'Little Boy Blue' on ITV, this Easter
It was assumed that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Yet when Rhys Jones was innocently gunned down in Croxteth, Liverpool on 22nd August 2007, he was exactly where he should be - an 11 year old boy on his way home walking home from football training on a warm summer evening. It was a tragic murder which shocked the whole country.
Almost a decade on, this heartbreaking story has been made into a new ITV four part drama, ‘Little Boy Blue’ which starts tonight at 9pm. It details the impact of Rhys's murder on not only the Jones family but on the city and its residents.
Liverpudlian actor, Stephen Graham stars as Detective Superintendent Dave Kelly, who led the fight to bring Rhys’s killers to justice. While Sinead Keenan and Brían F.O’Byrne play Melanie and Steve Jones. The drama is written by the BAFTA winning Jeff Pope with the full backing of both Melanie and Steve and Rhys's brother, Owen Jones.
It was a crime that hit the heart of the community. Rhys was not only Melanie and Steve’s son but Liverpool’s son - a football mad youngster like so many in the city. There is a particularly poignant scene in the first episode where the family pay tribute to Rhys, by bravely line up in front of the crowd at Goodison Park, home of his beloved Everton F.C. They are greeted with a standing ovation from the 38,000 fans. It hits a nerve and affirms the message that this could have happened in any community, to any child and to any family.
Very early on the investigation, Dave Kelly and his team knew the killer was 16-year-old Sean Mercer, a member of the Croxteth Crew. The challenge lay in getting the evidence to prove it and this is where the story behind the headlines really starts to come to light. Kelly played a skilful game of cat and mouse to try and get witnesses to come forward and testify whilst under immense pressure from his superiors to deliver swift results. All this set against a gang culture, one that doesn’t ‘grass’ on its own.
‘Little Boy Blue’ is a heartbreaking and moving drama. All the cast give authentic and sensitive performances but it's brilliance is Jeff Pope’s script and the superb direction of Paul Whittington which really gets to the heart of the story. The drama is not simply told from the Jones’ family perspective but it tells the dilemma facing the witnesses and ramifications of their action. It questions morals - how far would you go to protect someone even when you know they have done is wrong? As a viewer you are at the centre of the action. The facts are laid bare, allowing you to cast your own judgement and conclusions on what lessons should be learnt from the tragic events,
‘Little Boy Blue’ airs at tonight 9pm on ITV