December 6, 2022

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The true-crime story behind BBC drama

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The BBC’s latest drama Sherwood may be technically fictional, but it’s been inspired by an all-too-real true-crime tale from a small British community.

The story has been given the TV treatment by Quiz creator James Graham after he grew up in the Nottinghamshire mining village where the crimes took place in 2004.

Using testimonies of those affected by the real murders, Graham has created an entirely fictional story based on the already divided community.

david morrissey as ian st clair, terence maynard as sergeant cleaver, sherwood

BBC/House Productions/Matt Squire

With an all-star cast including David Morrissey, Lesley Manville, Joanne Froggatt and Robert Glenister, as well as the primetime airing slot, Sherwood is almost guaranteed to be a major talking point for weeks to come.

But what exactly happened to the real victims of the murders that inspired this story, and what happened to the perpetrators?

Here’s what you need to know about those whose lives provided the basis for the new drama.

Keith Frogson

On July 19, 2004, 42-year-old Robert Boyer shot 62-year-old Keith ‘Froggy’ Frogson with a crossbow outside his home before hacking him to death with a samurai sword.

The pair had been known to frequent the same pub, with Boyer tracking Frogson’s movements before making his attack.

After the murder, Boyer fled into the nearby Annesley Woods, before returning two weeks later and setting fire to his victim’s house, with Frogson’s daughter and son-in-law inside. Thankfully, they managed to escape.

david morrissey as ian st clair, sherwood

BBC/House Productions/Matt Squire

Speculation around why exactly Boyer targeted Frogson with such a frenzied attack was put down initially to both their attachment to the miners’ strike of 1984-85, which had split the area in two. Both had worked in the field but had fallen on different sides of the strike action.

Frogson was attached to the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and even after retiring would wear insignia promoting their ‘coal not dole’ slogan. Boyer, meanwhile, had joined the Union of Democratic Mineworkers (UDM), seceding from the NUM.

It later emerged, however, that Boyer had been suffering delusions that led him to believe Frogson was attempting to destroy his home. It’s unknown how or why he became fixated on Frogson specifically.

Going on the run, Boyer remained in the Annesley Woods until he was finally caught on August 15, when the mass manhunt discovered his hiding place – a makeshift den dug into the ground on the side of a hill. Initially finding the spot empty but with clear signs of living, they staked the area out until he returned.

Boyer attempted to resist arrest, but was eventually brought in using tasers. In court, his guilty plea (to a charge of manslaughter) was accepted.

Prosecutor Andrew Easteal told the court: “He had convinced himself that Keith Frogson was trying to dismantle his house brick by brick, that acid was being thrown at the brickwork and that a screwdriver had been used to chip away at the brick.

“He had developed a fixation with Mr Frogson. He was obsessed with the idea that Mr Frogson was persecuting him and trying to damage his home.

bbc's sherwood with david morrissey, lesley manville and robert glenister

BBC/House Productions/Matt SquireBBC

“Mr Frogson was completely innocent of this and had no idea what Boyer was thinking, or the delusions he was having.”

On the decision for the case to be a manslaughter, not murder conviction, a spokesman from the Crown Prosecution Service said: “It was only after very careful consideration and consultation that the prosecution team decided that evidence of Boyer’s mental condition was such that a charge of murder was not sustainable.”

Frogson’s family were informed of the decision, with a discussion being held regarding the verdict.

Boyer was briefly sent to jail, and is now on an indefinite hospital order.

Chanel Rodgers

On July 30, 2004, just 11 days after Frogson’s murder and approximately six miles from Annesley Woods, 23-year-old Chanel Rodgers was shot and killed by her father, Terry Rodgers.

Rodgers, 55, had a history of domestic violence, having previously been jailed for attacking his first wife with a hammer. He had split from his second wife a few weeks before the murder.

sherwood trailer david morrissey

BBC

When Rodgers was kicked out of his family home, the newly-married Chanel offered her father a place to stay at with her and husband Lee in Huthwaite.

After shooting Chanel four times with a shotgun, Rodgers fled to the Annesley Woods in a similar vein to Boyer.

He was finally caught on August 16, the day after Boyer and after 17 days on the run. Rodgers denied murder but confessed to manslaughter by diminished responsibility, never offering any further information as to why he killed Chanel. This plea was denied by the courts.

Rather than face court, Rodgers went on a hunger strike and died before his trial was due to start.

Chanel’s mother, Anne MacPherson, has panned the production of Sherwood, and their use of her daughter’s death as a source for it.

joanne froggatt as sarah vincent, sherwood

BBC/House Productions/Neil Sherwood

“How can my daughter’s murder be played out sensitively? I wanted nothing to do with it,” she told The Mirror.

“I don’t want to watch it but I’ll have to, reluctantly, as I need to see how my daughter and our family are being portrayed and what they’re saying about us.

“They are ripping my family apart all over again, and we’ll get the backlash. The programme has brought it all up again for me. It makes me so cross.”

The BBC has defended the series, and said in a statement: “Production worked closely with a number of people locally throughout the making of the series to ensure their stories were told with sensitivity, and respected those who preferred not to be directly involved.

“As a result, the decision was made to heavily fictionalise the series, rather than create a literal adaptation of any events, including inventing new characters, names and stories.

Sherwood is a story that is personal to James Graham and inspired in part by events within the community in which he grew up, over many years.”

Sherwood airs Monday and Tuesday at 9pm on BBC One, and will then be available on BBC iPlayer.

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