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Upchurch murder victim Claire Morris to be played by popular actress Sheridan Smith in ITV drama about her killer Malcolm Webster

10 January 2014
by Jenni Horn

The murder of a woman from Upchurch is to be told in a three-part drama on ITV starring popular actress Sheridan Smith.

The Widower is based on the crimes of convicted murderer Malcolm Webster, jailed for killing his first wife Claire Morris in 1994 and attempting to murder his second wife Felicity five years later.

Claire, who grew up in Upchurch, will be played by Smith - who starred in Mrs Biggs and more recently in The 7.39 on BBC1 last week.

Actress Sheridan Smith

Actress Sheridan Smith

Webster will be played by Reece Shearsmith, who appeared in The League of Gentlemen and Psychoville.

At the time of Claire's death in May 1994, it was thought she had died in a tragic car accident.

But police reopened the case when it was revealed Webster's second wife had almost died in a similar accident in New Zealand.

Claire Morris was was murdered in 1994

The ITV drama, co-written by award-winning screenwriter Jeff Pope (Mrs Biggs, Appropriate Adult) tells how over 13 years, seemingly mild-mannered male nurse Webster, set about poisoning and murdering his first wife, attempting to do the same to his second wife and moving on to a further scheme to deceive his third fiancée.

The programme will show Claire and Webster on their wedding day in September 1993 and how just eight months later he plotted her death and made it look like an accident.

He drugged Claire before swerving off a remote road in Aberdeenshire and setting light to the car with her unconscious inside.

Webster had drugged his wife before crashing the car and setting fire to it

Webster had drugged his wife before crashing the car and setting fire to it

Five years later, he tried to repeat the crime on his second wife Felicity Drumm in an attempt to claim more than £750,000 of insurance money.

Webster disappeared and reappeared four years later in Scotland, where he began a relationship with nurse Simone Banerjee - played by Archie Panjabi in the ITV drama.

Detectives started investigating Webster's past when one of Miss Drumm's sisters contacted police in June 2006 to report her suspicions.

He was found guilty of murder and attempted murder at the High Court in Glasgow in July 2011 and jailed for a minimum of 30 years.

Convicted killer Malcolm Webster

Convicted killer Malcolm Webster

Jeff Pope, head of factual drama at ITV Studios, said: "This is a quite extraordinary story, far more chilling than any fiction. Webster was a banal, almost benign face of evil.

"He was so clever at hiding his tracks and presenting a plausible front to his friends, family and colleagues that he was able to do what he did without really attracting suspicion.

"The courage and tenacity of Webster’s second wife Felicity, and his last intended victim Simone, is all that stood between him and potentially more murders."

Claire Morris (far right) with brother Peter Morris and his wife Christine and their daughter Claire in 1986.

Claire Morris (far right) with brother Peter Morris and his wife Christine and their daughter Claire in 1986

Claire's brother Peter Morris, of Kingswood Drive, Gillingham, described Webster as a "wicked monster".

At the time of Webster’s sentencing, Mr Morris said: "He never loved her [Claire]- he premeditated it and groomed her from the day he met her.

"This is a very, very dangerous man - made even more that he’s very mild mannered, almost personable."

The Widower will be on ITV1 later this year.

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