Long Shadow star's disturbing insight into life of Yorkshire Ripper policewoman

LIZ: IN role as Sgt Meg WinterburnLIZ: IN role as Sgt Meg Winterburn
LIZ: IN role as Sgt Meg Winterburn
ROTHERHAM actress Liz White has spoken about the disturbing insight she gained interrogating a real-life policewoman who was once on the trail of the Yorkshire Ripper.

Liz plays the role of Sgt Meg Winterburn in the ITV’s crime drama The Long Shadow.

Meg had been part of the team sifting through the mammoth card index which police relied on to support their manhunt for Peter Sutcliffe.

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That search was distracted by the infamous Ripper tape and letters from a hoaxer.

ACTOR: Liz WhiteACTOR: Liz White
ACTOR: Liz White

Police wrongly targetted the man with a North East accent as their suspect, leaving Sutcliffe free to roam Yorkshire and add more victims.

Meg transcribed the tape, and the TV drama shows Liz working under intense pressure.

Off screen, Liz spoke at length to Meg before taking on the role.

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She recalled how Meg had taken on the responsibility of transcribing the tape.

“She went into the room by herself and when she listened to it and was transcribing it, she was really calm.

“It was a chilling voice, but she was really calm and just did it and then handed it in.

“But when she had to walk from the building to her car, she said all the hairs went up on the back of her neck, and when she was driving home, she just thought, he’s going to pop up on the seat behind me or he’s going to pull me over or what if I get a flat tyre and then it’s him, he’s got me.

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“This kind of terror was running through her body. And when she got home, of course, it’s really late and her husband is in bed, there is no one to debrief with, you can’t talk about the case very much outside of work, it’s not something you can offload to a friend. These police officers were living and breathing it for nearly six years.”

Liz (45) says she was lucky to have been picked for the part, in a show which has been in a ratings war with The Reckoning, in Steve Coogan plays Jimmy Savile.

Meg was “really open to any questions I had” Liz told the whattowatch.com site

“I believe she was a really good source of research for George Kay when he was writing the piece and she helped the production team with details such as what the cards looked like in the incident room, how the incident room is laid out, the relationship between the WPCs on the ground and the specifics of the work that they got to do.

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“When I met her, I could get more in-depth with her about what it felt like at the time, what she was going through in her personal life and how it affected everyone’s personal lives because they were working such long days. I remember her saying ‘We worked hard but we played hard’.”

Liz, who also played the part of a WPC in the Life on Mars series, which aired on TV from 2006-7, added: “One thing that she really insisted upon was even though there were set backs, blind alleys, the hoax tapes, the cabbies, and all these kind of dead ends along the way, they all wanted to catch him.”

The Long Shadow is available to stream now on ITVX.