24 Hours in Police Custody: the hit series returns with a compelling and tragic tale

Considering it mainly focuses on one police force, 24 Hours in Police Custody has an uncanny ability to land upon some extraordinary human stories.

Over six series with Bedfordshire Police, the Channel 4 documentary has followed the force as they stage dawn arrests, investigate major sex trafficking cases, and even arrest one of their own, when a detective, Gareth Suffling, was eventually jailed for blackmail.

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Last night's opening episode of series seven, 'Body in the Grass', was another compelling and tragic case: the death of Sharon Fade, whose corpse was found in undergrowth in Houghton Regis last September.

The 45-year-old mother of two's life had gone off the rails, and she was drinking heavily to numb her depression and mental health issues.

Despite this, the nature of her injuries (her throat had been slashed by a broken bottle) led detectives to suspect foul play, and their attentions immediately fell on her partner, Dean Robinson.

He comes across in the documentary as a curious character to say the least.

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He seems remarkably calm and collected when he's arrested on suspicion of murder (he's more concerned about leaving his dog at home), he details his movements and communications in spreadsheets, and he proves his yoga flexibility during the police interview by pulling his foot up over the table, prompting one of the detectives to stifle a laugh.

Dean Robinson being arrested on suspicion of the murder of his partner, Sharon Fade (Photo: Channel 4)

But as the investigators point out, odd behaviour is not evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

And despite questions around his control of Ms Fade's prescribed medication (he falsely claims to be a former doctor), and their sometimes violent relationship, there is nothing material connecting him to her death.

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Once the forensic expert concludes that his DNA is not on the broken bottle, and there is no trace of her blood on his running shoes, detectives accept that he is not involved.

His genuine, emotional response to news that charges are being dropped reveals more of the real person behind the eccentric facade. He clearly had a connection to Ms Fade, even if their relationship was troubling from the outside.

It was a feature-length story that was captivating from start to finish, and as ever, the programme makers' level of access is extraordinary. Especially given that Mr Robinson was cleared and yet must still have given his consent to be filmed.

Once again, the Bafta-nominated 24 Hours in Police Custody is essential viewing for anyone interested in the criminal justice system.

Which, judging by the popularity of procedural dramas, is just about everyone.

24 Hours in Police Custody continues on Channel 4 on Mondays at 9pm. Catch up on All 4.