A former senior Met Police Detective whose team solved the murders of Marsha McDonnell, Amelie Delagrange and Milly Dowler will be played by actor Martin Clunes in a new ITV drama.

Detective Chief Inspector Colin Sutton told Blaser Mills that being played by an actor on TV felt “odd but quite exciting” and revealed that the show Manhunt “focuses on what it is like to lead a serial killer hunt”.

DCI Colin Sutton’s team at the Met Police solved the cases of Amelie Delagrange and Marsha McDonnell, both of whom were brutally murdered by Levi Bellfield. He famously connected the killing of 13-year-old Milly Dowler to the two murders when the Met Police took over the investigation from Surrey Police.

Levi Bellfield, who now calls himself Yusuf Rahim after converting to Islam in prison, was convicted in 2008 for the murders of Amelie Delagrange and Marsha McDonnell, as well as the attempted murder of Kate Sheedy, and sentenced to life imprisonment. He was sentenced again to another term of life imprisonment when convicted for the abduction and murder of Milly Dowler in 2011. The Judge at the Old Bailey told the Court that Bellfield would never be granted parole and should spend the rest of his life behind bars.

DCI Sutton said that the new drama was a great opportunity to show what great work his team did. He said that the lack of forensics caused difficulty to the investigation. For example, the Red Daewoo Nexia used to kidnap Milly Dowler in Walton-on-Thames has never been found, despite numerous leads amounting to officers searching large swathes of land in London and the South East, including lakes near Heathrow. As a result of the lack of forensics, DCI Sutton said his team needed to piece together lots of circumstantial evidence to build the case.

DCI Sutton said: “[the work I’m most proud of] was eliminating a possible 610,000 vehicles down to Bellfield’s Vauxhall Corsa in the Marsha McDonnell case”.

Marsha McDonnell was severely beaten with a blunt object in 2003 near her home in Hampton. She later died from her injuries in hospital. Amelie Delagrange was also found beaten to death in Twickenham just 18 months later. Milly Dowler was abducted in 2002 when walking home from the train station in Walton-on-Thames. Her body was found in Hampshire woodland six months later.

DCI Sutton, who said he has spoken to the Dowler family about the programme, said that the other characters, including Bellfield, will be cast in November. The drama is being written by Silent Witness writer Ed Whitmore and filming is scheduled to start around London in March 2018.