The Light in the Hall tells the tale of every parents’ nightmare but is the Channel 4 drama based on a true story?

The Light in the Hall focuses on a mother's quest for the truth as time seems to be running out to get the closure she's been looking for...

The Light in the Hall cast members
(Image credit: Channel 4)

The Light in the Hall delivers huge emotional impact and intrigue as time is running out for a grieving mother to find out where her daughter’s body is. 

Filmed in both English and Welsh and set in Wales, Channel 4’s The Light in the Hall has all the emotional impact of The Pact season 2 ending and sense of mystery that kept viewers gripped in The Watcher on Netflix. It tells the tale of Sharon (BAFTA-winner Joanna Scanlan) is gripped by the fear that if her daughter’s killer Joe (Game of Thrones star Iwan Rheon) is granted parole, she’ll never know where her body is. Joe was arrested 18 years earlier, but no-one is any the wiser about everything that happened when she disappeared. 

Now with his release looking likely, Sharon and journalist Cat (Killing Eve’s Alexandra Roach) are determined to get to the truth. But what happens in The Light in the Hall and is the heart-wrenching storyline based on an equally chilling true story? 

*Warning: Spoilers ahead*

Joanna Scanlan in The Light in the Hall

(Image credit: Channel 4/PHOTO BY ALISTAIR HEAP)

What happens in The Light In The Hall? 

If you couldn’t help being drawn in by Vicky McClure’s character in Without Sin as she searches for the truth of what *really* happened to her daughter, then prepare yourself for a similarly intense journey in The Light in The Hall. The Channel 4 thriller has a relatively similar premise - a mother who is still grieving the loss of a daughter whose murderer has been caught and sentenced for the crime. 

Though The Light In the Hall takes a unique take on this emotional subject matter as Sharon Roberts’ daughter Ela was never found after she disappeared from her home in Llanemlyn in Wales.

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Eighteen gruelling years of torment have passed for Sharon, not knowing where Ela is even though gardener Joe Pritchard was arrested for killing her. Ela’s DNA was found in Joe’s caravan and although he confessed, even he couldn’t - or wouldn’t - divulge where her body was. So the news that Joe could be granted parole threatens to keep Sharon in her living nightmare forever. 

If he’s released, he might never tell her the truth and Ela’s body will forever go unfound. In The Light In the Hall, the third piece of this haunting puzzle is Ela’s childhood friend, journalist Cat Donato, who grew up in Llanemlyn and has also never been able to put traumatic past events behind her. 

Alexandra Roach in The Light in the Hall

(Image credit: Channel 4/PHOTO BY ALISTAIR HEAP)

As soon as she found out Joe was up for parole, she made a decision. Just like Sharon, she wants answers and heads for home to get them. Cat has promised her editor an in-depth article about Ela’s murder and Sharon is equally determined to get to the truth. But will they ever hear where Ela is from Joe and does he even know? 

Is The Light in the Hall based on a true story?  

With its historic murder case, journalist interest and members of a small community still haunted by what happened all those years ago, fans might have found themselves wondering whether the Channel 4 thriller is based on a real murder case. And just like The Wonder true story and the themes of The Teacher, The Light in the Hall has been inspired by elements of true stories, but isn’t based on one specifically. 

Getting candid with Metro.co.uk (opens in new tab), The Light in the Hall creator and writer Regina Moriarty explained that there was one aspect of real life cases that indirectly influenced the show.

Joanna Scanlan in The Light in the Hall

(Image credit: Channel 4/PHOTO BY ALISTAIR HEAP)

“It wasn’t inspired by a particular crime. But there have been a few cases where murderers haven’t disclosed the whereabouts of the body after being convicted,” she shared, before disclosing how this horrific situation was something that’s always “stuck” in her mind. 

Regina continued, “There have been a few cases like that, that I’ve heard about and it’s one of those things that kind of stuck in my head, because I just thought that must be the worst thing ever to know that somebody knows. And also, just to not know where your loved one is, I can’t imagine it. It lodged in my brain.” 

The writer also reflected upon another central focus of The Light in the Hall - Joe Pritchard’s release from prison after spending 18 years behind bars for Ela’s murder. Regina revealed that she wanted to explore the consequences of this life-changing event upon those who have been impacted by their crimes and that the “germ” of the idea for the show’s storyline came from this. 

Alexandra Roach in The Light in the Hall

(Image credit: Channel 4/PHOTO BY ALISTAIR HEAP)

“It got me thinking about when criminals do come out of prison, how do you kind of cope with that?” she said. “And how do you ever move on – the idea that people should perhaps not move on, but move forward and get on with their lives?”

The Light in the Hall creator continued, “Then the idea of somebody being released from prison would be like a bomb, really, in your life. And that’s where the germ of the idea came from. I just thought it was such an awful thing. I couldn’t imagine anything worse. And so it came from there.” 

Joanna Scanlan in The Light in the Hall

(Image credit: Channel 4/PHOTO BY ALISTAIR HEAP)

So although The Light in the Hall isn’t based directly on a real life crime, it seems that the central focus of the heart-wrenching storyline was partly inspired by true situations and cases.

All episodes of The Light in the Hall are available to watch now via All 4 and are airing weekly on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 9pm on Channel 4.

Emma Shacklock

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.