Several weeks ago ITV announced it had nailed the final nail in the coffin of police-drama The Bill – it had axed it. After a failed revamp last year which saw a grittier look approached and the ditching of the iconic theme tune audiences dropped by more than a 1 million. ATV takes a look back at one of The Bill’s longest serving and most memorable characters – June Ackland played by actress Trudie Goodwin.
Viewers were first introduced to WPC June Ackland, played by Trudie Goodwin, in what became the pilot episode for The Bill in 1983, Woodentop. It was in this opening episode that the young WPC was given the task of “puppy-walking” new PC, Jim Carver. The success of Woodentop, original meant to be a one-off, lead to a series being commissioned and The Bill launched in 1984 in the form of a drama serial. It wasn’t until 1988 that ITV decided to turn the drama serial into a drama series and the format of the drama changed radically. The Bill moved from its 9pm slot and instead of hour long episodes adapted half-hour episodes instead. The new look Bill was a huge success and it’s the half-hour format of The Bill that is most remembered by fans producing memorable characters throughout the late 1980s and well into the 1990s.
June Ackland was always seen as an approachable figure by her friends and colleagues – someone they could turn too when in trouble. When she became an Acting Sergeant – later full Sergeant – in 1996 she was still seen as friendly and approachable by her colleagues. This approachable manner saw her dubbed as “Aunty June” by Inspector Gina Gold upon her arrival at Sun Hill in 2002 – while Inspector Gold didn’t approve of Ackland’s friendly manner it was clear that everyone else did. As June was so easy to work with she enjoyed good working relationships with her fellow Sergeants such as Bob Cryer, Craig Gilmore and Matthew Boyden – although she didn’t always approve of Boyden’s actions or attitudes. Her working relationship also extended to those in CID, such as Jack Meadows, who she occasionally liaised with on various investigations.
June’s liaisons with one CID officer though went a little further than the call of duty. In 1990 new DCI Gordon Wray arrived at Sun Hill – he had previously assisted Sun Hill earlier in 1990 in the form of DI on a case. Frank Burnside and Wray had history and he wasn’t pleased to see someone he considered to be an enemy in charge of CID – and more importantly his boss! However, Burnside quickly got rid of Wray when it was revealed he had been having an affair with June Ackland. The affair quickly became the source of station gossip and Wray was hastily transferred out of Sun Hill. It wouldn’t be the last time that the “saintly” June Ackland would end up in a relationship with one of her colleagues.
In 1995 the private life of June once again became the source of station gossip and an investigation by CID when her house was burnt down. Days before someone had tried to shoot her by a bystander was hit instead – as June was put in a safe house she had to draw up a list of people who may bear a grudge. But one by one CID managed to eliminate the 23 suspects that June had come up with. June decided the only way to work out just who was trying to kill her was to set a trap – with her as bait. So aided by her friend and colleague DS Jo Morgan – who had returned to Sun Hill from the Regional Crime Squad – June returned to policing the streets. The Sun Hill boys uncovered the complicated plot to kill June; it was by a mother of someone June had helped send to prison. She wanted revenge on June and had hired an ex squaddie to shoot her.
However, in a twist it was revealed the mother, Mrs Cooper, had set up another attempt at killing June – in front of the station. As June was escorted out of Sun Hill by armed guards a motorcycle pulled up and fired at the car. June was not injured in the incident by DS Jo Morgan, who had rushed out to warn them, was killed. The episodes proved to be hugely popular with audiences as the storyline unfolded over a number of episodes – a departure from the format of The Bill established so far which tended to shy away from ‘story arcs’.
The drama was also driven not by the criminal aspect of the investigation but the impact it had on June and the subsequent death of Jo Morgan was also explored within the programme and how the characters dealt with it. Crucially it marked the beginning of the drama’s movement away from the rules laid down by series creator Geoff McQueen and slowly over the next years longer running storylines were introduced and more soapy style storylines – such as the love triangle between Dave Quinnan, George Garfield and Jenny Delaney, Dave Quinnan’s stabbing and later his on/off relationship with Polly Paige.
In 1996 June faced more upheaval as although she was made Acting Sergeant – later full Sergeant – she faced yet another investigation. When her long-term informer Cherry Towner repaid June money she owed it was discovered the money was in fact from a bank robbery committed years earlier by Cherry’s husband. This lead to June being charged by CID with conspiracy to handle stolen money and suspended from duty. While it was all later resolved June learnt that Superintendent Brownlow wouldn’t support his staff when they needed him –something she didn’t quickly forget. However, June did get much needed support from friend and colleague Bob Cryer.
In 2002 Sun Hill went through its biggest upheaval and ordeal in its history as race riots plagued the streets and the officers struggled to regain control. PC Jim Carver and Sergeant Ackland were both nearly seriously injured when pursuing a suspect and narrowly missed running into some wire which had been laid as a trap across a stairwell. As a consequence of the race riots Chief Inspector Derek Conway’s car was petrol bombed and he died – his death shock the station but it was first of several in 2002. Several weeks later a riot broke out outside the station and PC Des Taviner took the opportunity to burn some forged notes he had handed over. As burnt down the office they were contained in little realising there were gas canisters inside – a fireball ripped through the station. Six officers died in the fireball; Inspector Monroe, WPC Di Worrell, PC Ben Hayward, PC Sam Harker, DC Kate Spears and DC Paul Riley.
PC Polly Paige, June Ackland and Jim Carver had all been in the building at the time of the explosion but had managed to escape. The deaths of her friends and colleagues shook June very much and made her, for a short time, re-evaluate her life and future at Sun Hill. June was determined though that the roiters – who were believed to have caused the fireball – shouldn’t be allowed to get away with the murder they committed and June remained. The arrival of Inspector Gold later in 2002 proved slightly difficult for June as Gina seemed hostile towards her, dubbing her “Aunty June”. It certainly wasn’t the same kind of relationship she had with Inspector Monroe but then Gold was equally as hostile towards Sergeant Boyden although she took as shine to Gilmore.
Also in 2002 Sergeant Ackland was made head of the new Community Safety Unit with DC Brandon Kane, WPC Cathy Bradford and PC Jim Carver on her team – in 2003 PC Polly Paige joined the Unit upon her return to duty. June didn’t trust Cathy very much doubting her ability to be within the CSU when she was quite racist and homophobic but Cathy saw it was a quick way to promotion and was keen to join. Any hopes Cathy had of promotion though quickly went out the window when she became obsessed with colleague Brandon Kane and later she framed “friend” Polly Paige for a murder.
While June tried to support Polly through her ordeal with the trial and later when Polly was sent to prison for murder her mind was occupied elsewhere because of her one/off relationship with Jim. Before the explosion had destroyed part of Sun Hill in 2002 the duo had shared a kiss but there’s was a rocky road. It didn’t help matters than Jim married alcoholic Marie after they met during an investigation – he was a family liason officer assigned to help Maria following the murder of her daughter. Marie was a violent alcoholic attacking Jim on several occasions and before long they divorced and Jim finally married June – although Marie turned up at their wedding to try and ruin it. Marie was later found dead from her alcoholism.
In the late 1990’s Jim had suffered from alcoholism himself but following a battle he had managed to overcome his problem. However, a new addiction would destroy his marriage with June – gambling. June was planning on retiring from Sun Hill but when Jim’s gambling debuts were revealed she realised she had to return to duty. In 2005 she returned to Uniform as DS De Costa had taken over CSU following June’s initial decision to retire. Later in 2005 knowing that there marriage was over Jim left Sun Hill; transferring to Manchester. From 2003 onwards her life was turned upside down by the arrival on PC Gabriel Kent who after chasing and bedding her claimed to be her son – the product of a rape years before.
However, all was not as it seemed and Gabriel Kent was in fact pretending to be his brother; June’s real son. Bitter and vengeful that June had given his brother up for adoption, who he felt his parents always loved more, he tracked down June to have his revenge. When June found out just who he really was she reluctantly agreed to keep secret not wishing to re-open wounds from the past. Gabriel proved to be completely and utterly unhinged clocking up a long list of evil deeds before his eventual death.
In 2007 after more than twenty years on the beat of Sun Hill, in one form or another, Sergeant June Ackland once again decided to retire. In her last few months at the station she had met Rod Jessop, a head teacher, and the two entered a relationship. Jim Carver briefly returned and tried to persuade her to give their marriage another go but June opted for Rod instead she retired with him. With the exit of actress Trudie Goodwin in 2007 there were no more original actors – from the pilot – left in The Bill.
Update: In 2010 Trudie joined the cast of Emmerdale as a semi-regular.