The actor who plays convicted murderer Jeremy Bamber in a new ITV drama has said he chose not to meet him as part of his preparations.
“We talked about it and concluded that therein lay no benefit,” said Freddie Fox, who plays Bamber in the six-part crime drama White House Farm.
“It’s 35 years on and he’s a different person who says he’s innocent.
“The Jeremy Bamber I’m playing is a combination of fact and research, but also my imagination.”
Bamber, 58, is serving a whole life term for killing five members of his family in Essex in August 1985.
He has always denied killing his adoptive parents, his sister Sheila and her six-year-old twin sons at a farmhouse in Tolleshunt D’Arcy.
He claims his schizophrenic sister shot her family before turning the gun on herself.
ITV’s drama begins shortly before the murders and continues until the end of Bamber’s trial in 1986.
Its cast includes Cressida Bonas as Sheila, Gemma Whelan as Bamber’s cousin Ann, and Mark Addy and Stephen Graham as detectives investigating the case.
“Lots of people have a simplified, tabloid-style version of the story in their minds, but this isn’t just a bunch of newspaper headlines,” said Kris Mrksa, the show’s Australian writer.
“What struck me is not only how moving this story is, but how it’s stuck in the psyche of this country and continues to attract so much controversy and attention.”
Fox, whose sister is Silent Witness star Emilia, had little knowledge of Bamber before being cast in the drama.
“I’d just heard the name – I didn’t really know why,” he told reporters at a screening in London earlier this month. “Somehow it was in the back of my mind.
“All you ever want as an actor is to play psychologically complex, interesting characters and Jeremy Bamber is at the very least that.”
Fox said he had been approached by the Jeremy Bamber Campaign but had decided it “probably wasn’t helpful” to meet them.
Its organisers believe Bamber was wrongly convicted and are working towards securing his freedom.
White House Farm is endorsed by Colin Caffell, the father of the murdered boys, who has written a book about his traumatic experiences.
“Over the years I’ve been approached by many people but it didn’t feel right,” said the author and sculptor. “But this approach was very sensitive and respectful.”
The drama’s producers, he continued, “made it clear that they wanted to tell the story properly and get to the psychological underbelly”.
Yet Caffell admitted to being no great fan of the true crime genre, expressing a desire that the series had not been made at all.
“I admire Colin enormously for his wisdom and courage and I hope we bring some of that out,” Mrksa said.
“I also hope we can change how people perceive the case and get to something much more substantial and accurate.”
Bamber’s trial was filmed in Chelmsford Crown Court in Essex, in the courtroom next to the one where he was convicted.
“We all felt filming in that environment added an extra layer of authenticity,” said executive producer Willow Grylls.
The reasons behind the crimes remain uncertain, though many believe Bamber was motivated by the money he was in line to inherit.
“I think we unravel various possible motivations, but I never had the ambition of giving a potted, pop-psychology explanation,” continued Mrksa.
“I hope we offer lots of possible different explanations… but it would be simplistic and banal for me to claim to know what went on in Jeremy Bamber’s head.”
White House Farm is on ITV1, Wednesday 8 January at 21:00 GMT.