In December 2010, just before Christmas, Joanna Yeates went missing in Bristol and her landlord, Christopher Jefferies, had his life turned upside down when he was arrested and questioned over her disappearance.
Now the media frenzy that surrounded Jefferies is the subject of a powerful two-part drama for ITV, The Lost Honour Of Christopher Jefferies, which is written by Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon) and directed by Roger Michell, a former pupil of Christopher Jefferies.
Best-known for his roles in comedies such as W1A and Trollied, Jason Watkins plays the eccentric lead in The Lost Honour Of Christopher Jefferies, a role that really shows his versatility as an actor. From the way he looks, to the mannerisms he makes to the way he speaks there's never any doubt that Jason Watkins was made to play this role.
If you followed the news back in late 2010 you'll already be familiar with the story of Joanna Yeates, who lived with her boyfriend in a house in Clifton. One night while her partner was away she disappeared, and for days the police, the media and the public were all trying to piece together any clues they could in connection with her disappearance.
After being ambushed by the media leaving his house, retired schoolteacher Jefferies was arrested and questioned for three days by Avon and Somerset Police. This gave the media plenty of time to write stories about Jefferies and plaster him all over the papers and news channels.
Vincent Tabak (Joe Sims, Broadchurch), Joanna's neighbour was later arrested and confessed to Yeates’ murder and so Jefferies was released, unaware of the media frenzy that had been happening on the outside. He had been labelled as The Nutty Professor, a loner and a peeping tom. In fact Christopher Jefferies was neither of these things. He was eccentric yes, but nothing else.
So as well as dealing with the arrest and eventual finding of Joanna's body, the drama also rather interestingly focusses on Jefferies trying to clear his name. He successfully sued the newspapers who wrote defamatory stories and even made a confident appearance at the Leveson inquiry. Speaking of which, lookout for a special cameo from Steve Coogan as himself.
I'd be very surprised if you're not hooked within the first 5 minutes of The Lost Honour Of Christopher Jefferies. I started watching out of curiosity and three hours later I had watched both parts and was seriously impressed by what I had just seen.
It was a powerful yet delicate drama and the resemblance between Watkins and Jefferies really is uncanny. You really do forget that this isn't a documentary but an ITV drama. To be able to take on a character as eccentric and recognisable as Christopher Jefferies and make it believable takes some real skill, and for that I take my hat off to Jason Watkins who proves himself here as much more than just a comedy actor.
I like many believed that Jefferies was guilty. Was this because of the way he looked and acted? Or the way he was being portrayed in the media? Well if I'm honest, it was probably a mixture of the two and if there's one thing this drama will leave you doing is questioning the power of the media. Don't believe everything you read and be aware of the vilification of certain characters. Of course this is much easier said than done.
Is The Lost Honour Of Christopher Jefferies a late contender for drama of the year? Absolutely. And not only drama of the year but also actor of the year. I really hope to see Watkins nominated for several awards for his portrayal of Christopher Jefferies, so BAFTA if you're reading this, please make it happen. Thanks.