You Don’t Know Me: Is the BBC crime drama based on a true story?

·2 min read
Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

It's a tale as old as time – a young, black man stands in the dock accused of murder.

But in BBC drama You Don't Know Me, the tables are turned when, in his closing statement, the unnamed man – billed as 'Hero' in the credits – fires his defence lawyer and decides to tell his own story in his own words.

The odds are stacked against him: an anonymous tip-off pointing the finger at him, the gun found in his flat, the victim's blood under his fingernails and his hair found in the victim's car… It seems like an open-and-shut case.

But since when has a drama ever been that simple? Over the course of four gripping episodes, Hero (Samuel Adewunmi) makes it his mission to tell a different story, one where he's innocent of the charges against him.

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

But where exactly does the story come from? Is it based on a true-life case? Or just a work of fiction? Here's what you need to know about the new Sunday-night drama.

Is You Don’t Know Me a true story?

Not in the strictest terms, no. Hero's story in You Don't Know Me is fictional – but it comes with elements of real-life stories.

You Don't Know Me is based on the debut novel of the same name by Imran Mahmood, a criminal law barrister with more than 25 years in the industry.

His first book was heavily influenced by the experiences he had defending men similar to Hero throughout the judicial system in the UK.

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

Speaking to The Guardian at the time of the book's release in 2017, Mahmood explained: "It's an alloy, an amalgam of the people I speak to.

"There is this urgent quality to their dialogue and I've always had an ear for it, an interest in it."

In the novel, Hero's story is told through court transcripts, adding to the air of realism of the story as it plays out.

Along a similar vein, Mahmood released his second novel, I Know What I Saw in 2021. It centres on a high-flying businessman whose account of witnessing a murder is put under scrutiny by the police.

Click here to buy the book

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

When does You Don’t Know Me air?

You Don’t Know Me launches on Sunday, December 5 at 9pm on BBC One and will continue on Monday, December 6 at the same time.

Episode three airs the following Sunday (December 12), with the conclusion airing on Monday, December 13.

All episodes will be available on BBC iPlayer after the first episode broadcasts.

For those wanting to watch outside of the UK, Netflix has the distribution rights, though a date is yet to be confirmed.

You Don’t Know Me starts Sunday 5 December at 9pm on BBC One.

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