White House Farm, episode 2 review: despite being based on a real crime, it all feels oddly artificial

Anita Singh
Freddie Fox as Jeremy Bamber in White House Farm - Television Stills

After the shocking opener to White House Farm (ITV) last week, the second instalment settled into a police procedural. The point being made was that the police procedures in the Jeremy Bamber case were woefully deficient.

The investigating officer, DCI Thomas “Taff” Jones, swiftly declared the case a murder-suicide: mentally unstable Sheila Caffell had murdered her parents, Nevill and June, and her six-year-old boys, Nicholas and Daniel, before turning the gun on herself. Satisfied that the case was solved, he ordered a clean-up of the crime scene and burning of the evidence. It has been said that, in the years following, “doing a Bamber” became police slang for a botched investigation.

Jones is played here by Stephen Graham. It pains me to say it, as Graham is one of the most talented actors working today, but he can’t do a Welsh accent. His character here was one-note, although perhaps the real Taff Jones actually was a little ball of fury who conducted all conversations in an angry yell. 

This distracted from the thrust of the episode, which was to slowly dismantle Bamber’s version of the truth. The chief doubters were his cousin, Ann Eaton (Gemma Whelan), and DS Stan Jones (Mark Addy). The six-episode structure meant that not very much happened in this one: there were many shots of Ann and Stan furrowing their brows. Facts which those familiar with the case will know to be crucial – that the gun used in the murders was usually fitted with a silencer, and that Bamber and his sister were adopted – were slipped in.

Through it all, Freddie Fox was a creepy presence as Bamber, making tear-stained speeches one minute and joking about his inheritance the next, before having his mother’s beloved dog put down. Mark Stanley did a sterling job as the twin’s grieving father, Colin Caffell. To gripe about Graham’s accent or Fox’s terrible dye job feels superficial, but they drove home the sense that we were watching an artificial account of a real-life tragedy. Quite how they will sustain the storytelling over four more weeks remains to be seen.