Broadchurch: The Sandbrook Suspects - Claire Ripley
After Ellie's discovery that Claire was wearing the pendant stolen from murdered Pippa Gillespie, Alec's sometime love interest Claire emerges as the prime suspect in the Sandbrook case...
Ex hairdresser Claire Ripley is the wife of Lee Ashworth, the man who stood trial for the murders of Pippa Gillespie and Lisa Newbury in Sandbrook. Claire and Lee were the next door neighbours of Pippa and her family.
Claire was a key witness in the trial after Alec Hardy realised she was providing Lee with a false alibi and he persuaded her to give evidence against her husband.
The trial collapsed after Pippa's pendant, which police had found in Lee Ashworth's vehicle, was stolen from investigating police officer Tess Henchard's car. It has now emerged that Claire was the person who broke in to the car to steal it.
Following the collapse of the trial Alec took Claire with him to Broadchurch were he rented a cottage for her to keep her safe from Lee. He called it an unofficial witness protection scheme.
Now back in a turbulent relationship with Lee, Claire and Alec have been involved in a sexual relationship at some point and it looks as though she also had an affair with Pippa's father Ricky Gillespie whilst living in Sandbrook.
She has no real alibi for the time of the girls deaths as she now claims to have been drugged by Lee and unconcious in bed throughout.
Despite her protestations to Alec that she was frightened of Lee Ashworth, when he arrived in Broadchurch, Claire very quickly allowed him back in to her life.
After receiving a telephone call where Lee tells her that he loves her Claire appears shaken up and immediately phones Alec to tell him what's happened.
Alec decides that they need to trap Lee in to confessing to the murders and that they can use Claire to get him to do this. Claire is reluctant to meet with Lee, claiming to be too frightened to see him, but as Ellie chats to her she opens up about their passionate relationship.
She had met Lee at a client's barbecue and it had been love or lust at first sight and the pair had ended up sleeping together after knowing each other for just three hours.
Claire tells Ellie that her love for Lee was addictive, like a drug.
She convinces Ellie that she needs protecting from Lee and Ellie becomes concerned for her safety making Alec promise she will be safe during the meeting with Lee.
On the day of the meeting, which takes place at Ellie's house, Alec wires the room for sound and picture.
Claire appears a nervous wreck on the way to the meeting but assures Ellie that Lee won't harm her saying "He's never been rough with me, not unless I've asked". This reference to her sex life with Lee leaves Ellie visibly shocked.
During the meeting Claire allows Lee to unbutton her blouse to check for a microphone, he rightly believes Alec will be recording their conversation. As he does so he reveals a pendant round her neck with her wedding rings.
During the distractions of Beth and Ellie fighting in the street Lee and Claire escape through a window together and get a taxi back to Claire's cottage.
Alec eventually tracks the pair down, he's under the impression that Lee may have kidnapped Claire and is frightened for her safety, but after he finds them at the cottage he realises that Claire went voluntarily with Lee. Lee kisses Claire passionately in front of Alec which appears like an attempt to make him jealous, we find out later that Lee knows that Claire and Alec have slept together.
Claire says that she only went with Lee because she was terrified of him and hadn't seen him for a year and a half. Alec is confused as to why Claire didn't phone him for help and doesn't understand why she took him to cottage, thus rendering her safe house useless.
When Ellie turns up at the cottage to see Claire the first thing she does is ask Claire how she can say she needs protecting from Lee and then run off with him. Claire is apologetic telling her "I know I should have been stronger, I'm sorry"
When Alec takes Ellie to Sandbrook for the first time he visits Claire first to let her know they'll be away and that he's asked another policeman to look after her whilst he's gone. His protective nature towards her is still there despite her getting closer to Lee by the minute. He reminds her to lock all of her doors and to stay away from Lee. However later that day after Lee has been round to drop a takeaway at her door as a gift, Claire allows him in to the cottage. The pair have passionate sex and far from being scared of Lee, Claire is instructing him to tie her up in bed.
After Alec questions Claire about the night of the murders again she confesses to him that Lee was round at the cottage while he was away and that they slept together. She blames Alec for leaving her while he was in Sandbrook "You left me alone Alec, and you, I've told you, he's like a drug to me. I can't stop myself. I can't." Both Alec and Ellie are horrified and leave with Claire still pleading with them not to leave her alone.
Ellie tells Alec to start putting their Sandbrook suspects under more pressure so in light of what Claire has told him about sleeping with Lee he calls her to tell her there is no point in her being in the cottage as she is clearly in no need of his protection any more. Claire violently smashes up the kitchen on hearing this. Later while talking to Ellie Claire again insists she has done nothing wrong by seeing Lee, she claims Alec has only thrown her out because he's jealous she slept with Lee. "When I see him I just lose myself, it's the sex Ellie, something happens when we're together..."
Ellie is unimpressed with this and tells her to have a bit of self control.
The following day Claire and Lee meet yet again. This time she's gone to tell him Alec is evicting her from the cottage. They row after Claire tells him they need a plan and he says they had one but she's gone back on it. He attacks her holding her around the throat, she goads him to strangle her but instead they end up having sex again. Afterwards Claire tells him "I'm not myself when I'm with you."
Later Claire and Lee go to view a house together and it seems their relationship is very much back on track, but he then tells her "We can't do this" whatever this is Claire doesn't seem to think not continuing with it is an option as she replies "Then what do we do?"
Claire is constantly telling Alec and Ellie different versions of the events on the night of the murders. Alec points out to her that she's given three different stories to them about what happened.
The first account that we know of is the version that Claire told Alec to begin with. She provided Lee with an alibi for the night of the murder by saying they were at home together all night. When Alec suspected she was lying, she admitted that she had not been home with Lee all night at all and that she had in fact stayed over with a friend and so didn't know where Lee had been on the night of the killings. She left him without an alibi and with no one able to vouch for his movements. This is when Alec persuaded her to become a key witness in the trial against Lee.
Her second version of events was told to Ellie after a night out together. This time Claire says
"Lee drugged me. He used to have that stuff, rohypnol, he got a little bottle off someone and that night he drugged me and I woke up halfway through the night." Ellie tells her this isn't what she told the police and she says "He drugged me. I woke up at 5am and he was cleaning. He was cleaning the whole house."
When Alec and Ellie first meet up with Alec's ex wife Tess in a cafe in Sandbrook, Ellie tells her about Claire changing her story and she says "So Claire Ripley's done it to you too?" implying that this is not the first time that Claire has changed her story.
Alec decides that he needs to hear Claire's new version of events for himself and so he and Ellie visit her at her cottage. Claire is not pleased that Ellie has told Alec what she said and very reluctantly tells him
"Right that night I went to see a friend Marie like I told you before. Except I didn't stay over. I came home and I had a drink with Lee and I think he spiked my drink with Rohypnol. I was out for a long time and when I woke it was morning and he was cleaning." She says he was cleaning the bathroom, washing linen, hoovering, washing the floors, and that he said he fancied a spring clean.
She didn't tell the police because she didn't want to think it was possible he had killed the girls and she didn't tell Alec that Lee had drugged her because she didn't want him to know what he used to do to her.
Whilst staying the night at Claire's cottage Ellie stumbles upon a pressed bluebell in a plain card. It's inside an envelope addressed to a Post Office Box address in Southampton and hidden in a wardrobe in the guest room. Later Alec also finds the envelope with the bluebell and confronts Claire about it. At first she denies all knowledge of it and claims not to know what it is. She then tells him "It's a bluebell. It was sent to me like that, to an old post office box I used to use when I did mail order hairdressing products"
Alec wants to know what it means and why she's kept it but she won't be drawn on it any further.
He later accuses Lee of sending the flower but he points out that he's been out of the country telling him "What? How am I going to do that from France? Do bluebells even grown in France?"
On a later trip to Sandbrook to visit the river where Alec found the body of Pippa Gillespie, he tells Ellie that the woodland next to the river was covered in bluebells at the time of the murder.
Ellie points out the connection to the pressed bluebell sent to Claire, but Alec dismisses it as attention seeking from her and thinks she sent it to herself. Ellie can't understand why she would do that.
In the first series of Broadchurch we discovered that Hardy had moved to the seaside town after working on a case of two missing young girls in his previous location Sandbrook. The investigation, and Hardy, had attracted negative publicity from the press after the case had collapsed due to police negligence.
In Sandbrook Hardy's DS was his then wife, Tess. A vital piece of evidence, a pendant worn by one of the young victims, was stolen from her car whilst she was meeting a man she was having an affair with and, rather than let her take the flack for the case crumbling, Hardy gallantly decided to take the blame for her.
We've since discovered that the pendant belonged to the youngest victim 12 year old Pippa Gillespie and that it was found by the police in a vehicle that belonged to Lee Ashworth. Pippa was also wearing the pendant on the day she died.
Whilst looking through Claire's phone Ellie discovers that Claire has only been searching the internet for two things - 'Lee Ashworth Guilty' and 'Lee Ashworth Pendant'.
It seems the pendant has been quite literally under Alec and Ellie's nose as we discover via a flashback that the person who broke in to Tess' car that night to steal the pendant was none other than Claire Ripley.
During a chat in Claire's garden Ellie is casually flicking through the hairdresser's portfolio when she sees a photo of Claire. She's smiling prettily at the camera and around her neck is Pippa's pendant. Ellie can't hide her horror and Claire picks up on the vibe and glances down to see what she's looking at and sees that she's spotted the pendant round her neck.
Later Ellie calls Alec to tell him what she's seen, but Tess answers his phone so Ellie explains about the pendant to her. Tess asks her if she can get hold of the photo, but as they're talking Claire is at home burning the photo...
An affair with Alec Hardy
There has been a frisson of sexual tension between Alec and Claire since we first met her, his gentle touch of her arm at the court when she first appears to tell him she's frightened Lee is back contrasts starkly with the way she nastily walks her fingers up his arm when accusing him of snooping round her cottage. His protectiveness towards her always hinted at being more than a professional interest so we weren't shocked when Lee Ashworth told Ellie that Alec and Claire had slept together. When Ellie tells Alec what Lee has told her he ignores her and walks away. Later when sharing a hotel room Ellie mentions it again and he tells her to go to sleep. As Alec turns away from Ellie we see a flashback of Claire looking into his eyes as they lie in bed proving that they have slept together and that Alec probably does still have feelings for her. The image he sees of Claire is bathed in golden light and lying on crisp white sheets. Unfortunately for him at that moment Claire is lying sweaty and naked in bed with Lee and far from being scared of him she's instructing him to tie her up for their next sex session - a far cry fom the angelic image in Alec's memory.
Claire is also the first person that Alec imagines as he starts to regain consciousness after his heart op and Claire claims he is only throwing her out of the cottage because he's jealous that she's begun sleeping with Lee again.
An Affair With Ricky Gillespie
Flashbacks of Sandbrook have suggested that Claire was enjoying an affair with Ricky Gillespie, her next door neighbour and father to young victim Pippa.
Ellie discovers that Claire only has two numbers in her phone, one she immediately recognises as Alec's the second is not known to them, but when they call it we see it ringing in Ricky's office. This means that Claire has been in touch with Ricky since moving to Broadchurch.
When Alec questions her about the number she lies and says it was an incoming call. He points out to her that it wasn't, it was her calling the number and she says it was a wrong number and she was checking who it was, but Alec tells her that the area code for the number is in the same area she lived in with Lee. Claire stops him taking it further by complaining of feeling as though she's being questioned.
What Have You Done?
When Alec is asking Claire about the mysterious pressed bluebell sent to her via her Post Office box address, we are shown a flash back of Claire slapping a man round the face and saying "What have you done" Before she calmly stares Hardy in the eye and says "I have told you everything. Get out."
Who was the man she was talking to and what has he done? Claire clearly knows far more than she's admitting to.
The Jealous Wife
Although Claire clearly uses her sexuality as a way of manipulating the men in her life including her husband Lee and police officer Alec, she seems more than a little jealous of other women going near her men.
She's even quite off with Ellie over her closeness to Alec making bitchy comments about 'dirty weekends away' when the pair are off to investigate Sandbrook and scoffing at the idea that there are no secrets between Alec and Ellie.
She's happy to admit to Ellie that Lee is a flirt and that other women are attracted to him, but won't admit that there was anything going on between him and Cate Gillespie despite the fact flashbacks hint that they were having an affair of some sort and show that Claire was bitterly watching them from the house as they flirted in the back garden. She was even joined by murder victim Lisa Newbury who watched alongside Claire and told her she hated her aunt.
She tells Ellie "He was never interested in her. He was never looking to go older..younger maybe, but not Cate's age."