It took four episodes to get there, but on Sunday evening, Superintendent Ted Hastings uttered his very first ‘Mother of God!’ of Line of Duty’s sixth series. What prompted this long-awaited outburst? The revelation that Jo Davidson, the officer that AC-12 have been probing over her handling of the Gail Vella murder case, is a blood relation of a key figure already known to Hastings, Steve Arnott and co.
How did we get here? Earlier in the episode, the forensics team completed a thorough search of Sergeant Farida Jatri’s home at AC-12’s request, while Jatri remains on remand at HMP Brentiss, where she’s already had a nasty run-in with the dodgy prison guard who, erm, kettled Lindsay Denton back in series two. Steve was hoping to find Davidson’s prints in the property, thus proving that she could have planted the cache of incriminating burner phones that got Jatri banged up.
The forensic report, though, gave the AC-12 gang more than they’d bargained for. When the DNA from Jatri’s house was examined, they were compared not just to the database containing police officers’ samples (which, as we learned courtesy of our boy Steve, king of useful exposition, are held on file to exclude contamination at crime scenes) but to the wider system.
The analysis then found a partial match to “a nominal whose DNA is stored on other police databases,” meaning - deep breath - that Davidson has a family link to a character we’ve previously encountered in the series to date. Cue the inaugural ‘Mother of God’ moment of series six, as millions of Line of Duty fans replayed the moment on iPlayer to try and sneak a closer look at the case file (soz, guys, you can rule out that line of enquiry: the picture is just a blurry passport shot of Davidson…)
As we gear up for what could be the biggest paternity reveal (note Steve telling Ted ‘he’s identified over the page’) since The Empire Strikes Back’s ‘I am your father’ moment, we’ve done some high level detecting work to compile a list of potential suspects. Let us know your theories in the comments...
We first met OCG kingpin Tommy Hunter all the way back in series one, when he ordered the killing and subsequent refrigeration of Jackie Laverty, then used her death to blackmail DCI Tony Gates; we later learned that golf fan Hunter recruited a teenage Matthew ‘Dot’ Cottan (aka ‘the caddy’) and persuaded him to act as his man on the inside, feeding information from the police force back to organised crime. He was then enrolled in witness protection after turning informant to avoid prosecution. In series two, the convoy transporting him to a new safe house was ambushed; after suffering serious injuries, Hunter (now using the name Alex Campbell) was killed in hospital by another corrupt officer, DC Jeremy Cole (aka the one who threw Georgia Trotman out of the window).
With these callbacks to the early days of Line of Duty, a family link to Hunter would neatly bring the series full circle. Hunter and Davidson both hail from Glasgow, and the latter was extremely cagey about her relations when pressed on the subject by her ex Farida in the opening episode of series six - well, you would be, wouldn’t you, if your dad (or older brother - Hunter would have been a very young father) was formerly top dog in the OCG that the entire Central Police force has been banging on about for the best part of a decade?
This might explain, too, how Davidson - who clearly doesn’t thrive on the high adrenaline burner phone lifestyle in the same way as, say, Dot did - got tangled up in this mess: could the OCG be blackmailing her about her blood ties to criminality? Perhaps her apparent frustration with her mother (remember when she symbolically lobbed a wine glass at what appeared to be a mum and daughter snap back in episode one?) is bound up in this scenario, too: maybe she kept these secrets buried, and has left her daughter to pick up the pieces after her death.
Keep that family photo in your mind. The woman in the frame does bear some resemblance to Anne-Marie McGillis, the mother of DS John Corbett, the undercover officer who went rogue in his attempt to uncover new links between organised crime and police corruption in series five. During the glass box interrogation extravaganza in that season’s finale, we learned that McGillis was killed by the IRA after passing information to the Royal Ulster Constabulary (where one Ted Hastings was serving at the time), and her son was then raised in Liverpool by his aunt and uncle. But did he have a sister? And could she have been despatched to relatives in Glasgow when her mother died?
As a deceased officer, Corbett’s sample could plausibly still be on file, just in a different database or archive (although this might make the GDPR experts among us feel a bit twitchy). There was no mention of McGillis having a second child in series five - but then, even Ted seemed to have conveniently forgotten her young son John until he was under interrogation. The time frames, though, don’t really line up. Davidson is surely in her teens in the photo, but would have been a child at the time of McGillis’s death (unless the woman in the picture is, perhaps, a maternal aunt, but that seems pretty convoluted). Indeed, Davidson and Corbett’s police records reveal they were born just months apart in 1979. There are already some truly wild theories suggesting that, if Davidson is related to McGillis, Hastings could be her dad, but fathering an illegitimate child does not really fit into Ted’s ‘letter of the law’ personal brand. Plus, there’d be a double match on Davidson’s DNA, which Steve would surely have flagged to the gaffer.
Mike Dryden or Derek Hilton
Am I name-checking these two former Central Police bigwigs because they are both Scottish and dodgy? Yes. I await a Reg-15 notice for bad detective practise in the post. Of the two, former Assistant Chief Constable Derek Hilton has the strongest link to organised crime, having been previously unmasked as one of the four corrupt officers orchestrating links between the police force and the OCG; his death was later framed as suicide, but bore all the hallmarks of an OCG killing.
AFO Danny Waldron, who lasted just one episode before being killed off in series three, helped alert AC-12 to the existence of a child abuse ring, which was facilitated by Tommy Hunter and the OCG and also included politicians and police officers. Like Davidson, Waldon had few family connections, and was eventually placed in care, where he was preyed on by abusers. A link between the two characters seems pretty tenuous, but eagle-eyed fans have noted that Davidson’s max-security property is on Croxford Street, which is where Waldron used to live. Is it a Jed herring? Or a vital clue? Only time will tell, but a connection between Davidson and Waldron could shift the focus back to one plot point that remains unresolved: have the figures named on Waldron’s list of abusers been brought to justice yet? We know that Dot’s dying declaration helped convict officers like Patrick Fairbank, but it’s unclear how many were brought to justice.
Could it be Dot? Unlikely, unless he had a secret Scottish sister. Nige? Also unlikely, though series six is crying out for a Neil Morrissey comeback. Is one of those unfeasibly fresh-faced teen criminals who held up the bookies at the start of the series Davidson’s secret son? Could there be a more convoluted genetic link to a female character, like Lindsay Denton, Gill Biggeloe, or even Jackie Laverty? All we know is that we’ll be thinking of nothing else until 9pm next Sunday.
Series six of Line of Duty continues on BBC One, Sundays at 9pm and is available on BBC iPlayer