All the key Line of Duty characters’ backstories from the very beginning

All the key Line of Duty characters’ backstories from the very beginning

Mother of God, there’s a lot of people to keep an eye on when watching Line of Duty, isn’t there, fella?

Alongside the ever-expanding list of initialisms, it’s almost as if we need to know a whole copper’s family tree to fully grasp the links between police officers and organised crime.

Thankfully, we’ve got you covered.

And yes, we may have gone a bit OTT with the OCG (that’s Organised Crime Group), but we’ve put together a list of all of the main characters and their development across all six series.

From Ted Hastings to the intoxicating “H” – here’s a full roundup of all the key backstories.

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Superintendent Ted Hastings

Jesus, Mary and Joseph and the wee donkey, where to begin with the head of AC-12?

A copper who was in the Royal Ulster Constabulary during The Troubles, he’s been managing the anti-corruption unit from the very beginning.

In series three, Hastings enters a romantic relationship with lawyer Gill Biggeloe, who later turns out to be one of four corrupt individuals working with organised crime.

Hastings’s dalliance with Biggeloe occurred despite the presence of his stranged wife Roisin. The relationship suffered financial strain due to the gaffer investing in a real estate scheme gone wrong. In series five, Roisin is visited by copper John Corbett, who tortures her.

In that same series, the finger was pointed at Hastings over claims he could be the criminal mastermind known as “H”.

Corbett’s mother was a Covert Human Intelligence Source (known by the rather amusing acronym CHIS). She provided the Royal Ulster Constabulary – of which Hastings was part – with information about the IRA, until she was found out and killed. Corbett was later manipulated into believing that Hastings was the corrupt officer.

It certainly didn’t help matters that Hastings would go on to impersonate “H” to find out more about the OCG. Learning that the mysterious individual communicated using a secretive chat service, he posed as the bent officer to get information out of the group, at one point using the same typo of “definately” to convince the OCG that it was all legit.

Oh, and remember those financial issues Hastings had? They, too, were exploited by Biggeloe to frame him, with someone offering the boss a £100,000 sum to help with his money troubles. The only problem, however, was that the bribe was linked to the OCG.

Thankfully, by the end of the series, Hastings was cleared and not revealed to be “H”, but he still kept hold of £50,000 to give to Corbett’s widow.

But then, in the next season – that’s series six – AC-12 officer Steve Arnott learns that Hastings took the £50,000. As the boss’s team gets closer to cracking the identity of “H” and journalist Gail Vella’s murderer, Hastings has been urged to retire, with former AC-3 leader Patricia Carmichael taking over AC-12 in the final few episodes. 

Steve Arnott

Despite the London accent, Detective Inspector Arnott is actually played by Scottish actor Martin Compston. Beginning as a counter-terrorism officer in series one, he’s recruited into AC-12 after refusing to lie about a botched terrorism raid which led to the wrong man being killed.

In series three, it’s his turn to have the finger pointed at him as a result of his covert investigations. He’s labelled as “The Caddy” – a corrupt police officer – until he’s freed when the force learns it is, in fact, AC-12 officer Matthew “Dot” Cottan.

Then came the dramatic moment in series four when, in the middle of investigating yet another dodgy copper, he is thrown down several flights of stairs by a “balaclava man”. The attack leaves him with serious back injuries, and we see later see him in a wheelchair and crutches as a result.

However, the pain still hasn’t gone away by the time series six comes around, where it’s revealed that Arnott has been dealing with an addiction to painkillers.

As the waistcoat-loving bobby investigates the money Corbett’s wife received from Hastings, his boss informs him that drugs testing is being carried out within the force, which would reveal his addiction. Throughout the series, we have seen him decline appointments from the occupational health team to get tested, and he is now on his final warning.

Kate Fleming

A lover of all things undercover, Fleming has been tasked with spying on the big bads from series one to five. In series six, however, we’ve seen her move over to the murder investigation team tasked with looking into Vella’s death.

After a showdown with bent copper and OCG member Ryan Pilkington in a derelict car park, she killed him by firing two shots into his chest.

Patricia Carmichael

Considered by fans as Line of Duty’s version of Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter, Patricia Carmichael was first introduced in series five as the no-nonsense investigator from AC-3 (essentially the East Midlands Constabulary’s version of AC-12), to look into concerns around Hastings’ integrity. Her case falls apart, though, when evidence surfaces that Hastings was framed by Biggeloe.

She returns in the next series, when she becomes the Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) in the inquiry into the management of Operation Lighthouse, which concerns the murder of Gail Vella.

In the penultimate episode of series six, Carmichael repeatedly shuts down questioning from Hastings to Davidson about the identity of “H”, leading some to believe that she is the fourth corrupt police officer working with organised crime.

Not least because an anagram of “race claim” (something which lawyer Jimmy Lakewell told Arnott to “look into”) and “H” is Carmichael...

Tommy Hunter

The OG OCG leader, he appears in series one and is apprehended by police at the end of it, before he’s killed by a fake nurse in series two.

Joanna Davidson

Introduced as the character which AC-12 are investigating in series six, Davidson is in charge of Operation Lighthouse.

Eyebrows were raised when, on the way to arrest suspect “Ross Turner” in connection with the killing of Vella, Davidson spotted an armed robbery taking place in another street out of the corner of her eye. The delays caused by the detour allowed criminal Carl Banks to be replaced with the innocent Terry Boyle, who is then framed for the murder.

Later, when her former partner Farida Jatri raises concerns over Davidson’s conduct, Davidson plants burner phones in her house, framing her as being involved with organised crime.

To make matters worse, the aforementioned OCG member and bent copper, Pilkington, is brought into the force as Jatri’s replacement. When Davidson tries to transfer him out of the team, he goes to her home and pulls a gun on her, forcing the police officer to keep him.

However, after Fleming learns of Pilkington’s involvement with the OCG, “H” tasks Davidson with killing her, but she passes the responsibility onto Ryan. 

Then, on a more personal level, we learn that Davidson is a DNA match for Tommy Hunter, who turns out to be both her uncle and father. This is not what she believed, as she tells Fleming in one episode that her dad was a bent police officer.

We do not know who Davidson thought her dad was to begin with.

Marcus Thurwell

Played by James Nesbitt from the series Bloodlands (another show which Line of Duty writer Jed Mercurio is involved with), it’s revealed in series six that Marcus Thurwell, a police officer at the time, was the SIO for a case investigating the death of Lawrence Christopher in police custody in 2003. 

While Thurwell was SIO in the case, other coppers involved in the cover-up included Detective Superintendent Ian Buckells and Chief Constable Philip Osborne. Lawrence Christopher’s death was being looked into by Gail Vella before she was murdered.

Through Thurwell’s actions, those involved in the attack on Christopher – including Tommy Hunter’s son Darren - were never convicted.

AC-12 also learn this series that since retiring from the force, Thurwell has been living it up in sunny Spain. They soon work with Spanish police to raid his residence when they consider him a person of interest. However, when armed police enter the property, they discover the (supposedly) dead bodies of Thurwell and his wife, with flies hovering over them.

Lovely stuff.

Ryan Pilkington

Arguably one of the most hated characters in the programme, OCG villain Ryan Pilkington is groomed into Hunter’s organised crime group back in series one, where he works as the person delivering burner phones to Hunter’s victims.

He meets Terry Boyle and decides to take advantage of him to hide a dead body in his freezer. He also tries to remove Arnott’s fingers with bolt cutters when Hunter’s team kidnap the detective, but he struggles to do so because of his age.

In series five, still with the OCG, he kills Corbett – the undercover police officer working within the group to find out the identity of “H” – along with AC-12 officer Maneet Bindra. In the final episode of that series, it’s revealed that he’s training to be a police officer. 

By the time series six begins, he’s brought into Davidson’s team and puts pressure on the SIO to mismanage the enquiry into Gail Vella, to steer it away from any connection to organised crime.

After Fleming learns about Pilkington’s links with the OCG, Davidson is told by “H” to get rid of her, and he enlists Ryan to carry out the deed. She cancels a meeting in a bar and instead asks to meet in a derelict car park, where Pilkington pulls a gun on her.

In the next episode, we learn that Pilkington died from two gunshot wounds to the chest following a shootout.

Philip Osborne

Philip Osborne in Line of Duty

In the very first series, it’s Osbourne who calls on all those involved in the erraneous killing of a man during a counter-terrorism raid to lie when giving evidence in court. One member of said team is Arnott, who refuses to co-operate, and is booted off the team as a result.

Osborne then goes on to heat things up a lot more in series six, where he is shown in archive clips giving several statements to the press on police matters.

He responds to questions by Vella about inaccurate police numbers, and condemns the work of the local Police and Crime Commissioner and AC-12 in a public statement. It’s hardly surprising, then, that it’s later revealed that Osborne wants to cut and restructure anti-corruption units in the force. He is responsible for placing Carmichael in the position of SIO for AC-12 inquiry into Operation Lighthouse.

After taking over the role, Carmichael orders officer Chloe Bishop to update the evidence, which concerns placing a photo of Osborne into the nearest shredder. Interesting...

Bishop, by the way, is the copper who revealed that Osborne, along with Buckells and Thurwell, were involved in covering up the death of Lawrence Christopher.

Ian Buckells

Known as an inept police officer, Detective Superintendent Buckells made a pretty big blunder in series one when he allowed bent copper Dot Cottan to speak in private with OCG leader Tommy Hunter.

In series four, as AC-12 investigate copper Roz Huntley, Buckells is warned not to blow Fleming’s cover as an undercover officer, but is later accused of doing just that.

Now, in the latest series, Buckells’ mishaps have continued, including messing up surveillance paperwork which meant that the flat Central Police would raid to find “Ross Turner” had to go unmonitored for three hours; bringing OCG member Ryan Pilkington into the force and commending him for “saving” Terry Boyle’s life.

In fact, dear reader, he attempted to do the exact opposite.

Operation Lighthouse files were also found in his car and his connection to the witness who identified Boyle as supposedly being the person to confess to Vella’s murder was revealed, too.

All of this led to him being charged with perverting the course of justice. Don’t forget that he one of three officers involved in the cover-up of Lawrence Christopher’s death as well.

Terry Boyle

Played by Elliott Rosen in series one before Tommy Jessop took over in series five and six, Boyle is a man with Down’s Syndrome who is repeatedly exploited by the OCG – especially by Pilkington. 

In series one, his council flat is used by the organised crime group to hide a dead body in his freezer.

When we revisit him in series five, he’s still being manipulated by members of the gang, who confront him about a police raid on Kingsgate Printing Services, which is across the road from him and somewhere from which the OCG operates.

In series six, Boyle is a suspect in the murder of Gail Vella and is arrested. He becomes the prime suspect despite another person of interest to the police team, Carl Banks, being the only suspect with links to organised crime.

After Buckells’ witness says it was Boyle who confessed to killing Vella, he is brought back in for questioning about his relation to the covert individual, whose name is Alastair Oldroyd. During this interview, he answers that it was not him at the pub, but “the other man”.

With Pilkington saying beforehand that he’ll be fine if he keeps his mouth shut – which Boyle didn’t do by suggesting it wasn’t him who killed Vella – the OCG member, now travelling with Boyle to a secure location, attacks the officer driving the car and forces the vehicle into a lake.

His window is open so he is able to get out and swim to the surface, but so, too, does the driver of the vehicle, whom he later drowns.

When Boyle rises to the surface, he goes over to him but is forced to rescue the suspect after Fleming arrives on the scene.

As a result of this, it’s revealed that Boyle is put on permanent surveillance, until Carmichael becomes SIO of the Operation Lighthouse inquiry and, critical of the unit’s surveillance of multiple persons of interest, pulls all operations.

Gail Vella

Vella is the investigative journalist whose murder becomes the focal point for series six. With a keen eye for police corruption, the reporter found herself buried deep in the world of bent coppers before her untimely demise.

A clip from episode two sees Vella saying that Deputy Chief Constable Andrea Wise and Police and Crime Commissioner Rohan Sindhwani were telling “attractive lies” when they said an investigation had revealed no institutionalised corruption.

Realising that some of her riskier reports couldn’t be broadcast (come on, Gail, haven’t you heard of libel?), she looked into setting up her own podcast through which she could investigate the links between Central Police and organised crime a lot more closely.

As part of her work, she went on to get in touch with many coppers (both bent and supposedly innocent), and criminals from series gone by; challenging Chief Constable Philip Osborne, as well as PCC Sindhwani.

Not only that, but she began looking into the death of Lawrence Christopher.

AC-12 also finds recordings which reveal that she spoke to another individual about police cover-ups, a man which Arnott identifies as Lakewell. Arnott goes on to offer him witness protection in exchange for information about Vella’s enquiries, but declines, preferring a life in prison with OCG criminals and corrupt security staff.

You can imagine how that ends up, as Lakewell is murdered in his cell by Lee Banks - brother of Carl Banks, the suspect in the Vella murder.

Speaking of Lee Banks, he agreed to be interviewed by Vella as part of her reporting, but it’s believed that he then warned his brother Carl about what she knew, and he was instructed to kill her as a result.

Lawrence Christopher

Christopher died in police custody in 2003, following an attack by racist thugs. Officers also made racist taunts as he was dying.

However, as a result of meddling in the case by SIO Marcus Thurwell, no one was convicted in connection with his murder.

In addition to Thurwell, it was revealed in series six that Osborne and Buckells were involved in the case, and that OCG leader Tommy Hunter’s son Darren was one of the perpetrators.

Christopher’s murder is one case which was explored by Vella before she was shot dead.

Andrea Wise

Deputy Chief Constable Wise has often been critical of AC-12’s work, at one point shutting down their inquiries concerning copper John Corbett in series five and, in series six, lambasting Hastings for the arrest of DSU Ian Buckells without letting her know beforehand.


A high-ranking police officer within the force who has links to organised crime, “H” is the biggest baddie of them all.

The anonymous villain was first revealed in a dying declaration by Dot Cottan in series three, who blinked to reveal that the officer’s surname began with “H”.

In the final episode of series five, however, it’s revealed that Cottan’s final moments saw him relay another message - this time in Morse code.

The clue was the letter “H”, which is four dots. In other words, there are four “Dots” or corrupt police officers working together. At this point, we know three: Cottan, Biggeloe and Assistant Chief Constable Steve Hilton (from series four).

We don’t know who the fourth person is, but Hastings is insistent that it’s “the fourth man”.

Whoever it is, it’s expected that their identity will be revealed when the finale airs at 9pm tonight...

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