Steeltown Murders Cast: Who Plays the Real Life Characters in This True Crime Drama?
Life on Mars' Philip Glenister and The Last Kingdom's Steffan Rhodri play the real detectives who solve Wales' longest cold case using DNA evidence.
In 1973, the killer of Welsh teenagers Sandra Newton, Pauline Flynn and Gwendoline Hughes was not caught, despite a high-profile and widespread investigation by South Wales Police. The girls’ families spent the next three decades not knowing who was responsible for brutally taking the lives of their loved ones, or whether he still lived alongside them in the local Neath and Port Talbot communities.
In 2002, a development in forensics changed everything. The cold case was reopened with much pared-down resources, and crime scene DNA was successfully used to identify Wales’ first recorded serial killer. Steeltown Murders is the story of the loss, guilt and suspicion that followed the 1970s murders, and of the perseverance of the officers who were eventually able to provide the victims’ families with the answers they’d been denied years before.
Here are the actors making up the cast behind Steeltown Murders‘ dramatisation of real-life figures and events.
Scott Arthur and Philip Glenister as DCI Paul Bethell
Philip Glenister, whose Welsh mother helped him to prepare for the role of DCI Paul Bethell in Steeltown Murders, is probably best associated with the unforgettable role of DCI Gene Hunt in the BBC’s time-travel crime dramas Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes. Prior to that, he appeared in countless TV roles from the early 1990s onward, including detective series Bergerac, Heartbeat and Silent Witness, and period dramas Vanity Fair, Sharpe, Horatio Hornblower and Cranford. From the 2000s he followed up a role in the now all-star cast of BBC One’s Clocking Off with State of Play, ITV fantasy Demons, Sky action series Mad Dogs, BBC comedy Big School, 2017 Inside No 9. episode ‘The Bill’ and many more.
Scott Arthur, who plays the younger Paul Bethell in Steeltown Murders’ 1973 timeline, has a host of TV roles under his belt, from 2014’s Da Vinci’s Demons to ITV period drama Victoria to the role of young Shadwell in Prime Video’s Good Omens plus voice work on video games Xenoblade Chronicles 3 and Elden Ring.
Sîon Alun Davies and Steffan Rhodri as Phil ‘Bach’ Rees
Steffan Rhodri is perhaps best recognised as Dave ‘Coaches’ from Gavin & Stacey and Reg Cattermole from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 but he’s appeared in a great many screen roles besides, flying the flag for Wales (or Wealas) playing Welsh King Hywel in Netflix historical drama The Last Kingdom, and appearing in the first series of HBO’s House of the Dragon as Lord Hobert Hightower. Rhodri played Perry in excellent Welsh coming-of-age drama In My Skin, Judge Daniels in Keeping Faith, and DC Jones in Manhunt, also from the writer of Steeltown Murders.
Sîon Alun Davies is known for the role of DS Vaughan in Welsh crime series Hidden/Craith, and has also appeared in Hinterland, Endeavour, Britannia, Requiem and Prime Video’s The Sandman.
Gareth John Bale as DC Geraint Bale
It’s not often that a family member is cast as a real person in true crime TV drama, but it’s happened here – Gareth Jon Bale, with previous credits on The Indian Doctor, Requiem, Casualty, and a regular role on Welsh courtroom drama 35 Awr – is the nephew of DC Geraint Bale, the real officer who joined Bethell and Rees in the 2002 reinvestigation of the Llandarcy murders.
Sharon Morgan as Pat Williams
Welsh screen acting royalty, in Steeltown Murders Morgan plays the mother of Sandra Newton, the Neath teenager who was murdered in 1973, two months before Pauline Flynn and Gwendoline Hughes. Morgan has TV credits going back to the 1970s, and if a Welsh story is being told on screen, it’s a good bet she’s helping to tell it, from Under Milk Wood to children’s series The Snow Spider, The Chestnut Soldier and many more. She played Professor Edwards in A Mind to Kill, and appeared alongside Ronnie Barker in several sketch comedy shows, along with playing the role of Mary in Torchwood, 35 Diwrnod, Pobol y Cwm and more recently Sky’s Gangs of London and Netflix’s recently cancelled Lockwood & Co.
Keith Allen and Rhys Rusbatch as Dai Williams
Following up his role as serial killer John Cooper in The Pembrokeshire Murders (from the same director as Steeltown Murders), Keith Allen plays the older Dai Williams, stepfather to murder victim Sandra Newton. Allen has a long history of screen credits going back to the 1980s, with memorable roles in Jed Mercurio’s excellent medical drama Bodies, the BBC Saturday teatime Robin Hood, My Mad Fat Diary, Marcella and many more.
Playing the younger Dai Williams is Rhys Rusbatch, seen previously in supporting roles in Merlin, Hunky Dory, Burn Burn Burn and Sherlock.
Natasha Vasandani and Priyanga Burford as Sita Anwar
Priyanga Burford plays the 2002 version of Sita Anwar, an invention for this dramatisation based on several of Pauline Flynn and Gwendoline Hughes’ real friends, and played in the 1973 timeline by Natasha Vasandani. Burford has a long list of credits, and recently appeared in crime series Before We Die and Innocent, as well as Armando Iannucci satirical comedy Avenue 5 and acclaimed workplace dramas Industry and Press, as well as James Bond film No Time to Die.
Aneurin Barnard as Joseph Kappen
Soon to be seen in new episodes of Doctor Who, Aneurin Barnard made a big impression in the brief role of Dr Holford in Peaky Blinders series six, and Daniel in sadly cancelled Netflix weird sci-fi series 1899. He’s previously starred in The Catch, The Pact, Dunkirk, SS-GB, War & Peace and played Richard III in The White Queen. In Steeltown Murders, he plays Joseph Kappen.
Nia Roberts and Elinor Crawley as Karina Bethell
Another familiar face on Welsh and English television, Nia Roberts plays the 2002 Karina Bethell, wife of DCI Paul Bethell in Steeltown Murders. Roberts has recently appeared in Welsh series Yr Amgueddfa and Hidden, as well as BBC thrillers Red Rose, Rillington Place (from Steeltown Murders writer Ed Whitmore), Netflix royal drama The Crown and Doctor Who’s ‘Cold Blood’ two-parter.
Vikings fans will recognise Karina’s younger counterpart as Thyri from the History series, played by Elinor Crawley, who’s also appeared in The White Queen, Ordinary Lies, Ransom and Doctors.
Calista Davies plays teenager Geraldine Hughes with Jade Croot as Pauline Floyd in the 1973 timeline. In the 2002 timeline, Broadchurch viewers will recognise Matthew Gravelle in the role of Sita’s husband Seb.
Steeltown Murders airs on Mondays at 9pm on BBC One. All episodes will be available on BBC iPlayer after episode one.