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Stephen Merchant and Sheridan Smith are lauded by viewers of Four Lives after chilling drama airs

Stephen Merchant has been lauded by viewers of Four Lives after the chilling BBC One miniseries’ first episode aired on Monday night.

The actor, 47, plays the notorious Grindr serial killer Stephen Port, and the drama, which is based on true events, shows the families of his victims fight for justice in the face of a now widely-condemned police investigation. 

Sheridan Smith, who stars as Sarah Sak, the mother of Stephen’s first victim Anthony Walgate, was also met with adulation from fans for her talents.

Talented: Stephen Merchant (pictured in-character) has been lauded by viewers of Four Lives after the chilling BBC One miniseries’ first episode aired on Monday night

Taking to Twitter, one member of the TV audience wrote: ‘Four lives @StephenMerchant and @Sheridansmith1 yes Stephen Merchant the best UK actor since @rickygervais I wanted to wait but Iplayer makes it to easy.’

Another added: ‘v. weird seeing Stephen Merchant in that kind of role, but i think he carries it off brilliantly. i think i’ll need space to digest these episodes (same goes for Anne, blimey), but Four Lives is off to a great start.’

A third chimed in: ‘I always fear the worst* whenever comedians attempt a bit of Terribly Serious Acting. But Stephen Merchant is really good in Four Lives. No BAFTA-baiting showboatery, just a very understated, unsettling performance. * My default position on everything.’

Showing their praise, another added: ‘@Sheridansmith1 excellent performance in four lives [two clapping hands emojis] x.’

Famous face: Sheridan Smith (pictured in-character), who stars as Sarah Sak, the mother of Stephen's first victim Anthony Walgate, was also met with adulation from fans for her talents

Famous face: Sheridan Smith (pictured in-character), who stars as Sarah Sak, the mother of Stephen’s first victim Anthony Walgate, was also met with adulation from fans for her talents

Concluding, a final said: ‘@Sheridansmith1 omg what a brilliant actor must of been hard playing this especially now your a mom yourself xx.’ [sic] 

Port, 46, lured four unsuspecting victims to his east London flat then plied them with a fatal dose of date rape drug GHB before dumping their bodies nearby as part of a sick fetish for sex with unconscious men in 2014 and 2015.

The show was set to be released in 2020, but had to be delayed because of an inquest into the Metropolitan Police’s investigation into Port’s crimes.

In December, the ten week inquest culminated in a jury ruling that there had been police ‘failures’ in the investigation, and had they been avoided, some of his victims may still be alive.

Praise: Taking to Twitter, one member of the TV audience wrote: 'Four lives @StephenMerchant and @Sheridansmith1 yes Stephen Merchant the best UK actor since @rickygervais I wanted to wait but Iplayer makes it to easy'

Praise: Taking to Twitter, one member of the TV audience wrote: ‘Four lives @StephenMerchant and @Sheridansmith1 yes Stephen Merchant the best UK actor since @rickygervais I wanted to wait but Iplayer makes it to easy’

Four Lives focuses on the fight to uncover the truth about what had happened to the families’ lost sons, brothers and loved ones.

The series was written by Neil McKay with Jeff Pope as executive producer. The pair have previously worked together on crime dramas The Moorside and Appropriate Adult.

In the first trailer for Four Lives, viewers were given a glimpse of Merchant’s terrifying portrayal of Port.

The serial killer was known for being exceptionally tall, six foot five, and Merchant appears eerily similar at six foot seven. 

Scary: The actor, 47, (pictured in-character) plays the notorious Grindr serial killer Stephen Port and the drama, which is based on true events, shows the families of his victims fight for justice in the face of a now widely-condemned police investigation

Scary: The actor, 47, (pictured in-character) plays the notorious Grindr serial killer Stephen Port and the drama, which is based on true events, shows the families of his victims fight for justice in the face of a now widely-condemned police investigation 

Four young men – Anthony, Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth and Jack Taylor – were murdered by Port. 

Last month, the grieving families of serial killer Stephen’s four victims heaped shame onto the Met Police – after a jury found force failings on his first murder let him kill three more young men.

An inquest into all of Port’s four victims said ‘fundamental’ mistakes looking at Anthony Walgate’s death ‘probably’ contributed to Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth and Jack Taylor being subsequently killed.

The devastating ruling was summed up best by Mr Whitworth’s stepmother who sobbed: ‘These three boys could have been still walking around today had they investigated Anthony’s death properly.’ 

Awful: Port, 46, (pictured) lured four unsuspecting victims to his east London flat then plied them with a fatal dose of date rape drug GHB before dumping their bodies nearby as part of a sick fetish for sex with unconscious men in 2014 and 2015

Awful: Port, 46, (pictured) lured four unsuspecting victims to his east London flat then plied them with a fatal dose of date rape drug GHB before dumping their bodies nearby as part of a sick fetish for sex with unconscious men in 2014 and 2015 

The IOPC announced it was considering reopening its probe into 17 officers involved in the case. Nine officers were given re-training but were not formally disciplined after the investigation in 2018.

Families of all four victims said through lawyer Neil Hudgell: ‘The inadequate investigations by the Metropolitan Police into the deaths of Anthony, Gabriel, Daniel and Jack should be on public record as one of the most widespread institutional failures in modern history.

‘The jury has been unanimous in identifying fundamental failings and basic errors in the investigation into Anthony’s death which meant that Port was not stopped, and was allowed to carry on with his terrible acts.

Jack Taylor

Daniel Whitworth

Devastating: Two of Port’s four victims were Jack Taylor (left), 25, and Daniel Whitworth (right), 21

Anthony Walgate

Gabriel Kovari

Young: Anthony Walgate (left) and Gabriel Kovari (right) were also victims of Port

‘We continue to believe that had the police done their jobs properly in the first place, Gabriel, Daniel and Jack would not have been killed and other young men would not have been drugged and raped by him.’

Mr Whitworth’s former partner Ricky Waumsley said current Met Commissioner Cressida Dick – who was not in charge at the time of the murders – should resign over the findings.

Police watchdog the IOPC also said it may open its investigation into officers following the evidence heard at the inquest.

The three-part series will continue at 9pm on Tuesday 4 January and Wednesday 5 January.

Difficult: Four Lives focuses on the fight to uncover the truth about what had happened to the families' lost sons, brothers and loved ones (Sheridan pictured in-character)

Difficult: Four Lives focuses on the fight to uncover the truth about what had happened to the families’ lost sons, brothers and loved ones (Sheridan pictured in-character)

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