Without Sin Ending Explained: Who Killed Maisie Tomlinson?

With major finale spoilers, we examine the twists and turns of Vicky McClure’s new ITVX drama Without Sin

Vicky McClure and Johnny Harris in Without Sin
Photo: ITV

MAJOR SPOILERS! This is for viewers who have already streamed all episodes of Without Sin on ITVX

Full of twists, turns, and Vicky McClure’s seemingly endless wardrobe of excellent knitwear, ITVX’s exclusive new drama Without Sin is a triumph. From its first moments, this thriller left us with questions, and they only multiplied as the four episodes unfolded, delving into the death of teenager Maisie Tomlinson as her grieving mother Stella (Line of Duty’s Vicky McClure) forms a relationship with the man she believes to be her daughter’s killer.

These questions include: what happened the night Maisie died? Was Charles Stone (Johnny Harris, The Salisbury Poisonings) guilty or was he framed? And will Stella ever take that knitted beanie off or is it superglued to her head?

Jury’s still out on the beanie but we did get answers to the rest of our questions:

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What Happened to Maisie Tomlinson?

Her best friend Cleo hit her over the head with an amethyst ornament in a fit of rage, accidentally killing her, after the two teenage girls had fought over the revelation that Maisie’s boyfriend Teddy had been secretly sleeping with Cleo. ‘Maisie started saying horrible things about my mum and I just wanted her to stop,’ Cleo tearfully confessed, ‘I didn’t mean to kill her.’

The flashback does indeed show Maisie suggesting Cleo was only sleeping with Teddy because he was a drug dealer and could get some gear for her addict mum, and she was trying to steal Teddy because no one else, including her mum, wanted her. Harsh, but not justifying-murder harsh.

So why and How Did Charles Get Framed For Maisie’s Murder?

On the night Maisie died, she and Cleo had been partying at Maisie’s family home with aforementioned drug-dealing wrong’un Teddy and his mate Lee, who – luckily for them – was the nephew of Roman McKeller (Con O’Neill, Happy Valley), part of the town’s resident sleazy crime family who get up to all sorts of mischief, mostly involving drugs.

When Maisie died, Lee called his dodgy Dad for help, and the McKellers decided to send Charles (Teddy’s Dad, who had also been selling drugs for them at the time) to the house on the pretence of stealing Stella’s car, but actually to frame him for the murder. When he got there, Charles broke in to steal the car key, believing nobody to be at home, but shockingly discovered Maisie’s bloodied body. 

In the meantime, Cleo had used Maisie’s phone to text Stella, pretending to be Maisie and asking her to come home because she was scared after seeing someone lurking outside. Stella arrived home from the pub just in time to catch Charles kneeling over Maisie’s body, giving the police a seemingly open-and-shut case, despite Charles protesting his innocence.

Why Did Teddy Let His Dad Take the Blame?

This one’s more complicated. Cleo did say that Teddy never would have allowed the plan to go ahead if he’d known it was his dad the McKellers were framing, but once he found out he didn’t exactly do anything to stop it either. Why? According to Teddy, partly because he’d ‘never have survived in prison’, and partly out of resentment for his dad’s controlling ways: ‘Some days it was easier, I felt better knowing that you weren’t there controlling me any more. That I could live my life.’ The fact that confessing the truth would have landed him on the wrong side of the McKellers probably didn’t help.

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Why Did Cleo Go Missing?

From Charles’ outburst in episode one, and throughout most of the series, we’re led to believe Cleo has been taken by the same people who killed Maisie, and has possibly met the same fate. She’s certainly missing, and Stella ends up risking her own safety to find her, becoming convinced Lee McKeller has abducted her and even breaking into his car to find evidence of where he’s keeping her. It’s only when she ‘rescues’ Cleo from a grotty bedsit and brings her home that Cleo confesses to murdering Maisie. 

It turns out she actually went missing to hide from the McKellers after telling them she wanted to tell the police the truth about Maisie’s death: ‘Lee said if I did, his dad would kill me, and I couldn’t bring them into it. I had to go away.’

What Was The Significance of ‘Misty’?

‘Misty’ was Maisie’s nickname among Cleo, Teddy and Lee McKeller. Stella finds a photo of Maisy with a message on it addressed to ‘Misty’, and later when confronting Lee McKeller he calls Maisie ‘Misty’ as well, leading Stella to believe he’d been the ‘drug dealer boyfriend’ Maisie had been rumoured to have before she died. 

When she visits Charles, she tells him about this development, and we see his face change in recognition. We later see a flashback of Charles and his son Teddy, where he sees a message on Teddy’s phone from a mystery girl called ‘Misty’ and teases him about having a secret girlfriend. So when Stella uses the nickname, Charles realises his son must be involved in Maisie’s death too. 

How Was Stella’s Mum’s Boyfriend Kelvin Involved?

Kelvin owns the riding school Maisie and her grandmother, Stella’s mum Jessie, used to visit together. When Stella finds a video of Maisie and Cleo stealing drugs from a caravan, she recognises the location as the riding school, and confronts Kelvin, causing real tension with her mum, Jessie, who has only recently started dating him. 

He eventually admits he’d caught some lads dealing drugs from the caravan, and had then started receiving backhanders from the McKellers to keep quiet about it, which he accepted because the riding school was in financial difficulty. He doesn’t actually have anything to do with Maisie’s death, but the lying is a real turn-off for Jessie, who finishes their relationship.

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Why Did Stella Blame Herself for Maisie’s Death?

We find out relatively early on that Maisie was home alone that night because her dad was out having an affair and her mum was getting drunk at the nearby pub (no parenting awards for those two). Towards the end of the series, Stella admits that she’d seen a text from Maisie but had ignored it, wanting to stay out partying, so when she finally reads the text and discovers Maisie is scared about a man lurking outside, she rushes home to find Charles with her body and blames herself for not getting there sooner.

It isn’t until Cleo confesses it was her that sent the text message (so Stella would come home and catch Charles) that Stella realises her daughter was already dead, and there’s nothing she could have done to save her.

What Happened to Maisie’s Real Killers?

While the fate of Lee is unknown, we know Cleo and Teddy both end up in prison for their part in Maisie’s death and subsequent coverup, while Charles gets exonerated and released from prison. 

Charles tells Stella he’s going away to make himself a better man ‘for when Teddy gets out’, and at the end of the series Stella visits Cleo in prison as part of the Restorative Justice scheme that had originally brought her and Charles into contact at the start of episode one.

Is Without Sin based on a true story?

No, it’s a fictional story created by Frances Poletti. She did base it on the real-life Restorative Justice process, but the case itself has no basis in real life.

Will there be a series 2 of Without Sin?

Nothing is confirmed yet, but writer Frances Poletti has expressed an interest in exploring the characters in Without Sin in a further series: ‘I’d love to return again and build on it as it was so rewarding creating the characters and world and I’m hoping the audience will be equally pulled in. And there’s certainly unfinished business in Millfields that a second series would allow us to explore.’

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Without Sin is available to stream on ITVX