Is Southbay in Silent Witness a real place and where is it as the BBC drama’s tension-filled finale explores corruption and deceit?

Southbay in Silent Witness is the key location for the season 26 finale as Jack and Nikki face betrayals they could never have foreseen

The location of Southbay in Silent Witness explained. Seen here are Velvy (ALASTAIR MICHAEL) ,Jack Hodgson (DAVID CAVES), DR Nikki Alexander (EMILIA FOX) & DR Gabriel Folukoya (AKI OMOSHAYBI)
(Image credit: BBC Studios)

Southbay in Silent Witness is not only the location that the season 26 finale’s investigation takes place in but the name of the episode so fans might well be wondering if it really exists. 

It might seem like only yesterday that the dynamic duo of Dr Nikki Alexander and Jack Hodgson returned triumphantly to our screens, but sadly Silent Witness season 26 is now drawing to an end. Though the series finale, Southbay Part 2, which is already available to watch via BBC iPlayer, has all the action, emotion and deceit we’d been hoping for to round things off. Featuring Jack’s old mentor and a complex case that explores police corruption, the stakes are grippingly high. As the name might suggest, it’s set in Southbay and this has perhaps left some fans intrigued about this particular location.  

Here we reveal where Southbay in Silent Witness is, whether it’s a real place and where the scenes in the finale were filmed? Plus, how the finale and Southbay itself has affected Nikki and Jack in season 23… 

*Warning: Spoilers ahead*

Nikki Alexander (EMILIA FOX); Jack Hodgson (DAVID CAVES)

(Image credit: BBC Studios/Kieron McCarron)

Where is Southbay in Silent Witness and is it a real place? 

Whilst the always-dramatic and often-grisly cases in Silent Witness typically take place in London there are some exceptions and the season 26 finale was set a little further afield. It’s in the opening few moments of the appropriately-titled Southbay Part 1 that fans learn that Southbay Island is going to be a key location for the episode. Southbay in Silent Witness is in the English county of Essex, however unlike the atmospheric locations where Shetland is filmed and Vera season 12 locations, it isn’t a real place

Southbay in Silent Witness

(Image credit: BBC iPlayer)

There is a South Bay beach in the UK - though this is located in Scarborough in Yorkshire and is spelt completely differently too. Given the focus on police corruption and possible framing that goes on in Southbay Parts 1 and 2 it’s perhaps no surprise that Southbay in Silent Witness is a completely fictional location to avoid possible confusion between fictional events and reality.

Where was Silent Witness Southbay filmed?

Given that Southbay in Silent Witness isn’t actually a real place unsurprisingly it had to be filmed somewhere else though the actual locations used weren’t in Essex either. It’s thought that the stand-in for Southbay in Silent Witness was the Isle of Sheppey. According to Kent Online, the finale episodes of the new season of Silent Witness were filmed on the island and in particular one of the seafront homes. 

This particular house is apparently in The Leas near the Minster Leas Beach on the Isle of Sheppey and from pictures shared on the publication’s site it appears as though this house stood in for murder victim Carol Laing’s home in Silent Witness Southbay Parts 1 and 2

Leysdown - on- Sea at sunrise

(Image credit: TudorBarlow (Flickr) via Getty)

Scenes were also shot at the Rose and Crown pub at Leysdown, as well as Warden Beach, Shellness beach, and around the Sheppey Crossing and Kingsferry Bridge. It’s Kingsferry Bridge which stood in for the notorious bridge in Southbay in Silent Witness where Kate Freeman’s missing police partner Fred Woods’ car was discovered abandoned. 

This led his colleagues (apart from Kate) to conclude that he had thrown himself into the water below from Southbay Bridge. They thought he'd been washed out to sea, although it was revealed in Part 2 that this was very far from the truth…

Where is the Isle of Sheppey? 

The Isle of Sheppey is located off the northern coast of the English county of Kent which borders Essex and the Thames Estuary. It’s popular for seaside vacations and has plenty of beaches, as well as nature reserves. The name of the island is understood to derive from the ancient Saxon term, “Sceapige” which roughly translates as “Sheep Island”.

Isle of Sheppey - island off the northern coast of Kent

(Image credit: mvaligursky via Getty)

How does Silent Witness Southbay affect Nikki and Jack? 

*Warning: Spoilers for Silent Witness Southbay Parts 1 and 2 ahead* 

It might not be a real place but Southbay in Silent Witness affects Nikki and Jack hugely. The story started with Jack assisting his old friend and mentor Bill Burnett with processing Carol Laing’s murder scene. He had always looked up to him but this started to change across the course of the Silent Witness season 23 finale when Bill’s conclusions were challenged by fellow pathologist Nikki. 

The differences became so pronounced and the prosecutor so nervous about proceeding with the case against Kate Freeman that the two sides came together to present their evidence early. 

Jack Hodgson (DAVID CAVES) & DR Nikki Alexander (EMILIA FOX)

(Image credit: BBC Studios)

Whilst Bill believed that Carol had fallen on an unidentified object, Nikki expressed the belief that Carol had been hit by a moving object and put forward a dumbbell from Carol’s house that she and Jack had found as a possible weapon.  

To Jack’s shock Bill did *not* react well to his findings being challenged and even tried to put the blame on his former mentee for him not having all the information to assess. He accused Jack of being “less than stringent” in processing the scene and even put forward the theory in front of the scientists’ girlfriend Nikki that Jack had been distracted by finding Kate attractive. 

In response the furious forensic scientist countered, “And you’d had so much to drink I’m surprised you remember anything!”  

Bill Burnett in Silent Witness Southbay

(Image credit: BBC iPlayer)

A combination of factors including Bill’s negligence lead to the initial charges against Kate being dropped. This severely affected Jack and Bill’s relationship though and when Nikki asked Jack later why Bill said all that, he still seemed too shocked to process it properly. 

Ultimately, Kate was determined to have been involved in what happened to Carol but they only got there thanks to looking even deeper at the evidence and the meticulous work of Nikki, Jack and Velvy in Silent Witness, not because of Bill’s original findings. It seems both getting the same conclusion in the end hasn’t helped mend their relationship, though. 

In the closing stages of the finale of Silent Witness 2023, Nikki and Jack were together on the beach at Southbay. The pathologist asked if he could “salvage” his bond with Bill, to which he replied, “I don’t know. It’s hard to get back, you know?”

Nikki and Jack in Silent Witness

(Image credit: BBC iPlayer)

But what is Bill’s loss is the fans’ gain as the final scenes of episode 10 featured some joyful scenes between Nikki and Jack in Silent Witness instead. After his focus was on his niece Cara in Silent Witness Hearts of Darkness Parts 1 and 2, the couple enjoyed some quality time together, with Jack picking Nikki up and playfully acting as if he was going to take her in the sea before setting her back down on the sand. 

Jack might never get his relationship with Bill back on track after his mentor's negligence but his romance with Nikki was stronger than ever as Silent Witness drew to its rather satisfying conclusion. 

Silent Witness seasons 1-26 are available to watch now via BBC iPlayer.

Emma Shacklock

Emma is a Royal Editor with eight years experience working in publishing. Her specialist areas include the British Royal Family, ranging from protocol to outfits. Alongside putting her royal knowledge to good use, Emma knows all there is to know about the latest TV shows on the BBC, ITV and more. When she’s not writing about the next unmissable show to add to your to-watch list or delving into royal protocol, Emma enjoys cooking, long walks and watching yet more crime dramas!