Documentary - Murder in the Pacific

Murder in the Pacific is a gripping three-part series coming to BBC Two that tells the astonishing story of the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior and the bombing that sank it in Auckland harbour killing a crew member. Find out more...

Press Release

Recounted by the Warrior’s crew of Greenpeace activists, the police investigators tasked with solving the crime and the bombers themselves, the story unfolds like a crime thriller.

Piecing together the extraordinary events leading up to that fateful night, the series unravels the astounding twists, turns and bizarre events that led to the indictment of the French Government and their Secret Service and fuelled the debate around nuclear weapons testing.

With environmental activism regularly making headlines and nuclear weapons back in the spotlight, this examination of how far powerful governments will go to protect their interests has never felt more timely.

Here's a Q&A with Executive Producer Caroline Hawkins (CH) and Director Chloe Campbell (CC)

What is the series about?

CH: Murder in the Pacific is a cinematic three-part documentary series that tells the story of the bombing of the Greenpeace ship ‘Rainbow Warrior’ in 1985. Unfolding like a crime thriller it unravels the events leading up to the attack and the international scandal that ensued; leading to the indictment of a European Government and the launch of a small environmental group onto the world stage.

Why do you think it’s important to tell the story of the Rainbow Warrior now?

CH: At a time when the use of nuclear weapons is once again being threatened and the planet is facing unprecedented environmental pressure, it is important to reflect on historic and current government responses to peaceful protest and activism.

The series unfolds like a crime thriller and for the first time on TV it provides a detailed recount of events surrounding the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior. Why people should watch the series and what do you hope the viewers will take away from it?

CH: A generation has grown up knowing little about the devastating effects of the West’s nuclear weapons-testing programmes that took place throughout the Cold War. Many are also unaware of the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior and the campaigns of Greenpeace activists during the 1980’s. A small group of impassioned individuals inspired the large environmental movements we know today.

We hope that viewers will see that environmentalism goes beyond politics and is a force for good. That governments must be accountable for their actions and that history always has lessons to teach us.

Were there any revelations that came to light while making the series you found particularly powerful?

CC: Speaking to people on both sides of this tragedy, we were struck by the similarity in spirit between the victims and the people who carried out the plot. They were all young people seeking adventure and wanting to change the world for the better.

And finally, what were the challenges to making the series?

CC: Our filming coincided with New Zealand’s Covid lockdown. No-one was allowed in or out of the country for months so we hired local camera crew and producers and explained to them the precise lighting set-ups we needed for consistency with what we were filming in Europe. A hi-speed internet connection and a strategically-placed screen allowed Chloe Campbell, the director, to be in the room with the interviewees, albeit virtually. With a thirteen hour time difference it meant working in the middle of the night but she was able to conduct the interviews herself.

Some of the other people involved in the documentary include:

Bunny McDiarmid - Bunny McDiarmid joined Greenpeace in 1984 as a deckhand on the Rainbow Warrior and was instrumental in the relocation of the Rongelap Island community, victims of nuclear weapons testing. She was a member of the boat’s crew on the night of the bombing. She currently lives with partner and fellow Rainbow Warrior crew member Henk Haazen in New Zealand.

Peter Willcox - Peter Willcox was one of Greenpeace’s longest serving skippers and was the Captain of the Rainbow Warrior at the time of the bombing in July 1985. He has since left Greenpeace and lives in the US.

Alan Galbraith - Alan Galbraith was a Detective Chief Inspector in the Auckland police department. He led “Operation Rainbow” and the huge team of detectives brought in to solve the mystery behind the bombing. He currently lives on the South Island of New Zealand.

Maurice Whitham - Detective Inspector Maurice Whitham was second-in-command in the Auckland police investigation, working under DCI Galbraith. He has retired from the police force and currently lives in New Zealand.

Chris Martin - Detective Inspector Chris Martin was a key member of the police team tasked with tracking down and charging the perpetrators of the bombing, including travelling to Norfolk island to interrogate the crew of the Ouvea. He is retired and lives in New Zealand.

Terry Batchelor - Detective Sergeant Terry Batchelor was feared and respected by the criminal fraternity of the time. He had a key role in the detention of the Turenge couple at Newmans Campervan Rental. He has retired from the police force and currently lives in New Zealand.

Rebecca Hayter - Becky Hayter was 21 years old and working in Newmans Campervan Rental as a meet and greet girl when a married couple suspected of being involved in the bombing returned their van early. Thanks to some quick thinking, she helped keep the suspects at the scene, leading to their arrest by the New Zealand police. She is now an author and lives on the South Island, New Zealand.

Jean-Luc Kister - In 1985, whilst a member of the French secret service (the DGSE), Jean-Luc Kister was tasked with placing two explosive devices on the hull of the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior. It was an act of sabotage intended to prevent the activists from disrupting nuclear weapons-testing in French Polynesia. In 2015 he publicly apologised for his part in the killing of Fernando Pereira.

Edwy Plenel - Le Monde journalist Edwy Plenel, together with his friend and fellow journalist George Marion, was ultimately responsible for exposing members of the French government as the orchestrators and perpetrators of the bombing. The revelation resulted in international embarrassment that threatened to bring down President Francois Mitterrand. Edwy now is president of Mediapart, an online investigative newspaper based in Paris.

Georges Marion - Using their high-level connections within the French state, Georges Marion, a journalist on the newspaper Le Canard enchainé, worked with Edwy Plenel to uncover who ordered the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior. He now lives in the French countryside.

The series will be released as a box set on BBC iPlayer and will air on BBC Two From March .

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