Responsible Child star on 'heartbreaking' reality behind new true crime drama

Killing Eve star Owen McDonnell opened up about the heartbreaking true life story behind his new BBC drama, Responsible Child.

The devastating one-off drama shines a light on the UK legal system, which allows children as young as 10 to be tried as an adult for murder.

Ray (Billy Barratt), a 12-year-old boy from a troubled background, is put on the stand for the murder of his stepfather, with the case being tracked through his eyes, as well as his barrister, played by Owen.

Speaking exclusively to, he told us: ‘It’s based on a specific incident from about six years ago, I think. Obviously, they didn’t want to make it a direct copy, or manipulate it to tell a narrative, but the story was pretty much as they were.

‘The true story, if anything, was even more heart breaking in some ways.’

While the BBC have chosen not to confirm the names involved in the real life case, Responsible Child does bear a striking similarity to the case of Jerome and Joshua Ellis, who killed their stepfather at their home in Surrey in 2013.

Jerome, 14, and Joshua, 23, were found guilty of stabbing Neil Tulley 65 times, with their defence stating Tulley was abusive and had previously threatened to kill Joshua.

‘Nick [Holt], the director, because he’s got a documentary background, he found out quite a lot of details about the original story,’ Owen explained.

‘I found it quite interesting to trawl the internet for the news coverage of that because news coverage, with anything to do with violence in children, tends to really divide between good and evil.’

He added: ‘Personally, I’ve always felt that was a very unfair and shallow reading of those situations.

‘So I read all that, and the background to the original case and I just spent a few days just wandering into crown courts around the country, not particularly murder trials, but to see how the courts operate and how solicitors behave in the courtrooms scenarios. The theatre of being in court.’

‘What I really liked about it was it was really grey, doesn’t pick a side but just shows you behind these headlines are much more complex stories to be told,’ he said.

‘It’s people we’re dealing with, and their lives, and no 10-year-old does something like that out of malice. The motivation behind that is a complex thing.’

‘Something in their circumstances caused them to do these things, and trying to unpick what causes them to do these things is that,’ Owen added.

The minimum age of criminal responsibility in England and Wales is currently 10 years old, despite that age being against the UK’s obligations for children’s rights as laid out by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Responsible Child airs tonight at 9pm on BBC Two and streams on BBC iPlayer.

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