This article contains major spoilers, discretion is advised
The Sun Hill fire was one of the most important storylines in The Bill. The second of three incidents involving major damage and loss of life occurred in 2002, and killed six regular cast members. The fire was part of a cast revamp that saw the departure of three other cast members, with new executive producer Paul Marquess looking to bring a fresh angle to the cast. It also saw several brand new cast members introduced between Episode 012 and Episode 038.
In Set in Stone, PC Dave Quinnan is asked to investigate a series of vandalism at a graveyard, with the prime suspects a group of addicts in a neighbouring community centre. Quinnan determines they aren't involved, and grows close to the woman running the group, Liz Terry. When ex-girlfriend and best friend Polly Page & Tony Stamp discover she is an ex-prostitute. Dave falls out with both, but quickly makes up with Tony. He then convinces Dave to make up with Polly, and they eventually make up. In Quinnan 2, Superintendent Tom Chandler asks Dave to go undercover to ensnare a human trafficker by the name of Kreshnik Berisha. Chandler asks Quinnan to pair with DS Debbie McAllister, posing as a married couple running a hotel. Dave is furious after Debbie's dodgy undercover alias when Mickey Webb was undercover with a gang of football hooligans nearly blew the operation. He asks Chandler to enlist the help of Polly instead, and after some persuasion from Dave and blurting out that he didn't want to work with McAllister, as she walked in on his conversation with Page. They grow closer undercover and he proposes, and says he will transfer to SO10 if she rejects it. Berisha is arrested after he holds Page & Quinnan hostage, along with undercover partners PCs Reg Hollis and Jim Carver. When one of the undercover officers' sister is about to be deported, he knows Berisha will have her killed. He shows up in the yard as Berisha is about to go to court, and shoots him dead. Page rejects Quinnan's proposal, and he says he doesn't want to see her again. In Episode 001 Sergeant June Ackland and PC Jim Carver convince Polly to go on stress leave.
In Episode 002. DS Vik Singh & DC Danny Glaze investigate a racially motivated arson attack on a corner shop. Later in the episode, Singh is confronted in a pub by racist Jeff Simpson and his friend Ian Burrows. Burrows spits in Singh's pint, but both leave when Danny shows up. Glaze goes into the bathroom, agreeing to stay with Singh and have a pint. Singh goes outside and starts beating up Simpson with a piece of wood, and Glaze intervenes to stop Singh killing Simpson. Glaze tries to convince Singh to tell DCI Jack Meadows the truth when they are put on the assault case. Singh refuses and Simpson threatens him and Glaze, starting with a package containing a cardboard coffin, with a large red stain on a teddy bear wearing a police uniform with a note saying YOU NEXT. When a bike rider lobs a petrol bomb at Singh, Glaze and Stamp, Glaze tells Singh he will go to Meadows if Singh doesn't.
The following day, Chandler lies to Chief Inspector Derek Conway that he needs to him go to a community meeting on the Asian occupied Jasmine Allen Estate about not taking action against an upcoming Neo-Nazi march. Chandler claims he has a council meeting, but is actually meeting girlfriend DC Kate Spears to have sex. Spears' best friend Mickey Webb goes with Conway, and both leave the meeting feeling it went well. As the pair go their separate ways, Webb watches on in horror as a bike speeds past, with the pillion rider throwing a petrol bomb into Conway's Panda Car. The car explodes, killing Conway instantly.
The following day, Chandler orders the relief to pull in all Neo Nazi and Asian suspects for questioning. Webb & PC Des Taviner discover from a white supremacist that their ringleader was assaulted by two black cops. Mickey and Kate discover Simpson's assault file, and know the only officers who dealt with Simpson were Glaze & Singh. They question both of them, but neither Glaze nor Singh crack. When they see Glaze calling Singh, they feel they have enough to take the case to Meadows. Furious, the DCI finds Singh interrogating Simpson, and after assaulting him again, they have to bail Simpson. Meadows is almost certain Simpson is the prime suspect for Conway's murder, and tells Singh he will see him finished. Before the DS can face charges or an inquiry, he resigns. Meadows blasts him as a coward and kicks him out of Sun Hill.
Following the death of Conway, long term friend Inspector Andrew Monroe started a collection for Conway's widow, Sandra. She is brought in to collect Derek's belongings, and June comforts her when she breaks down leaving the station. Sandra calls Chandler a spineless coward and says she won't give her husband a police funeral, stating "You took his life, you're not having his death too." Sandra asks June to come to the funeral, and she invites Jim. Chandler becomes talk of the canteen when he donates £50 to the collection. Taviner is furious his nemesis is getting all the attention, but has no money to contribute. When Des and Reg go after vandals taunting Sun Hill's relief about Conway's death, Des captures the ringleader. The youth has £200 in drug money on his person, so he lets him go, 'confiscating' the £50s. He then gives one to Monroe, and steals the limelight from Chandler. When he gives one to Reg to do his dry cleaning, it is revealed the 50s are counterfeit. Des is determined to get the money back, but when a near riot caused by an Asian suspect's arrest kicks off outside the station, Chandler gets Scotland Yard to cancel the Neo Nazi march.
Chandler knows the supremacists won't take it well and sends the relief out to maintain calm on the streets. The van comes under attack, and when youths are seen loitering around an Asian owned warehouse, Chandler sends in Ackland & Carver. Ackland is abducted by the gang, and Carver rushes in, assaulting the suspects. Chandler orders the relief to move in, and then stands them down. Kate tells Mickey she plans to bring Chandler down by exposing his affair. During a confrontation, she knees him in the groin, telling him he's finished. The relief have a party in CID, then head to the pub. Kate stays there with PCs Sam Harker, Ben Hayward & Di Worrell, and DC Paul Riley.
The power goes out, and Monroe leaves his office. Taviner notices the money left on the desk, but can't get in. A gang of rioters and start lobbing petrol bombs at the station. As TSG show up, Des catches one of them scaling the yard wall. He fails to restrain them, but manages to steal their bag. Finding a petrol bomb, Des realizes he can blame an arson attack on the rioters, with the front interview rooms already alight. He breaks the window to Monroe's office and throws the bomb in, but turns to see Sam standing on the CID balcony. He goes to double check that the office is gutted, and spots two gas canisters left by decorator Harry Fullerton. He spots the flames crawling towards them, and runs back. He looks back to Sam, and tells him to get clear. The canisters ignite, and a massive explosion tears through the side of the building.
At the beginning of Episode 009, Chandler announces that Monroe, Worrell, Hayward and Riley all died on arrival to hospital, while Harker and Spears are in critical condition. Des and Polly were under observation, but Page reveals to Tony that she took an overdose. She tells him not to tell anyone, but he furiously confronts Ackland after discovering she turned an emotional Page away. June shows up at the hospital and tells Polly to take long term leave. Des and Cass Rickman hold a vigil at Sam's bedside, but Cass is unaware that Des has an ulterior motive. As Danny & DC Duncan Lennox hunt for suspects, and Simpson in particular, Kate dies of her injuries. Webb goes off the rails and publicly blames Chandler at the press conference announcing the five deaths. Meadows tells Mickey he has to be discreet, but that he has no issue with destroying Chandler and his reputation, especially after Mickey tells him about Chandler having sex with Kate while Conway was killed. As it starts appearing that Sam could pull through, and Des decides he'll tell Reg he started the fire. Just as he starts to tell her, Cass watches on in horror as Sam dies during a cardiac arrest.
Des returns to work as MIT starts crawling around, and Detective Superintendent Susan Devlin is already offending the relief with her inside job theory. Chandler asks Des to carry the Met standard flag at the funeral. Des feels too guilty, but Chandler demands he does it. At the funeral, Mickey storms out, not wanting to hear Chandler 'spouting crap' about the victims, and Kate in particular. During the funeral, Harry Fullerton tells Reg that he told Des he cut the CCTV cables. Des denies it, despite it being true. Fullerton then confesses to Reg, and he is arrested.
Arrest and Trial
With Fullerton arrested, Des feels guilty. He wants to get him off, knowing he's a 'crank'. Des partners with Danny and they are both determined to nail Jeff Simpson. When they crack Simpson's alibi, Des knows the only way to nail him is to plant evidence. When Simpson is in custody, Des creates a confession and Danny reluctantly agrees to go along with it.
Before the trial, Simpson gets Des to meet him in prison. After getting yobs to smash up the Area Car, he tells Des he will abduct Reg if he doesn't tell the truth. Des refuses, and Reg is kidnapped. As the trial kicks off, uniform and CID spring into action to locate Reg. After a ransom note references 'dead meat', they find Reg in an abandoned slaughterhouse, but he sets fire to it to escape. When they link the suspect's phone call to Simpson's brief, he changes his plea and conspiracy charges of kidnapping, attempted murder and perverting the course of justice are added.
After going on stress leave, Des feels increasingly guilty and confesses to Reg. Despite his doubts, Reg decides not to hand Des in. Des forgets the fire when he establishes a close relationship with Sergeant Sheelagh Murphy, and she falls pregnant with his child. When ex-DI Sally Johnson returns, now a private investigator, she forces Danny to resign out as she goes on a mission to prove Simpson's innocence in the case of the fire. She tells Meadows that Simpson doesn't deny killing Conway, but tells him she thinks Des started the fire. When Des confesses to Sheelagh, she contemplates telling Superintendent Adam Okaro. When Des discovers she went to New Scotland Yard with Okaro, he loses control in pursuit of a thug robbing the elderly, especially when one of the victim's wife dies of shock. What Des is unaware of is that it was simply to drive Okaro to meeting, and backed out so she could tell her husband Patrick that their marriage is over. Des chases the suspect into a warehouse, and chemical barrels cause a massive explosion. Sergeant Dale Smith pulls Reg out, but the suspect dies and Des disappears. Sheelagh tells Okaro about Des' involvement after forensics fail to find his body.
When Sheelagh's baby Niamh dies, Des returns and she tells him. He goes to leave, but encounters Reg at the chapel of rest to say his goodbyes to his daughter. He escapes and kidnaps PC Cameron Tait when Reg lets slip he was babysitting Niamh when she died. He also kidnaps Sheelagh, but ends up letting both of them go. Reg thinks Des has gone for good, but shows up one final time to apologize, only to be arrested. Overcrowding sees Des paired with an unstable suspect, and is beaten to death before he could be questioned.
Despite Des' death and his involvement proved, it is unlikely Simpson was cleared after confessing to Sally Johnson that he killed Conway.
The aftermath of the fire started several other storylines, including Des and Sheelagh's affair, mentioned above.
DC Mickey Webb blamed Superintendent Tom Chandler for the deaths of Derek Conway & Kate Spears. They discovered Chandler raped a girl at Hendon. At the funeral's wake, DS Debbie McAllister and Superintendent Tom Chandler had sex in a disabled toilet, and she fell pregnant. Jack's closeness to Debbie nearly compromised the case, but they got one of Chandler's Hendon friends to give evidence. Chandler held Debbie hostage at gunpoint, and later Meadows. With nowhere to run, Chandler turned the gun on himself.
PCs Nick Klein & Cass Rickman started partying hard to live life to the fullest after the fire. Nick became a full on addict, with Cass stopping after a clubbing friend, who reminded her of Sam, died of an overdose. Nick & Cass had a bust up over his coke habit and he was unable to make amends when she was killed by the Canley River murderer. Nick's habit got worse when he got hooked on crack, and eventually ended up in rehab.
New arrival PC Luke Ashton became part of a gay relationship with Sergeant Craig Gilmore. Despite marrying Kerry Young, Luke realized his feelings for Craig when he was assaulted. Kerry dumped Luke when she finds out he slept with Craig before their wedding. When she publicly outed Luke at Jim Carver's wedding to Marie Graham, Luke suffered a breakdown that led to his departure.
Full List of Departures
Chief Inspector Derek Conway was killed in a petrol bomb attack Episode 005, as part of Jeff Simpson's revenge for being beaten up by DS Vik Singh. Singh resigned before he could be fired in Episode 006.
The fire itself claimed the lives of six Sun Hill officers. Inspector Andrew Monroe, PC Di Worrell, PC Ben Hayward & DC Paul Riley all died in Episode 008, with their deaths revealed at the beginning of Episode 009. Kate Spears was last seen in episode 008, but her death happened later in episode 009. Tania Emery did not appear in 009, her appearance was limited to mentions. PC Sam Harker was also killed in the fire, but died of his injuries in his final appearance Episode 010. Matthew Crompton was cast for 009 & 010, unlike the other five who weren't cast in 009.
PC Polly Page wasn't killed in the fire, but she signed off on long term sick leave after a breakdown, following a heartbreak at the hands of Dave Quinnan. Lisa Geoghan was signed off on maternity leave, so she returned as Polly in Episode 097
In Episode 012 the first new arrival joined, DC Eva Sharpe. She was the first of ten new cast members. There were three new PCs, two new DCs & a TDC, an Inspector and two DSs, as well the show's first Station Reception Officer.
- DC Eva Sharpe, played by Diane Parish, made her first appearance in Episode 012.
- PC Gary Best, played by Ciaran Griffiths made his first appearance in Episode 020.
- DC Ken Drummond & Inspector Gina Gold, played by Russel Floyd & Roberta Taylor, made their first appearances in Episode 021.
- PC Luke Ashton returned in Episode 022 after leaving three years earlier, while TDC Brandon Kane, played by Pal Aron, made his first appearance in the same episode.
- PC Kerry Young, played by Beth Cordingly, made her first appearance in Episode 025.
- DS Phil Hunter, played by Scott Maslen, made his first appearance in Episode 029.
- SRO Roberta Cryer, played by Moya Brady, made her first appearance in Episode 033.
- DS Samantha Nixon, played by Lisa Maxwell, made her first appearance in Episode 038.
- Another three officers left before 2002 ended, they were DI Alex Cullen, Superintendent Tom Chandler and PC Cass Rickman. Cullen was the only one who wasn't killed off.
- This was one of two major cast clearances in The Bill, the other was in 2000 during the Don Beech Scandal.
- Derek Conway (1988), Andrew Monroe (1990), Sam Harker (1997), were the longest serving cast members killed off.
- The first episode related the fire was Set in Stone, and the last was Episode 201.
- The longest serving cast member in the new arrivals was DS Samantha Nixon, who stayed in the show for 7 years until her departure in 2009. Inspector Gina Gold was second closest with 6 years, departing in 2008. DS Phil Hunter was in third with five years, leaving in 2007.
- The shortest was PC Luke Ashton, who left in 122, exactly 100 episodes after his first appearance.