Warning: contains finale spoilers for Unforgotten Series 5.
Exposing historical injustice has always been Unforgotten’s theme. Its detectives excavate long-buried secrets and bring what’s hidden out into the light. In Series 5, that process became distinctly political with the sad story of the Falade family.
In the Series 5 finale, Ebele Falade confronted Lady Emma Hume – the wife of the man who had fathered her when he raped her teenage mother in the 1960s. Ebele framed her hatred of the pair in political terms. The Humes were rich, white establishment figures whose inherited wealth came from sugar plantations that had exploited enslaved Black people. To Ebele, that exploitation hadn’t ended after the end of historical slavery, but continued symbolically in Hume’s brutal treatment of her mother and in the strings pulled to cover up his initial crime, and the many that followed.
Lord Tony Hume’s Crimes
In 1963, Hume was working at his father’s London stockbroker firm when he raped a young woman employed there as a cleaner. Her parents also worked in the company canteen, and the entire family was threatened with the sack by Hume’s director father if they pursued the matter. Nine months later, Ebele’s mother gave birth to Hume’s unacknowledged daughter and three weeks later, took her own life by jumping into the Thames.
On Ebele’s 18th birthday, she learned the identity of her father and took a firearm to the stockbroker firm demanding to see Hume. The doorman initially called the police to report her, but later downplayed the incident as a prank. He’d been threatened into changing his story by Hume as one of several cover-ups enacted by the Hume family, who used their money and influence to pull strings and protect themselves.
Hume’s refusal to acknowledge his daughter, granddaughter and great-grandson, all of whom struggled with addiction and lived in poverty, was another crime to Ebele, as was the indirect harm he caused to her family through his political career. Lord Hume had been a Thatcherite who espoused policies that underfunded public services established to help people who find themselves in situations like Ebele, her daughter Precious and grandson Joseph.
When Hume was eventually forced to provide Ebele and Precious with secret financial support to avoid a tabloid scandal after DNA proved he was Ebele’s father, Ebele described the money as reparation, and viewed his treatment of them as a continuation of historical race exploitation.
Why Jay Lied
Lord Hume continued to deny any association with Ebele, Precious or Joseph until the investigation put him undeniably at the scene of the murder on the night Precious and Joseph died. Under questioning, he then admitted to having had “a fling” with Ebele’s mother (disproved by the letter she wrote to her daughter, telling the truth about the rape) who had later died, and said that he had done what he could to help Ebele and Precious. He witnessed Precious shoot herself after Joseph was accidentally shot in a struggle, he told police.
Denying any responsibility for the deaths, Hume was revealed to have made an anonymous phone call to the police that incriminated Ebele by telling them about Joseph’s body being buried in the garden of Ebele’s old flat.
To Ebele’s grandson Jay (of whose existence she wasn’t aware until the discovery of Precious’ body), the sole eyewitness to the deaths of his mother Precious and older brother Joseph, Hume deserved to pay for his crimes, and so Jay fabricated his story. He changed what really happened to incriminate Lord Hume in the murder of his half-brother Joseph.
“What’s good for the goose…”, Jay told Ebele in Series 5’s closing moments, meaning that Hume and his family had lied for decades, and so he was justified in lying now to finally punish the man whose actions had wrought so much pain.
Jay falsely told the police that at Hume’s deceased sister-in-law’s Hammersmith home (which Hume had allowed Precious to squat at) in 2016, he witnessed Hume violently choke Joseph, causing Joseph to pull out a gun. Jay said then Precious attempted to wrest the gun from Joseph and accidentally shot herself in the chest. When Joseph knelt by his dying mother’s side, Jay said, Hume used the gun to shoot Joseph in the head.
What Really Happened?
It’s ambiguous, but the real sequence of events appears to have played out this way: Joseph pulled the gun on Hume, Precious tried to take it and Joseph was accidentally shot dead in the struggle. Realising that she’d killed her son, Precious then turned the gun on herself and shot herself in the chest. Ebele arrived at the house, and Hume – trying to protect himself from a scandal – told her not to call the police because her record and previous firearms charge could incriminate her.
Traumatised and afraid, Ebele believed him and agreed to let him dispose of Joseph’s body, but insisted on disposing of Precious herself. She stayed with her dead daughter until the next day, before placing her in the chimney and later asking a friend to cover the fireplace using vintage plasterboard.
Hume then took Joseph’s body to the flat he rented for Ebele and buried him in its garden. The logic being that if it were discovered, Ebele would be blamed and he would be able to once again use his status and connections to deny all knowledge of the Falades and get away scot-free.
Hume was forced to stop denying involvement thanks to the eyewitness testimony of Precious’ social worker Karol Wojski. Karol visited the Hammersmith home the day after Precious and Joseph died (he was being blackmailed by Precious over upskirt photos saved on his laptop) and saw Hume there with a mop and bucket.
Why Did Hume Accept the Blame for Killing Joseph?
Because he had a late-in-life transformation following the events of that night, and it didn’t matter greatly because with only weeks to live, he would likely never set foot inside a prison. As Hume told it, he had realised the pain his actions had caused and so set about trying to right them. He changed politically, giving anti-austerity speeches in parliament, volunteered at a community centre and attempted to give money to young people.
Was Hume’s conscious really pricked, or was he – as DCI James put it – just trying to improve his Wikipedia entry and ensure that he would be remembered favourably as opposed to being an architect of austerity? A bit of both? But his guilt, and the fact that his cancer meant he was dying (he’d been arrested on a flight heading to a Dignitas-style clinic), meant that he accepted Jay’s version of events. Hume was charged for both the historical rape of Ebele’s mother and for the murder of his great-grandson Joseph.
Justice served? It’s a complicated story, not just about the exposure of one man’s cover-up crimes, but of generations of race, wealth and power inequality shored up by a class system that closed ranks and used its influence to silence those it exploited.
The ultimate ending saw Ebele united with Jay, leaving viewers with the hope that, with the Falade and Hume family secrets out in the open thanks to the work of DI Khan, DCI James and the team, perhaps they can move forward together and start a new family chapter.
Sunny and Jessie ended the series having thawed their hostility towards one another, and having forged a new bond. Will she take her husband back? Ever talk to her sister again? And will Sunny and Sal reconnect? That’s for a potential Series 6 to tell.
Unforgotten Series 5 is available to stream in full on ITVX.