by Monica Dolan gives great insight and sensitivity into a character that could easily be demonised.”

Tara Fitzgerald says: “Given that it straddled reality and fiction, it seemed very pertinent. It also seems to address some things quite fearlessly in the writing – it was brave enough to stay honest to its story. Debbie is a very evolved character on the page ��” she’s a messy complicated human being like we all are. And she is that much more interesting to play for it. It’s not been simplified in the way that things often are by separating people into good and bad – that lies with Gwyneth not judging people. It’s really powerful that she manages to leave her own ego to one side and allow the real people to come through without placing an overview or writer’s judgement on them.”

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