Ian Buckells is a former Detective Superintendent and criminal operative in Central Police. In the conclusion of Series 6 he is unveiled as being "The Fourth Man", the last senior ranking member of a cadre of corrupt police officers affiliated with the Organised Crime Group. He is currently imprisoned in the Vulnerable Persons Unit of an unnamed maximum security prison.
Buckells was born on 7th July 1975, likely in the West Midlands and probably The City where the show takes place, based on his accent. His next of kin is listed as a Mrs Lily Buckells. In Series 6 he is implied to be a member of a Masonic organisation, and regularly enjoys playing golf.
Buckells joined Central Police in 1996, having undergone training at Banbury Police Training Centre. In 2003 he was a Detective Constable involved in the investigation into the murder of Lawrence Christopher, working alongside then Inspector Philip Osborne and DCI Marcus Thurwell. By Series 1 he had ascended to the rank of Detective Inspector and was assigned to Kingsgate Station.
In the Trap
As a Detective Inspector, Buckells is appointed SIO in the case of Jackie Laverty's disappearance by Chief Superintendent Derek Hilton. This is done after it is revealed that DCI Anthony Gates was in a relationship with her previously, and is decided by AC-12 that he is compromised professionally and should not be associated with the case. When he meets with Gates in Hilton's office, he is informed that Jackie could have faked her disappearance and left the country (as she was facing a manslaughter charge for the hit and run of Gurjit Patel), having the connections and money to do so. He is then warned by Gates to not "make a tit" of himself.
Buckells later accompanies AC-12 as they investigate a potential location of the missing whiskey glass that could implicate Gates in the disappearance of Jackie Laverty. However, when nothing is found and Gates proceeds to mock DS Steve Arnott, Buckells has to hold Arnott back to prevent him from attacking Gates. He is then verbally insulted by Gates again. Back at the TO-20 offices, Buckells attempts to talk to DC Kate Fleming regarding the trace on Laverty's phone. Still infuriated, Gates confronts him and tells him if he wants to speak to any members of the team, to put a request in writing in to him.
Buckells is approached in his office by DC Kate Fleming, who appears to want to give him a statement regarding her involvement in tracing Laverty's phone. However, rattled by his previous interaction with Gates and thinking Fleming is working with him, he coldly rebuffs her, telling her to make a request in writing via Chief Superintendent Derek Hilton.
After Tommy Hunter is captured and arrested in an operation that takes the life of DCI Tony Gates, Buckells permits DS Matthew Cottan to speak with Hunter in private, regarding what he believes are Cottan's inquiries related to his posting with Counter Terrorism. He remarks that Cottan wont be calling him "Sir" for long, having heard he is due to take the Inspector's Exam after leaving TO-20.
After DCI Roz Huntley is removed as SIO from Operation Trapdoor on the recommendation of AC-12, Buckells (who has now risen to the rank of DCI also) is nominated to replace her. At Polk Avenue Station he greets the team and leads the morning briefing, but notices that DS Kate Fleming (whom he had previously interacted with at Kingsgate Station) is forming part of the group.
Knowing that Buckells is aware of Fleming's position as an AC-12 undercover officer, he is confronted after work by DS Steve Arnott and Superintendent Ted Hastings. They instruct him not to breach Fleming's cover to other members of the team at Polk Avenue Station (such as DS Neil Twyler and DC Jodie Taylor), telling him if her cover is to be blown it would be wholly assumed he would be to blame.
After the death of FC Tim Ifield, Polk Avenue Station is visited by Assistant Chief Constable Derek Hilton, who hosts a meeting with Buckells for an update on Operation Trapdoor. He and Hilton express relief at the "small mercy" they are able to refer to the victims Baswinder Kaur and Leonie Collersdale as "prostitutes", vernacular DCI Roz Huntley had expressly prohibited whilst she was leading the case. During a later meeting regarding forensic evidence on the body of Leonie Collersdale, he and the team are informed by FC Rupal Pandit that secondary tests on the body parts came back positive for DNA relating to Tim Ifield. However, he (and the rest of the team) is unaware this development is actually due to DCI Roz Huntley tampering with evidence.
'Buckells confronts DCI Roz Huntley when she begins to lead a joint team meeting between Major Violent Crime and Operation Trapdoor, accusing her of interfering with his investigation. He is rebuffed however when she informs him she has permission to conduct the joint meeting from ACC Derek Hilton. He is later approached by DS Kate Fleming (undercover as East Midlands Constabulary liaison DS Kate Flynn), who was excluded from the meeting, and asked about what happened. He refuses to tell her, claiming he is "no grass for AC-12".
He later meets with the various staff from Polk Avenue Station at a local pub, but behaves awkwardly when asked to get a round in. When DS Steve Arnott arrives at the pub and briefly confronts DCI Roz Huntley about Michael Farmer, Buckells glares at both him and DS Kate Fleming, knowing she is also working for AC-12. When he and the Operation Trapdoor team are speculating over who killed Tim Ifield, Buckells states they need to go back to "basic coppering" and look into who was in the area that night who could have had access to the property, and if they find them "that's the whole case". However, his approach leads Huntley's team to falsely arrest and implicate Hana Reznikova in the death of Ifield, as she had previously been at the flat to offer her services as both a cleaner and a sex worker.
Buckells is summoned to the AC-12 Building, where he is accused of breaching DS Kate Fleming's cover and thus allowing DCI Roz Huntley to entrap her into discrediting the investigation against her. He denies such accusations, instead remarking Fleming's cover was blown due to undercover officers having a "shelf life" and getting recognised too often. He is angrily dismissed from Hastings' office, but not before remarking: "You lot treat everyone like mugs. Who's the mug now?" Due to AC-12 being recused from investigating Operation Trapdoor, DCI Roz Huntley appears to regain control as SIO, replacing Buckells on a visit to a crime scene where the remainder of Leonie Collersdale's body has been found.
Now a Detective Superintendent, Buckells is shown to be the station chief at Hillside Lane Station. He is called in by DCI Joanne Davidson after hours, as her team leading Operation Lighthouse have received actionable intelligence regarding a suspect in the murder of Gail Vella. He signs off on authorising Directed Surveillance of the suspects residence, but calls off an immediate arrest team deployment upon discovering the covert human intelligence source is a "rent boy".
The next morning, Davidson reveals that Buckells contacted Executive Leadership within Central Police for a second opinion on whether to deploy an arrest team and received the go ahead. The intelligence now states the suspects name is Ross Turner, which is suspected to be an alias. This enables Davidson, DI Kate Fleming, DS Chris Lomax and PS Farida Jatri, along with a team of Authorised Firearms Officers to deploy and make the arrest.
After the arrest of Terry Boyle, DI Kate Fleming reveals that Buckells made a serious mistake in filling out the paperwork in relation to the surveillance team watching Beechwood House. He only requested authority for Directed Surveillance, and when Davidson requested closer examination of the property (which would require the use of high power lenses), they had to withdraw from the field for 3 hours to obtain authority for Intrusive Surveillance. This meant that Beechwood House was unmonitored for 3 hours before Davidsons team arrived and arrested Terry Boyle, casting doubt on whether he was the suspect spotted in the flat the previous night, or if another suspect was able to exit the building whilst it was unwatched. Unbeknownst to Fleming, Davidson did specifically ask Buckells for Directed Surveillance Authority when she verbally requested the surveillance.
Due to the reasonable doubt cast on the involvement of Boyle, and the chance he could have been mistaken for another suspect Carl Banks (of similar appearance and build), Davidson is left with no choice but to release him on monitored bail without charge. Buckells is being pressured by the Chief Constable to find a suspect as the station chief and Davidson's decision infuriates Buckells. However, as Davidson is Senior Investigating Officer in the case, her decision is final and Boyle is released from Hillside Lane Station, accompanied by his solicitor Margaret Moore.
He is approached in his office by PS Farida Jatri, who puts in a transfer notice to be reassigned from Hillside Lane Station due to personal reasons. Buckells, unaware of her relationship with Jatri, asks DCI Joanne Davidson why the request has been made. Davidson tells him it is probably just easier to approve it and let her "be another stations problem", as he does not want to risk being taken to an Employment Tribunal is he refuses the transfer and she suffers distress.
Buckells attempts to intervene when DI Steve Arnott and a team from Anti Corruption Unit 12 arrive at Hillside Lane Station to investigate Operation Lighthouse, with Arnott warning him that wilful obstruction is a criminal offense. However, DCI Joanne Davidson interjects and produces an order from DCC Andrea Wise she has obtained, creating a moratorium on release of records until issues of information leakage can be resolved within the Murder Investigation Team, thus preventing the AC-12 officers from going further.
After PC Ryan Pilkington appears to save the life of Terry Boyle during an apparent attempt on the latter's life, Buckells announces to the Murder Investigation Team he is putting Pilkington forward for a commendation, and uses the opportunity as a good photo op. This is despite the attempt (in reality caused by Pilkington) resulting in the death of PC Lisa Patel. DCI Joanne Davidson reveals to DI Kate Fleming in passing that it was actually Buckells who brought Pilkington onto the team, with Davidson's knowledge being he is a "family friend, or something".
He is later called by Superintendent Ted Hastings of AC-12 regarding the possibility that a member of Operation Lighthouse removed key files on Gail Vella before the professional standards team was able to make copies. He argues with Hastings over the phone and denies such actions, threatening to go to DCC Andrea Wise as a result. DI Kate Fleming has DS Chris Lomax look into the background of Deborah Devereux, a witness who came forward and identified Terry Boyle (and not Carl Banks) as the person who argued with CHIS Alastair Oldroyd on the night they received intelligence. They discover that Devereux was previously arrested and held at Kingsgate Station on suspicion of assault and ABH in 2012, however the charges were later dropped due to intervention from a CID officer. That officer was Buckells, who at the time was a Detective Inspector.
Knowing this would have put Devereux in Buckells' debt, Fleming and DCI Joanne Davidson piece together other incidents within the case that Buckells has been involved in, such as the mistake with the surveillance of Beechwood House and putting pressure on DS Marks to reveal Oldroyd's identity. Satisfied they have enough evidence, the two arrest him on suspicion of perverting the course of justice and transport him to the AC-12 Building. Upon arrival, he is taken into an interview room by DI Steve Arnott and DC Eldwick, and Davidson reveals they discovered missing Operation Lighthouse files in the boot of his car. However, as Davidson is later seen communicating via laptop chat with the Organised Crime Group, it is strongly implied that she has framed Buckells.
After an AC-12 interview where he provides a weak defence for his inaction over following links between Operation Lighthouse and the OCG as well as his relationship with Deborah Devereux, the missing files found in his car and his commendation for OCG member Ryan Pilkington, Buckells is charged with perverting the course of justice and sent to HMP Blackthorn. DCI Davidson is appointed Acting Detective Superintendent to replace him while Operation Lighthouse continues. AC-12 investigates an audio recording made by Gail Vella interviewing an unknown man with links to Operation Trapdoor which leads them to incarcerated lawyer Jimmy Lakewell, the man Vella was interviewing. After AC-12's mission to take Lakewell out of prison and put him under witness protection in return for information on Vella leads to an OCG ambush, Lakewell refuses to give AC-12 what they want and chooses to return to prison, believing he will be safe from the OCG as he didn't talk. However, OCG member Lee Banks stages a scene in Buckells' cell where Buckells distracts the lawyer before Banks garottes him. Banks warns a visibly shaken Buckells about what will happen to him if he talks.
It is revealed that Jimmy Lakewell told DI Steve Arnott that one of the main focuses Gail Vella was investigating as part of her enquiry into Central Police and organised crime was the death in custody of Lawrence Christopher. Christopher was beaten in a racist attack by Darren Hunter and several associates, and died in police custody after officers arrested him and refused to render medical aid. Hunters father, senior crime figure Tommy Hunter subsequently used his connections in the police to sabotage the investigation. DCI Marcus Thurwell was the Senior Investigating Officer, but failed to arrest the suspects until three weeks later, rendering identity parades unsuccessful and the Crown Prosecution Service dropping charges. DC Chloe Bishop reveals that other detectives who assisted Thurwell in the botched investigation and cover up were Buckells, then a young Detective Constable, and Chief Constable Philip Osborne, who at the time was an Inspector.
When DCS Patricia Carmichael visits the AC-12 Building to inform Superintendent Ted Hastings that she is due to replace him in the restructuring of anticorruption in Central Police and the East Midlands Constabulary, she also tells him that Buckells legal team are alleging unlawful imprisonment. Deciding the case against Buckells is not "watertight", she announces her intentions to request the Crown Prosecution Service discontinue proceedings against him, primarily to save the force the embarrassment of a potential "cracked trial" in the future.
After communicating with the Cyber Crime Unit, DC Chloe Bishop reveals that although Marcus Thurwell was in possession of IP address rerouting software, preliminary analysis suggests that the end user was actually based in the UK, but attempting to disguise their communications as coming from Spain. They are then met by Amanda Yao, who shows that the Cyber Crime Unit intercepted an encrypted message sent through a Spanish IP address, which references contacting "assets" within HMP HMP Brentiss to silence Joanne Davidson. Superintendent Ted Hastings notes the misspelling of the word definitely (spelled "definately") and how it matches to the misspelling in communication undertaken between the Organised Crime Group cell that John Corbett was embedded in. He instructs Bishop to go through all files relating to Operation Lighthouse and the murder of Lawrence Christopher to see if similar spellings are present and form a link.
Later, Bishop acknowledges that Cyber Crime also noted the link between the misspelling and communication intercepted from Lisa McQueen prior to the robbery of the Eastfield Police Storage Facility in 2019. She then presents findings of handwritten reports with the same spelling mistake from police reports from 2003 and Operation Lighthouse, both produced and signed by Buckells. The revelation is met with shock from both DI Steve Arnott and DI Kate Fleming. Buckells is later transported to the AC-12 Building from HMP Blackthorn, and is escorted inside by a large group of Authorised Firearms Officers.
During the interview, it is shown that the Forensic Unit recovered laptop from within his cell in HMP Blackthorn, hidden in the false bottom of a shelf and likely smuggled in with the assistance of corrupt SecuritVite officers. Hard drive analysis shows that the IP address from the laptop links to messages sent to intercept and murder Joanne Davidson, as well as being the one that communicated with Davidson at her Croxford Street Residence apartment instructing her to murder DI Kate Fleming. A report from a forensic linguist also concludes the messages were written by him, and his DNA is found on the laptop. DI Steve Arnott goes on to reveal that another IP address routed via Spain was traced to a property in the Edge Park area of The City, located on 17 Maychurch Road. Deeds to the property show it is not owned by an individual, but by a shell company named Holte End Holdings registered in the Cayman Islands. The same holding company also own a timeshare in Gran Canaria, with total value of both properties being over £3 million. Buckells denies any links to the properties or shell company, answering "no comment" to all questions.
Further evidence is presented of another laptop found hidden in 17 Maychurch Road, revealing it was used to communicate with John Corbett and Lisa McQueen and order the robbery of the Eastfield Police Storage Facility. Buckells' DNA and skin cells are also found on it. Superintendent Ted Hastings again accuses Buckells of being The Fourth Man, but notes that unlike many other corrupt officers they have investigated over the years his motivation appears to be nothing other "mundane baseless motive of plain simple greed". Having begun his policing career on a corrupt team led by DI Marcus Thurwell, he became more affiliated with the Organised Crime Group as he rose through the ranks of Central Police, realising the benefits he could extract from being a man on the inside of significant rank. Hastings angrily notes how he was able to "fail upwards", and notes that his corruption has consistently been mistaken for incompetence. Buckells finally breaks his silence when Hastings calls him a "bumbling fool", arrogantly pointing out he is the one who has made a fool of AC-12 by remaining undetectable for so many years.
After consulting with his solicitor, Buckells notes that the lack of presence of DCS Patricia Carmichael in the interview suggests she does not want to be affiliated with detecting institutionalised corruption, and further notes that officially as per the conclusion of Operation Pear Tree that no institutionalised corruption has been found to exist within Central Police, with The Fourth Man technically considered no more than a wild theory within the eyes of the leadership. Realising because of this that the superiors would be happier if it were to all just go away, he demands immunity from prosecution and witness protection. He dismisses accusations of being the top man, stating that the only person who could claim such a title was Tommy Hunter, and ever since Hunters death he has simply "passed on the orders" to the fractured members of the Organised Crime Group. He notes that the first senior officers to do so were CSU Patrick Fairbank and DCI Marcus Thurwell, who were then succeeded by DI Matthew Cottan and ACC Derek Hilton, but now that they are all either dead or imprisoned he is the last man standing. He remorselessly denies active involvement in the planning of the murders of Jimmy Lakewell, Marcus Thurwell and Gail Vella, claiming those were mainly the work of the OCG's and he simply passed information on that could assist.
Fleming and Arnott question him further on the murder of Gail Vella, noting that the Organised Crime Group alone would not have seen the need to have her killed in such a high profile manner. Although she was looking into the death of Lawrence Christopher, the only OCG affiliated member involved still alive is Darren Hunter, now a "nobody" and not worth protecting after the death of his father. They propose that corrupt officers such as Buckells and CC Philip Osborne would have more to gain from her death, given that her investigation would have clearly exposed their long lasting links to the Organised Crime Group. Superintendent Ted Hastings then plainly asks whether he and/or Osborne colluded in a conspiracy to murder Gail Vella. This question stumps both Buckells and his solicitor, who seem unsure on how to answer. Fleming and Arnott note they have put him in a lose lose situation; if he refuses to cooperate and name Osborne he will become ineligible for Witness Protection, but if he confesses to conspiracy to murder he will forfeit the right to obtain immunity from prosecution. Hastings terminates the interview, leaving a perplexed Buckells to consult with his solicitor.
The epilogue of the series reveals that Buckells is currently incarcerated in the Vulnerable Persons Unit of an undisclosed maximum security prison operated by the UK Prison Service. An application for public interest immunity has been submitted by Central Police in legal proceedings against him, meaning that if successful, no evidence in relation to institutionalised corruption will be heard in court during his trial. This is likely due to intervention of Chief Constable Philip Osborne.