Portman backpedals on killer West project

LONDON – In the wake of frenzied media interest and an outcry from politicians, indie film and television company Portman Entertainment Group has denied it plans to make a film based on the story of British serial killer Frederick West.

The company – which was behind the Hugh Grant vehicle “An Awfully Big Adventure” and more recently the TV literary adaptation “Rebecca” – acquired the rights to the West case from the British government’s official solicitor two months ago.

West committed suicide in prison two years ago while facing 12 murder charges. His wife, Rosemary, later was convicted of 10 killings.

The couple sexually abused and murdered young women, secreting their bodies in the basement and garden of their home in Gloucester, in western England.

The non-financial details of the deal – which gave Portman the non-documentary film, TV, video and ancillary rights to archive material from the West family estate – emerged Tuesday.

The government decided Wednesday to review the deal, as well as the law that governs the duties of the official solicitor as a provider of legal aid. In striking the rights deal, the official solicitor was acting in the interest of West’s five children. There previously had been controversy concerning the selling of newspaper interviews and the official book rights to the West case.

Portman chairman John Banks said that while he understood “the interest that the subject matter” aroused, there were “no plans at this time to exploit the rights that Portman have acquired.” The rights were negotiated by former Portman chief exec John Hall, who left the company two weeks ago.

The company’s new managing director, Tim Buxton, added that Portman has made “responsible productions” in the past but that as a “responsible production company, Portman would review very carefully the appropriateness of proceeding any further.”

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