Showtrial: is BBC legal drama a true story, real world inspiration behind the TV series - and what it’s about

The show’s creator has explained how Showtrial is inspired by real-world issues

Showtrial is a five part series for BBC One, about a missing student and the ensuing case as detectives attempt to understand what happened to her.

But is it a true story, and what was the inspiration behind the series?

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What is Showtrial about?

When working-class student Hannah Ellis disappears, detectives plead with the public to come forward with any information. Then an arrest is made, one which no one saw coming.

Talitha Campbell, the heir of one of Britain’s richest families and a student at the same university as Hannah, is arrested in connection with her disappearance and lead detective, DI Paula Cassidy, is certain she was involved.

Talitha has a stinking attitude and complete lack of empathy for Hannah’s whereabouts of the police’s attempts to locate her.

DI Cassidy tries to convince Crown Prosecutor James Thornley, who is determined that this case needs to be done by the book, given the keen public interest.

Talitha relies on the capabilities of her defence solicitor, Cleo Roberts, who was the on call lawyer the night Talitha was brought in for questioning.

Cleo must steer Talitha through her intensive and combative police interviews and evade Cassidy’s questions.

Her job proves increasingly difficult, as Talitha’s attitude continues to escalate and new evidence comes to light that changes the nature of the case entirely.

The missing girl’s case proves to be a case which will divide the country.

Is it a true story?

Showtrial is not based on a true story, but the show’s creator has explained how it is inspired by real-world issues, particularly those tasked with maintaining objectivity in criminal proceedings.

Ben Richards said: “The right to a fair trial and the idea of reasonable doubt lie at the heart of a civilised society.

“Showtrial explores how they can be distorted by other factors, in a world where concepts such as fairness, doubt and reason are afforded such diminishing value.”

Star Tracy Ifeachor also went to great lengths to make her character accurate, meeting with a solicitor to prepare for the role.

“It was really important to me to meet with somebody who looked like Cleo Roberts, who was the same age as Cleo Roberts, and who was doing this job, because their experiences were going to be so different,” she told

“It’s so interesting because so many of the stories that she told were so similar to my experiences and we’re in completely different professions, so that was amazing.”

When can I watch it?

Showtrial premiered on BBC One and BBC iPlayer at 9pm on Sunday 31 October.

Episodes have been airing weekly across successive Sundays, with the finale set to arrive on Sunday 28 November.

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