Sunday 5 July, 8.30pm
Every day, across the world, someone becomes obsessed with another person’s life. In 2007, Maria Marchese was sentenced to nine years in prison for viciously stalking a London doctor, his family and even the lawyer who prosecuted her. The British Metropolitan Police called it ‘one of the worst cases of stalking we have ever had to investigate’.
Written by Gwyneth Hughes (Miss Austen Regrets), Sunday Theatre: U Be Dead is based on this extraordinary true story of an obsession that almost cost one man his freedom. Told with the help of the very people who suffered at the hands of Marchese, U Be Dead stars David Morrissey (State Of Play), Tara Fitzgerald (Brassed Off), Lucy Griffiths (Robin Hood) and Monica Dolan (Wallis & Edward), tonight at 8.30pm on TV ONE.
Dr Jan Falkowski (Morrissey) and his fiancée Debbie Pemberton (Fitzgerald) could think of no one who would want to stalk them with threatening texts and phone calls. Even when the stalker professed to being in love with Jan, they refused to take her increasingly manic behaviour seriously. That is until she broke into their houseboat and opened the gas taps, threatened Jan’s family, and attempted to cancel their wedding.
Jan and Debbie’s relationship began to suffer under the strain. In fear for their lives, they moved to an address nobody, including their parents, knew. In an attempt to flush the stalker out, Jan and Debbie eventually staged a fake wedding. Warning texts and phone calls rained down on everyone connected to the wedding.
Finally, the police closed in. As a final text arrived – ‘U Be Dead’ – they surrounded the phone box it was sent from and arrested the woman who had been stalking Jan Falkowski for two years. Maria Marchese (Dolan) was an unlikely stalker who had only met Jan a handful of times through a patient of his. After initially denying she was guilty, she then claimed to be texting him because he had raped her – and she had DNA evidence to prove it.
Jan’s nightmare just got much, much worse. The DNA evidence on Marchese’s underwear was compelling. As a rape suspect he was suspended from his psychiatric practice and, if found guilty, could be jailed for life. An extraordinary trial followed, which fascinated the media and public alike.
“This is not only a troubling criminal case and nail-biting thriller, but it’s also a fascinating insight into human relationships, desperation and endurance. Some of the facts of this case defy belief, and Gwyneth Hughes has worked tirelessly with the victims, police, families and lawyers to really get under the skin of what Maria Marchese put everyone through,” says producer Elinor Day.