The Western Daily Press reporter who broke the story of “Tamworth Two” is to be immortalised in a TV drama.
Wendy Best will be one of the main characters in the BBC dramatisation of the escape of two pigs from a Malmesbury abattoir in January 1998. The story created a storm of media attention as attempts to capture the two pigs, named Butch and Sundance, were followed by journalists from around the world.
The Legend of the Tamworth Two will be screened at Christmas and playing Best will be 22-year-old actress Emma Pierson. For the purposes of the drama her name has been changed to Jenny West and the paper featured will be called the Wiltshire Daily News.
Best, 34, told Press Gazette: “The ?lm has been dramatised, including the newsroom scenes, but for some of the plot the scriptwriters could have been there.”
Butch and Sundance made their escape from a Malmesbury abattoir on a Thursday night, they then swam the River Avon and hid out in gardens and woods around Malmesbury. Best got a tip-off about their escape over the weekend and the Western Daily Press went to town with the story in Monday’s edition.
She said: “The editor was quite keen on it at the time and we did graphics showing the pigs escaping from the abattoir. “The next day I was off and a colleague did a follow-up. The Daily Mail ran a piece on the Wednesday and by Wednesday evening the ITN helicopter was ?ying over Malmesbury. “By the Thursday we had every newspaper, radio and TV station in the country. We were getting phone calls for radio interviews from as far a?eld as Hong Kong and Australia.
“On the Friday there was CNN and other international TV companies on the scene, we did an interview with BBC News 24 and that day they were caught.”
The Daily Mail caught one of the pigs and to this day the newspaper pays for both of them to reside at a rare breeds centre in Kent.
In the dramatised version it will be the ?ctional Wiltshire Daily News which agrees to buy the pigs. The legend of the Tamworth Two will also feature Lucy Davis (from The Of?ce) as the voice of Sundance and Ryan Cartwright (from The Grimleys) as Butch.
Best, now Western Daily Press special projects editor, recalls moments of comedy during the real-life hunt for the pigs as dozens of journalists on foot and in helicopters chased around Malmesbury back gardens looking for the pair.
She said: “It’s very surreal. Over the years I have had lots of phone calls from people studying the Tamworth Two or exploring the possibility of books and ?lms. When I saw the script for this ?lm, to say I was shocked that the journalist appeared on just about every page was an understatement.
“It’s very dif?cult being on the other side of the fence and being part of the story, but I suppose it will be something to tell the grandchildren in years to come.”
By Dominic Ponsford