Broadchurch: The Sandbrook Suspects - Lee Ashworth



Lee's Background
In Sandbrook Handyman Lee lived with his wife Claire Ripley next door to murdered school girl Pippa Gillespie. He was arrested and charged with the murder of Pippa and charged with the abduction of her 19 year old cousin Lisa Newbury.
Pippa's body was found by Alec where it had been dumped in a river. Lisa has never been found and she is still on the police's missing persons file, though Alec believes she's been murdered by Lee too. 
After changing her story and admitting to giving him a false alibi Claire gave evidence against Lee in court. 
Lee no longer has a valid alibi for the time the girls went missing.
One of Lee's hairs was found on the pillow of Pippa Gillespie's bed. A pendant that she was wearing on the day of her death was found in his vehicle, though Lee argues he used to give the girl a lift to school as a favour to her mother, Cate. When that pendant was stolen from Tess Henchard's car the case against Lee collapsed.
After the trial finished Lee went to live in France. He has recently arrived in Broadchurch to look for a reconciliation with Claire. 
He insists that he is innocent and that Alec has got the wrong man. He has been conducting his own investigations in to the murders in a bid to find who he says is the real killer.




The Wrong Man
Lee is adamant that he is an innocent party in the Sandbrook murder. When he first meets with Alec again in Broadchurch he tells him that he's ruined his life and that he had to leave the country because of the accusation that he was a child killer. He's back to get his life back.
Lee then visits Alec at home and presents him with his own research in to the case. He tells Alec that he got people to speak to him by pretending to be him. "Yeah I know what it's like to be you now, suspicious all the time, it must be really eating away at you, especially when you're wrong"

Lee accuses Alec of not investigating the girls families enough and says that Lisa had told him that her uncle, Ricky Gillespie, Pippa's father, had made a pass at her when he was driving her home from baby sitting the child. This fact shocks Alec as he didn't know anything about it. 
Lee also points out a guy seen hanging around the estate where the Gillespie family lived three weeks before the murders, to which Alec says there was no proof he even existed, but Lee maintains that he was seen by four separate witnesses. Alec dismisses it all saying none of it is new.
Later when Ellie's looked through Lee's notes she says that it was all either useless or totally irrelevant. Alec agrees and says that Lee's just trying to put them off the scent. 


An Affair With Cate Gillespie
It seems there has been some sort of wife swapping style affair going on in Sandbrook with Claire Ripley secretly seeing Ricky Gillespie and Lee cheating on Claire with Cate Gillespie.
Although Lee denies any relationship with Cate when quizzed by Alec, a flashback scene reveals otherwise, showing Lee pressing Cate in to a doorway as she puts a finger to his lips to keep him quiet until Pippa has left the house. Interestingly the room behind them seems to be Pippa's. Could this be how his hair got on the pillow..

Meanwhile Claire is 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 despite flashbacks showing that Claire was bitterly watching them from the house as they flirted in the back garden. She was even joined by Lisa Newbury who watched alongside Claire and told her she hated her aunt.
Claire tells Ellie "He was never interested in her. He was never looking to go older..younger maybe, but not Cate's age."


An Affair With Lisa Newbury
Pretty 19 year old Lisa also appeared to be romantically interested in Lee.  A flashback sequence shows Lee working in the garden of his home and being watched by Lisa and Pippa through a bedroom window. He and Lisa smile flirtatiously at each other until Cate wanders over to see what the girls are looking at. 
Another flashback shows Lee playing hide and seek in a woodland with Pippa and Lisa, Ricky Gillespie then playfully pounces on Lee startling him.
Was Lee involved in a relationship with the teen? 
 

A Vendetta Against Alec
Lee appears to hate Alec almost as much as Alec hates him and that's understandable if he really is the innocent man that he makes out he is, however he's pulled some pretty dodgy tricks on Hardy since arriving in Broadchurch which don't do him any favours.
Firstly he broke in to Alec's house to look for info on the whereabouts of his wife Claire and ended up stealing several items including a private letter from the hospital regarding Alec's heart operation and then, despite knowing that Alec was seriously ill, he violently attacked him at Claire's cottage knocking him to the ground and standing on his chest. Later he made an official complaint to the police against Alec and told them it was Alec who had attacked him which ended with Alec having to apologise to him to stop it being taken further.
Lee's hatred of Alec is also on a more personal level. Lee told Ellie that Alec is obsessed with sending him down for Sandbrook because he has been sleeping with Lee's wife Claire. Talking to her outside of the court he tells her: 
"He's poisoned my own wife against me, even though I'm trying to help him solve it. I just want Claire back."



A Row With Ricky Gillespie
There's also no love lost between Lee  and Pippa's father Ricky Gillespie. Ricky is fuming when, thanks to an internet article by Olly Stevens, he discovers that Lee is in Broadchurch. He heads there immediately and viciously beats Lee up. 
Meanwhile Lee is telling Alec that he thinks Ricky is the killer. He's given the detective hints that the grieving dad might not be what he seems by telling him he made a move on his young niece Lisa and by disclosing that it was Ricky who provided Rohypnol to him. He also accused Ricky of framing him by planting a strand of his hair on Pippa's pillow.


Access All Areas
Lee was responsible for fitting a gate between the back gardens of the house he shared with Claire and the house where Pippa lived with her parents. Ellie notes "That's for kids to go in and out of each other's gardens, not for grown ups, Lee and Claire didn't have any kids, why have they got that?" 
Was this how the killer gained access while the Pippa's parents were away?



A Violent Man
Lee has proven himself to be quite a menacing figure since he arrived in Broadchurch. He's already attacked Alec, scared journalist Olly off and half throttled wife Claire. His sex sessions with Claire are also increasingly rough. But his meeting with Ricky Gillespie was unusual as Lee allowed him to attack him..



Why Lee Ashworth?
Alec clearly thought that he had his man with Lee, but why? 

Alec: Someone went in to the Gillespie house, abducted both girls, got rid of the bodies. 
Ellie: Why Lee Ashworth?
Alec: Ricky and Cate Gillespie said that Pippa always used to like going next door to see Lee.
Ellie: If Ashworth was in their house, there must have been forensics 
Alec: Yeah there were, Ashworth's DNA was all over the place. A strand of his hair was found on Pippa's pillow. 
Ellie: What was his argument?
Alec: That he'd been in the house plenty of times, which was true, but he still wouldn't say how the hair got on the pillow. At one stage he said it had been put there to frame him. 
Ellie: By who? This Ricky? Pippa's Dad. 
Alec: That's what Ashworth claimed. But this case Miller, whenever you think you're close, it slips away from you. 

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