The horrific Manhunt true story that inspired season 1 of the intense ITV drama and how many seasons are there as it returns?

The Manhunt true story is dramatized in ITV's Martin Clunes series which tells the tale of the police's journey to apprehend a terrifying killer

Manhunt true story explained. Seen here is Martin Clunes as DCI Colin Sutton in Manhunt
(Image credit: ITV/BritBox)

The Manhunt true story is just as devastating as the ITV drama’s first season and now the show is back airing some might be wondering about the case that it dramatizes.

Just like the Steeltown Murders true story and the multiple heartbreaking cases Missing: Dead or Alive tells, Manhunt season 1 takes inspiration from heart-wrenching real-life events. Originally premiering in 2019, the ITV drama is now showing again and stars Martin Clunes as DCI Colin Sutton. The determined detective led the investigation into the murder of Amélie Delegrange and Manhunt focuses on law enforcement’s quest to arrest her killer. The first season, just titled Manhunt, was met with critical acclaim and many fans and newcomers to the show alike might now be wondering more about the investigation it was based on. 

Here we explain the Manhunt true story, how many seasons there are and how to watch both season 1 and season 2 of the chilling ITV drama…

*Warning: Spoilers ahead*

The Manhunt true story explained 

The Manhunt true story that the ITV drama is based upon is the investigation into the murder of French student Amélie Delegrange. She was found on Twickenham Green in London in August 2004 with what have been described as severe head injuries and she later died. The search to identify and bring Amélie’s killer to justice is the focus of Manhunt season 1. Although dramatized, the show is based upon former DCI Colin Sutton’s book which details his time working on the case and helping to catch Amélie’s killer. 

Martin Clunes in the Manhunt trailer

(Image credit: ITV/YouTube)

As reported by the BBC a few days after her death, at that time police hadn’t ruled out the possibility that Amélie’s death could’ve been in some way connected to the murder of Marsha McDonnell in February 2003. She was attacked near her home after getting off a bus and later died and her killer also hadn’t been apprehended.

Over the course of the investigation DCI Sutton and his fellow police officers gradually narrowed down their suspect list and Levi Bellfield became firmly fixed in their sights. Writing in the Mail on Sunday in 2019, Colin explained that they’d seen on bus camera footage that a white van had been briefly parked nearby where Amélie had been attacked.  

Martin Clunes in the Manhunt trailer

(Image credit: ITV/YouTube)

They worked tirelessly to identify the van and then, according to the DCI, a woman named Johanna Collings had come into their mobile police station at Twickenham Green and said she thought her former boyfriend Levi Bellfield could be responsible.

Police discovered he used to have a white van and Johanna alleged that he knew the area where the attacks had happened. He was later put under surveillance and was  arrested for the murder of Amélie. Bellfield was then sentenced to life imprisonment in February 2008 for her murder, as well as for the murder of Marsha and was found guilty for the attempted murder of Kate Sheedy - also in 2004. 

As per the BBC at the time, Bellfield refused to attend his sentencing, reportedly citing “overnight bad publicity”. The publication added that the judge in his trial called out Colin Sutton’s police work especially, saying, “This case has depended on thousands of hours of unglamorous, painstaking work by officers who took their lead from you.”

Martin Clunes in the Manhunt trailer

(Image credit: ITV/YouTube)

Meanwhile, the DCI himself is said to have declared after Bellfield’s sentencing, “They were cowardly attacks, cowardly crimes he had been sentenced for and his cowardice carried through to this morning, he couldn't even face it." 

Three years later whilst in prison, Bellfield was then found guilty of the murder of Milly Dowler who went missing in 2002. The judge added another whole life sentence to his original term. He remains in prison to this day where he is continuing to serve his two sentences without possibility of parole. 

The Manhunt true story is every bit as heart-wrenching as the ITV dramatization suggests and following the show’s original airing in 2019 it’s now back again. 

How many series of Manhunt are there and is it showing on repeat? 

Following on from the success of the first series in 2019, Manhunt returned for a second season four years later with the intriguingly-entitled Manhunt: The Night Stalker. Also starring Martin Clunes as DCI Colin Sutton, season 2 took the direction we’ve seen in The Pact season 2 and each of the episodes leading to the Annika ending and focused on an entirely new crime. 

Manhunt: The Night Stalker follows Colin as he joins the investigation into a serial burglar and rapist whose reign of terror in South East London created an atmosphere of fear for over a decade. Both seasons of Manhunt are available to watch via the ITV Hub but Manhunt season 1 is now also showing live on ITV again as a repeat airing. This means that both true crime fans who loved the intense show the first time it aired and newcomers to the drama can enjoy Manhunt on live TV this summer.

How to watch Manhunt seasons 1 and 2 

For those who’re eager to watch Manhunt season 1 live the place to head is ITV1 at 9pm and the final episode of the three-episode-long series will air on Friday, June 9. But if you’ve missed the previous episodes or just would simply rather wait and experience the Manhunt season 1 storyline all in one go then never fear! All episodes are already available to watch via the ITV Hub, as are all four episodes of the second season, Manhunt: The Night Stalker, too.

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!