The Long Shadow: Is Les Hanley Based on a Real Detective?

Centering around the brutal murders that took place in Yorkshire during the 1970s at the hands of Peter Sutcliffe, ‘The Long Shadow’ is a biographical show that delves into the investigative aspect of the infamous serial killer’s terror reign. The storyline centers on Dennis Hoban and Jim Hobson, alongside the numerous women and their families who fell victim to Sutcliffe’s depraved crimes. As a result, the narrative explores the circumstances around the killer’s string of killings as well as their subsequent effect on England’s future culture.

Consequently, the Yorkshire Police Force ends up occupying a significant space within the tale, with the numerous officers and detectives on the case remaining frequent additions to the show. One such addition is actor Jack Deam’s Detective Inspector Les Hanley, a regular throughout the seven-episode series, who acts as Jim Hobson’s second after the latter gains command over the investigation. For the same reason, viewers must be curious about the character— specifically, his basis in reality.

Les Hanley is Not Based on a Real Detective

While several aspects of ‘The Long Shadow,’ particularly the characters, are directly lifted from real life, the same does not appear to be the case for Les Hanley. The show’s narrative follows the police investigation spanning years as the Yorkshire Police Force attempts to catch the killer responsible for the deaths of thirteen women and attempted murder of several other individuals.

Thus, in doing so, the narrative encompasses a number of law enforcement officials involved in the case. The same includes the more well-known names such as Detective Chief Superintendent Jim Hobson, who famously led the investigation against Sutcliffe and George Oldfield. Whereas characters such as these have firm and tangible roots in reality, with eponymous real-life counterparts behind them, the same isn’t evident for Hanley. Consequently, we can infer that Hanley’s addition to the plot potentially emerges from a more fictitious place.

The show heavily features the police work of Detectives like Hobson or Hoban, with the characters developing formidable bonds with others and leaving significant imprints on the narrative. Nevertheless, Hanley rarely finds the same opportunities since his presence is often accompanied by other officers, allowing little room for individual effort. For the same reason, it’s not very surprising to know that his character lacks a real-life counterpart, rendering his inclusion a fictitious addition to the show.

Nonetheless, the show never suffers from Hanley’s fictionality since the other characters possess such rich roots in reality, with extensive research backing their presence in the story. For instance, Richard Hoban— Dennis Hoban’s son— discussed his recollection and family stories of the latter, especially from the mid-70s, with the show’s creative team to allow them a more authentic perception of the man.

Likewise, several other individuals from the time involved in Sutcliffe’s crimes in some way or another— whether it be from their relation to the victims or law enforcement officers— shared their accounts to the show’s team. As such, the show was able to retain a sense of realism even for the smaller fabricated details within the storylines, such as Les Hanley. Even so, ultimately, the detective fails to have a traceable connection to reality, with his name failing to show up in any historical reports of the criminal investigation from the time. Therefore, Les Hanley is likely a purely fictitious addition to the show, otherwise ripe with historically resonant characters.

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