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Gabby Petito documentary: case explained, who was Brian Laundrie - when is Channel 5 programme on in the UK?

Gabby Petito: The Murder That Gripped the World explores the disappearance and death of American blogger, Gabby Petito

A documentary exploring the disappearance and death of American blogger Gabby Petito is set to air today (1 February).

With exclusive interviews with Petito’s parents and step-parents, Gabby Petito: The Murder That Gripped the World will broadcast on Channel 5.

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Petito’s body was found in September 2021 along the eastern border of Grand Teton National Park by law enforcement agents who spent a weekend searching campsites after her disappearance.

A coroner concluded that Petito was killed by another person.

Brian Laundrie, Petito’s boyfriend was the subject of an FBI manhunt following her disappearance, and in October 2021, human remains were found and confirmed to belong to him.

Laundrie took responsibility for killing Petito in a notebook found near his body, the FBI said on Friday 21 January.

Here is everything you need to know about it.

What happened?

Both Petito and Laundrie left from Long Island - where the pair grew up - in July, embarking on a cross-country trek in a converted van to visit the national parks of the US West.

On 1 September, Laundrie drove the van back to his parents’ home in North Port, Florida. He was alone.

Petito’s family filed a missing persons report 10 days later.

Police video released by a Utah department showed that an officer pulled the van over on 12 August after it was seen speeding and hitting a curb near the entrance to Arches National Park.

Body cam footage showed an emotional Petito, who sat inside a police car while officers also questioned Laundrie.

Petito told officers she was struggling with her mental health, with the responding officer writing in their report that, "at no point in my investigation did Gabrielle stop crying, breathing heavily, or compose a sentence without needing to wipe away tears, wipe her nose, or rub her knees with her hands.”

Police decided not file any charges, instead separating the couple for the night with Laundrie checking into a motel and Petito remaining with the converted van, and characterising the incident as a mental/emotional health break instead of domestic assault.

Petito’s last known contact with her family came on 25 August, when she was in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, authorities said.

Who is Gabby Petito?

Tara and Joe Petito look on while the City of North Port Chief of Police Todd Garrison speaks during a news conference for their missing daughter Gabby Petito (Photo: Octavio Jones/Getty Images)

Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito first met Laundrie in high school in Suffolk County, New York, where the couple lived before moving in with Laundrie's parents in Florida in 2019.

The couple documented their cross-country journey on Petito's YouTube account as well as social media and their Instagram accounts; the last video from the trip was posted three weeks prior to her disappearance.

In an interview broadcast 20 September on TV’s Dr. Phil show, Gabby’s father Joseph said Laundrie and his daughter had dated for two and a half years, and Laundrie was “always respectful.”

During the interview, which was recorded before his daughter’s body was found, Petito said the couple had taken a previous road trip to California in her car and there were no problems.

Who is Brian Laundrie?

The two began dating in March 2019, and in July 2020 it appears from their Instagram posts that they got engaged.

In one post, Laundrie wrote: “My biggest fear is that one day I’ll wake up and it will have all been a dream, because that is what every second has felt like since the moment we found each other.

“Till death do us part or until I wake up, I’m so happy the answer was yes, Love you hunny.”

Laundrie appeared to make money by selling his art online under the handle Bizarre Design. His Instagram shows artwork like linocut prints, bookmarks and drawings.

An anonymous former co-worker of Laundrie also claims that the 23-year-old is “well versed” in surviving in the wild.

Petito’s family had been pleading for the Laundrie family to tell them where their son last saw her.

Laundrie went missing since 14 September, with his family confirming the last they’d had seen of him was when he left the family home en route to Florida’s Carlton Reserve.

His family told investigators that he had driven to the reserve in a Mustang, which has since been collected from the area.

The FBI investigation revealed that Laundrie had sent several text messages between his and Petito’s phones following her death in an attempt “to deceive law enforcement by giving the impression that Petito was still alive.”

How can I watch the documentary?

Gabby Petito: The Murder That Gripped the World will be broadcast on Channel 5 on Tuesday 1 February at 10pm.

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