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The shocking true story behind BBC drama The Secrets She Keeps

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Francesca Shillcock
Francesca ShillcockSenior TV & Film Writer
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The Secrets She Keeps is not only a gripping drama series, but it's a retelling of a harrowing true story. The show, which stars Downton Abbey's Laura Carmichael and Jessica De Gouw, focuses on Agatha and Meghan, two seemingly expectant mothers-to-be who end up entwined in each other's lives for a shocking reason.

MORE: All you need to know about filming locations for The Secrets She Keeps

secrets© Photo: BBC

But it seems that while the six-part series has been dramatised, the inspiration comes from a real case that occurred in the early nineties. Here's all the details on the story behind The Secrets She Keeps

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Is The Secrets She Keeps based on a true story?

Pretty much, yes! The BBC drama is based on the psychological thriller novel of the same name by Michael Robotham. His novel was based on the missing case story of Abbie Humphries. Therefore, while the show was adapted from a novel, its original storyline comes from a true life case.

secrets she keeps 2 © Photo: BBC

Michael Robotham is an Australian writer who was working as a journalist in London in 1994 when baby Abbie Humphries was stolen from Queen's Medical entre hospital in Nottinghamshire. Her parents, Karen and Roger Humphries, didn't know whether their daughter was alive or dead for 17 days. Eventually she was found in the suburban town of Wollaton.

How true to the story is The Secrets She Keeps?

Given that the BBC drama was adapted from the novel, there are, naturally, some differences from the original case. Firstly, the kidnapping happened in the UK, but novelist Michael decided to base the novel in Australia, where he was from. The programme was also subsequently set in Sydney. The BBC show also dramatizes the relationship between the mother and the kidnapper, whereas it's not known whether Abbie's kidnapper was known to her in real life.

secrets she keeps filming© Photo: BBC

As well as this, the baby that's taken in the series is a boy named Ben. What is true, however, is that a woman dressed in a nurse's uniform went onto the maternity ward at the hospital to take baby Abbie back in 1994, which is what audiences see Agatha Fyfle (Laura Carmichael) do in the show.

Where is Abbie Humphries now?

Seventeen days after Abbie was taken from her parents, authorities were given a tip-off from a neighbour that 22-year-old dental nurse Julie Kelley had taken the baby. Much like the character Agatha, Julie faked her own pregnancy and stole Abbie in a bid to salvage a troubled relationship. Julie was reprimanded and given a three-year probation sentence, and was treated for a personality disorder, while Abbie was returned to her family.

laura carmichael 2© Photo: BBC

When Abbie was ten years old, the family decided to make a fresh start and moved to New Zealand. Abbie works as a beauty consultant in Auckland and married her long-term boyfriend three years ago. Speaking to the Mail on Sunday, the 25-year-old explained how watching the series was fascinating to her, rather than traumatic. However, she did admit that it brought up "a lot of emotions" for her family – who never hid what happened to her as she grew up. She explained: "My parents told me all about it as I grew up, but not all in one go. It came out in bits and pieces. It was after we moved to New Zealand when I realised how big it all was."

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