Belfast Telegraph

MP slams The Fall beach scene after Donegal pier drowning tragedy

Episode features man’s bid to save children trapped in car

By Ali Gordon

The makers of hit BBC drama The Fall have been accused of being “insensitive” to the families involved in the Buncrana pier tragedy.

DUP MP Gregory Campbell has raised concerns over a scene in the thriller series which will screened on RTE tonight and on BBC Two on Thursday night which has some disturbing similarities to the heartbreaking accident in Buncrana in March.

Viewers last week saw Bronagh Waugh’s distraught character Sally-Ann Spector — wife of the alleged Belfast strangler — park her car on a local beach late at night with her two sleeping children after she apparently stirred a sedative into their warm milk drink.

In this week’s episode, a lone man is seen jumping out of his car and racing down the beach in a bid to rescue Sally and her children as waves lap around her car.

The dramatic scenes are eerily similar to the tragedy in Buncrana, in which Ruth Daniels, 57, her daughter Jodie Lee Daniels, 14, her son-in-law Sean McGrotty, 49, and his sons Mark, 12, and Evan, eight, from Londonderry all drowned when Sean’s car accidentally went off the pier in March.

Brave Davitt Walsh swam through the freezing water of Lough Swilly to rescue baby Rioghnach-Ann McGrotty from the sinking Audi Q7 car after it slid off the pier.

Unlike that incident, the scene in The Fall is no accident, fragile Sally Ann is suicidal, but the frantic rescue bid has echoes of Davitt Walsh’s heroism.

“The producers of The Fall, and any programme for that matter, need to be mindful of  the circumstances around them,” East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell told Sunday Life.

“To make a TV show in Northern Ireland in similar circumstances to what happened in Buncrana just six months ago seems very insensitive.”

The beach rescue attempt scene in this week’s The Fall is shown via a BBC Newsline report being watched by shocked police officers including Gillian Anderson’s Stella Gibson.       

A BBC Newsline presenter introduces the bulletin telling viewers there was a dramatic incident involving the wife of the alleged Belfast strangler, Paul Spector, and she then issues a warning that viewers may find footage of the incident disturbing.

The report cuts to video footage shot by a person at the beach.  A woman shouts, “Oh my God, that’s a car!” before a male in a wetsuit runs into the sea to help.

“Be careful,” she shouts.

The shaky camera footage sees Sally-Ann’s car being engulfed by the incoming tide.

The reporter then says “the windows are raised, the doors are locked, inside are her two children”.

A moment is then described which mirrors the heartbreaking reports of Buncrana tragedy eye-witnesses — the screaming.

In The Fall, the BBC presenter tells of how “the girl aged eight can be heard calling for help” as the water rises around the car.

“A moment later the car is almost washed away,” the presenter says.

Both Assistant Chief Constable Jim Burns, played by John Lynch, and Gillian Anderson’s DCI Stella Gibson are moved to tears watching the shocking scenes unfold.

Burns asks Crawford: “How were we to know she was that desperate?” To which she replies: “It’s what women do with their anger, Jim. What frame of mind would she have been in to think that they would all be better off dead.”

DUP MP Campbell added: “What happened in Buncrana was totally devastating and seeing this again could well shake up a lot of emotions. So many people are still aware of it so with there being a man on the beach, like the man who rescued the baby in Buncrana and his girlfriend, in the show, it seems very early.”

Last Friday, Sunday Life’s Spirt of Northern Ireland winner Davitt, from Kerrykeel, was awarded the Michael Heffernan Gold Medal for Marine Gallantry for saving Rioghnach-Ann’s life.

Louise James, the McGrotty children’s mother, has also been recognised by Pride of Britain for raising £15,000 in memory of her son, Evan, who had Duchenne muscular dystrophy.


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