LINE of Duty fans love to be kept guessing — but this week some viewers got their theory confirmed by the gaffer himself.
Jed Mercurio, who writes the hit show, revealed that fictional character Gail Vella was indeed based on Daphne Caruana Galizia's chilling murder, and the clues had been hiding in plain sight.
One Twitter user asked Mercurio directly about the similarities between the fictional case of Vella and the real murder of Caruana Galizia.
They pointed out that Vella and Caruana Galizia drove the same model of car, had a similar profession, and may have been killed because of a similar motive.
"The Gaffer has been complaining that none of the detectives out there had spotted this clue," Mercurio replied. "He’ll probably ask you to join AC-12."
Another user pointed out that "Vella", a common Maltese surname, was actually Caruana Galizia's maiden name.
"My mum loved British cop shows and I can imagine coming home to find her watching Line of Duty," Caruana Galizia's son Matthew wrote in response to Mercurio's exchange with the fan.
"The lighting in British TV is terrible I used to tell her. She liked that they always cracked the case."
The real life case against those accused of Caruana Galizia's killing is still ongoing however — four years after she was murdered in a professional hit that appalled Malta and led to the downfall of a prime minister.
'Body parts all around me'
Matthew was there on the day when his mother was assassinated in a cold-blooded plot that ended with a fiery blast.
The 53-year-old had driven her Peugeot 108 just 300 yards from her family home in Malta when a bomb placed underneath the driver's seat detonated, killing her instantly.
A huge explosion flipped the car off the road into a nearby field on October 16, 2017.
Hearing the blast, Matthew ran to the aid of his mother, but it was too late.
“I am never going to forget running around the inferno in the field, trying to figure out a way to open the door," he wrote in a Facebook post.
“The horn of the car still blaring, screaming at two policemen who turned up with a single fire extinguisher to use it.
“They stared at me. ‘I’m sorry, there is nothing we can do’, one of them said.
"I looked down and there were my mother’s body parts all around me. I realised they were right, it was hopeless.”
Matthew went on to say Malta had become a "mafia state" where organised crime had been allowed to flourish by the government.
He specifically called out several of the Mediterranean island's most prominent politicians — including then-prime minister Jospeh Muscat — for being "complicit" in the killing.
Pets attacked and house burned
Muscat eventually resigned in the wake of Caruana Galizia's murder — but the legal battles of bringing her alleged killers to justice are far from over.
Through her blog Running Commentary, Caruana Galizia had covered subjects including links between Malta's gambling industry and organised crime, as well as misconduct by politicians.
She'd made many powerful enemies in her career exposing corruption in the country, and she'd been threatened repeatedly long before she was killed.
Her house had been set on fire as her family slept in 2006.
And her pet terrier Zulu was poisoned and her collie Rufus had to be put down after being shot.
Some of her biggest revelations came in connection with the Panama Papers in 2016, with which she accused Muscat's wife and other close associates of being involved in financial impropriety.
They denied the claims, and Muscat's chief-of-staff Keith Schembri and energy minister Konrad Mizzi sued Caruana Galizia over her accusations.
But Muscat eventually resigned as prime minister in January 2020 after mass protests in Malta.
Mizzi and Schembri also resigned in the wake of Caruana Galizia's death, but both deny wrongdoing.
Another figure involved in the case is Yorgen Fenech, a Maltese businessman who was arrested in connection with her murder as he tried to sail away from the country on his yacht in 2019.
He also denies wrongdoing.
In February 2021, Vince Muscat (no relation to the prime minister) pleaded guilty to Caruana Galizia's murder and was sentenced to 15 years.
He described a previous plot to kill Caruana Galizia with an AK-47 assault rifle two years earlier which fell through, the Times of Malta reports.
And he also said in his testimony that Alfred Degiorgio, a minor criminal also charged with the bombing, was tipped off about where Caruana Galizia would be by a former minister, Chris Cardona.
Cardona says Muscat's testimony was "pure evil fiction".
Art imitating life
This isn't the first time Line of Duty has taken inspiration from real life events — and those affected haven't always been as appreciative as Matthew.
The latest series mentions paedophile Jimmy Savile's relationship with senior police officials, and it includes his image.
Leisha Brookes, who was abused by the Savile when she was eight, says the BBC series was "wrong" to include him, adding: "I will not watch Line of Duty now. And my friends will not watch it now either."
A BBC spokesman said: "Line of Duty is an established fictional drama series set in a recognisable and authentic world.
"The brief picture, which viewers will recognise as being part of an ongoing fictional storyline, has been included to highlight the real-life context of the fictional story."
The drama also includes an apparent reference to the search of Cliff Richard's home during a child sex abuse investigation.
Richard was never arrested during the investigation, and he later successfully sued the BBC for breach of privacy for sending a chopper to film the raid as it unfolded.
In Line of Duty, Vella, played by Andi Osho, says "officers arguably colluded with the BBC in enabling a news helicopter to film the search of an elderly pop star’s home”.
Fans of the current series have also noticed similarities between Vella's fictional killing and the real murder of Jill Dando in 1999.
Journalist Dando was shot dead on her doorstep while investigating paedophilia among powerful figures.
Mercurio has confirmed the latest series references Dando's tragic case, which remains unsolved.
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