For twenty-five years now The Bill has provided plenty of drama and memorable moments and characters. From the great Frank Burnside to the maternal June Ackland these characters are still fondly remembered today and in this feature we take a look at those we think are the more memorable officers of Sun Hill.
Over the past twenty-five years The Bill has changed greatly; originally airing as a one-off drama, Woodentop in 1983, then coming back as a returning drama series, in 1984, before becoming a weekly drama series in 1988. It’s something of a shame that there are no longer any characters from the original pilot episode, Woodentop, left on The Bill but there are still a few familiar faces in the series that long-term fans will know. Twenty-five years of The Bill has produced some memorable moments and some memorable characters and here we take a look at some of those characters.
Frank Burnside [Christopher Ellison] 1984 – 1993, appearing occasionally after.
Ask someone, of a certain age, to name a character from The Bill and chances are they’ll say Burnside. Frank Burnside was a tough-as-nails copper, who didn’t always follow the book to the word but was a decent copper, if not always likable, that got results. Burnside first appeared in The Bill in 1984 but didn’t become a regular in the show until 1988. Burnside often worked undercover, infiltrating various gangs and leading some to believe he was a corrupt officer working both sides. This was probably due to Burnside’s hard attitude and keeping his cards very close to his chest, not everyone trusted him and they were probably right not to. Burnside wasn’t corrupt but he could smell corruption and had worked, before arriving at Sun Hill, in a unit designed to smoke out corrupt officers. Burnside was a popular character with fans thanks to his ways and returned many times after leaving the show in 1993. The character was so popular that ITV commissioned a spin-off show for the character but it only ran for a season.
June Ackland [Trudie Goodwin] 1983 – 2007
June Ackland first appeared in The Bill in its original one-off drama format, Woodentops. In the drama Ackland was paired with new PC Jim Carver as they patrolled Sun Hill, June was just a WPC back then. Nowadays she’s probably better known as Sergeant June Ackland and was dubbed “Aunty June” by Inspector Gina Gold. June was someone that people could go to with their problems and get a sympathetic ear and know June would try to help them as much as she could. June took the same approach with her job using her sympathetic side to deal with victims of crimes or even suspects. June was an extremely hard working officer and very good at her job and managed her duties well. For most of the time she kept her private life just that, private. But on a few occasions her private life became the source of station gossip, which pained June. Her affair with DCI Wray was one such occasion and then her troubled marriage to Jim Carver, in the 2000’s, was another such source of problem. June tried to help Jim deal with his gambling and drink problem but their marriage broke down and June tried to become a harder person. She thought people took advantage of her and decided enough was enough. Her past came back to haunt her in the form of Gabriel Kent who claimed to be her son and then revealed he wasn’t at all. The unhinged Gabriel had been jealous of his adopted brother, June’s son, and had sort out June to wreck revenge upon her. After many trials and tribulations, such as her house being burnt down and seeing so many colleagues killed in the line of duty, June decided to retire and leave the force. June left Sun Hill for the last time in 2007 after twenty four years at the station.
Jack Meadows [Simon Rouse] 1992 –
Head of Sun Hill’s CID, Jack has survived many a scandal that has rocked the station from the Don Beech saga to the two Sun Hill fires, of recent times that is, and the suicide of Superintendent Tom Chandler. Jack is one of lives survivors and no matter how bad the situation looks he is always able to turn things around and come out on top. But the scandals he’s been involved with haven’t left him unmarked and his career is tainted and he’s been passed over for the top job several times now. It was the Don Beech saga that really threatened to bring down his career, as it did with some of his colleagues, and he had to fight hard to get new Superintendent Chandler to trust him. Jack was a loyal officer to his colleagues and what back them all the way but if he was betrayed, he’d have no mercy. Jack never really trusted Chandler and with DC Mickey Webb he set out to prove the Superintendent was corrupt which lead to Chandler’s suicide in his office. Jack’s relationship with Mickey was like a father and son, the two were very close and Mickey trusted in Jack completely. When Jack got involved with escort Rachel Heath it was Mickey who did his best to make sure it didn’t affect Jack’s career. Women were a weakness for Jack and he allowed himself to be used by DS Debbie McAlister who manipulated him much like she did Chandler. Debbie led to Jack, fooling him into believing there could be something between them. Jack’s long marriage ended because of it but nothing really came from Debbie and Jack was left alone, perhaps that’s why he dated Rachel Heath against his better judgement. Despite all of this Jack still runs CID, having taken over in 1992, and he has the respect of his officers at the station.
Bob Cryer [Eric Richard] 1984 – 2001, occasional appearances after
If June Ackland was ‘Aunty June’ [as Inspector Gold dubbed her] then Sergeant Bob Cryer was “father bob”, taking on a fatherly role with his officers. Bob was a tough but fair sergeant who was well liked at Sun Hill and someone the officers felt safe with. If someone had a problem Bob or June were two of the people they could go to for advice and the two worked alongside each other well. Bob was an old school style officer who knew his patch well and could sense trouble a mile off. Bob knew the rounds, knew the criminals and knew who to respond to any given situation. He was well respected by his team and somewhat married to his job, but had a family outside of the station. Changing times at Sun Hill saw Bob sidelined and when he was accidentally shot new Superintendent Chandler had him invalided out of the force. But Bob returned following the fire at Sun Hill in 2002 and then on a few occasions after to help his niece, Roberta Cryer, who worked at Sun Hill for a while.
Gina Gold [Roberta Taylor] 2002 – 2008
Inspector Gold arrived at Sun Hill in the aftermath of the devastating fire of 2002, an explosion had ripped through the station during a race-related riot at the front of the building. Five officers, including the previous Inspector, were killed in the explosion and fire. Sun Hill’s new Inspector was an old-fashioned, tough talking, hard as nails woman who wasn’t about to take any crap from anyone. Inspector Gold quickly made herself feel right at home in Sun Hill and sussed out her officers very quickly. Although Sergeant June Ackland was widely popular, Gina referred to her as ‘Aunty’ June. Although at first Gina was rather disrespectful to June within time Gina would come to respect June and appreciate her as a colleague. Gina also got along well with another of her Sergeant’s, Craig Gilmore. Gina famously told him once to put his ‘pink hat’ on and deal with a homophobic attack, Craig at first thought she was being homophobic herself but quickly found out she wasn’t. Gina just spoke her mind and didn’t go in for political correctness. After a failed marriage between two of her officers Gina didn’t Gina and Craig became friends, of sorts but Gina did not approve of his affair with PC Luke Aston. Gina’s attempts at keeping the affair underwraps had unexpected consequences and afterwards she tried not to interfere in the personal lives of her officers unless it affected their work. Before joining Sun Hill Gina had been a DS in a CID department but had decided to transfer to Sun Hill and become an Inspector with Uniform rather than an Inspector in CID. Gina’s CID experience came in good use and she was able to see things from both sides of the coin. During the Sun Hill serial killer Gina thought hard against DCI Jack Meadows to keep a suspect under arrest but Jack released him when he revealed vital information. Gina’s childhood flirtations with the criminal underworld, and her family’s connections to it, have also helped her deal with the criminals that come through Sun Hill and catch them out. Inspector Gold lasted five years at Sun Hill before deciding the time was right to move on. During that time she lost many of her officers and colleagues who were killed in the line of duty.
Cathy Bradford [Connie Hyde] 2002 – 2004
Dangerously unstable and highly manipulative just don’t do Cathy Bradford any justice. Cathy was very intelligent, fast thinking; cool under pressure, devious, cunning, manipulative and not beyond killing someone if they got in her way. When Cathy joined Sun Hill in 2002, after returning from Hong Kong, none of this was apparent. Cathy seemed to be a hard working, likable individual who knew how to have a laugh. Following the fire in 2002 and the arrival of Brandon Kane all that changed. Cathy become utterly obsessed with poor Brandon and a different side to her emerged. Cathy became totally unhinged as her obsession got worse and worse and more people were took in by her lies. Cathy was a nasty piece of work and Roberta Cryer was the only one to see through it all but Cathy soon dealt with her, by getting her fired. Cathy accidentally murdered Brandon’s wife during an argument and was later responsible for another murder. When Cathy’s lies began to unravel she attacked Roberta Cryer and then kidnapped Brandon’s children and held them hostage under Sun Hill. Finally Sun Hill realised what Cathy was really like and when the kids were rescued Cathy was sectioned.
Luke Aston [Scott Neal] 1997 – 1999/2002 – 2003
When Luke first arrived at Sun Hill he was young and straight out of Police training, naive to the world but keen to learn. But his first stint at Sun Hill was a troubled one for Luke, witnessing a suicide on his first day. Later on he failed to stop an attack on PC Dale Smith, who Luke had issues with anyway and then failed to stop a suspect from killing himself. All of this took its toll on the youngster and he quit the force to go travelling. In 2002, following the station fire, a very different Luke returned to Sun Hill. Following his travels Luke was more confident with himself and happier and quickly struck up a relationship with PC Kerry Young. But Luke could not deny his growing attraction to gay Sergeant Craig Gilmore and the pair kissed. Luke denied the kiss meant anything and got engaged to Kerry. On Luke’s stag night he and Gilmore slept together but despite this Luke still married Kerry. The marriage was not a happy or long one and broke down following Craig’s departure from Sun Hill and Kerry discovering Luke was gay. When Dale Smith returned to Sun Hill in 2003, now as a Sergeant, the issues between them re-emerged especially as it was clear Dale fancied Kerry. Luke sank into depression as he struggled to deal with his sexuality or it being revealed to the other officers on the force. During an armed robbery Luke became suicidal and tried to get himself shot by the robbers. Although he wasn’t shot and the situation resolved it was the end of the line for Luke at Sun Hill, Kerry pleaded with him not to leave but Luke left once again. His storyline with Craig Gilmore was hugely popular amongst fans and marked the start of a more soapy style of approach to storylines by producers.