Is The Secrets She Keeps based on a true story? The devastating inspiration revealed as the hit BBC drama continues

The Secrets She Keeps season 2 has resumed the traumatic story of Agatha and Meghan and the inspiration behind it is equally chilling...

Is The Secrets She Keeps based on a true story? Seen here are cast members Heather Mitchell, Jessica De Gouw, Lewis Fitz-Gerald and Todd Lasance
(Image credit: BBC/Lingo Pictures Pty Ltd/Create NSW/Screen Australia)

Is The Secrets She Keeps based on a true story might well be the question on many fans’ minds after being captivated by the intense Australian drama.

Thriller fans might have had to wait two years after watching *that* shocking finale showdown, but The Secrets She Keeps season 2 has finally landed on the BBC. Lead cast-member Laura Carmichael swaps Lady Edith in Downton Abbey: A New Era for the role of arrested child-kidnapper Agatha. Returning to play this complex character in The Secret She Keeps season 2, fans are watching her trial unfold as Meghan and Jack Shaughnessy want justice after she kidnapped their son in season 1. 

And given the sensitive storyline and emotional performances, both newcomers and long-time fans alike might find it all too easy to wonder - is The Secrets She Keeps based on a true story?

Here we reveal what inspired the The Secrets She Keeps book storyline that was brought to life in the BBC show, telling the tale of every parents’ worst nightmare…

*Warning: spoilers ahead!*

The Secrets She Keeps season 2 starring Laura Carmichael and Jessica De Gouw

(Image credit: BBC/Lingo Pictures Pty Ltd/Create NSW/Screen Australia)

Is The Secrets She Keeps based on a true story? 

From The Secret to The Staircase so many recent thrillers have been at least partly inspired or based on terrifying true events. In light of this it's perhaps not surprising that some viewers might be asking themselves - is The Secrets She Keeps based on a true story too? Technically, it’s not, as The Secrets She Keeps is based on the psychological thriller novel by Australian author Michael Robotham, though the book itself was inspired by heart-breaking true life events. 

Released in 2017, The Secrets She Keeps book follows the same general storyline as The Secrets She Keeps season 1. In both, pregnant influencer Meghan Shaughnessy’s outwardly perfect family and glamorous life attracts the attention of Agatha. 

Pretending she is pregnant too and giving her due date as the same day, Agatha befriends Meghan, only to end up kidnapping her baby from the hospital. Agatha is later revealed to have had a deeply traumatizing backstory and has previously lost a daughter before going on to kidnap more children. 

This chilling fictional story is understood to have been inspired by an equally disturbing true story. Michael is said to have been working as a journalist in the UK at the time the media was covering a high-profile kidnapping case back in 1994.

Abbie Humphries, also known as Sundgren, was taken from Queen’s Medical Center in Nottingham just three and a half hours after she was born. Her distraught parents Roger and Karen Humphries were left desperate for news and unaware of what had happened to their baby.

Laura Carmichael as Agatha in The Secrets She Keeps

(Image credit: BBC/Lingo Pictures Pty Ltd/Create NSW/Screen Australia)

According to the Daily Mail (opens in new tab), Roger had reportedly been told by someone wearing what looked like nurses uniform that Abbie needed to have a hearing test before they took her away. After days of anxious waiting and investigation into Abbie’s kidnapping, she was found safe in nearby Wollaton 17 days later at the family home of the boyfriend of the former dental nurse who’d taken her, Julie Kelley. 

The publication reported that Julie had pretended to be pregnant around this time and added that she was put on probation for three years after being diagnosed with a personality disorder. Having been joyfully reunited with their daughter, Roger and Karen Humphries later moved the family to New Zealand when Abbie was ten to give them all a fresh start. 

Agatha (LAURA CARMICHAEL), Meghan (JESSICA DE GOUW) in The Secrets She Keeps

(Image credit: BBC/Lingo Pictures Pty Ltd/Create NSW/Screen Australia)

The Secrets She Keeps show and book storylines have parallels with this heart wrenching real-life case, though it fictionalizes it considerably. Unlike the real kidnapping of Abbie which took place in Nottingham, the show is set in an affluent Sydney suburb in Australia. 

The BBC drama and book also added the completely fictional subplots of Meghan and Jack’s marriage being rocked by affairs on both sides and paternity uncertainty surrounding baby Ben. So whilst The Secrets She Keeps isn’t directly adapting a specific true story like The Dropout, the book the series is based on was inspired by devastating real-life events. 

Previously opening up to the Mail on Sunday about the release of The Secrets She Keeps BBC show, Abbie declared, “As I am sure you can imagine, this does bring up a lot of emotions for my family.”

The Daily Mail (opens in new tab) added that Abbie had once explained, “My parents told me all about it as I grew up, but not all in one go. It came out in bits and pieces. It was after we moved to New Zealand when I realized how big it all was. We were unpacking all the boxes and I saw the press cuttings.”

The Secrets She Keeps season 1 was based upon Michael Robotham's book, though as it wasn't part of a wider novel series, season 2 isn’t loosely inspired by real-life events like the first installment. However, the trauma for Meghan and Jack and the repercussions of the emotional events involving them and Agatha in season 1 continue to be felt deeply. 

Agatha (LAURA CARMICHAEL), Meghan (JESSICA DE GOUW) in The Secrets She Keeps

(Image credit: BBC/Lingo Pictures Pty Ltd/Create NSW/Screen Australia)

Now you know the answer to the all-important question - is The Secrets She Keeps based on a true story? - there’s still plenty of time to catch up on all the dramatic highs and lows faced by Meghan and Agatha in both the book and show so far as season 2 continues. 

The Secrets She Keeps seasons 1 and 2 are available to watch in their entirety now on BBC iPlayer with new episodes of season 2 airing on BBC One on Saturdays at 9:20pm. 

Emma is a Senior Lifestyle Writer with six years of experience working in digital publishing. Her specialist areas including literature, the British Royal Family and knowing all there is to know about the latest TV shows on the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and every streaming service out there. When she’s not writing about the next unmissable show to add to your to-watch list or delving into royal protocol, you can find Emma cooking and watching yet more crime dramas.