‘Karen Pirie’ Recap And Ending, Explained: Who Killed Rosemary Duff?

Based on the novel “The Distant Echo” by renowned author Val McDermid and adapted for the screen by Emer Kenny, “Karen Pirie” is a proper crime drama set in Scotland and offers everything from suspense to charm without overdoing things. And what makes the plot effective is the length of the episodes (3 in total; each of 1 hour 30 mins. approx.) and the events that are aptly woven one after another. Great performances by the cast, especially Lauren Lyle with her young, natural portrayal of Karen Pirie, make the show much more appealing.

Spoilers Ahead


What Happens In ‘Karen Pirie’ Series?

On the night of June 27th, 1996, the dead body of Rosemary-Duff (Anna Russell-Martin), a barmaid, was recovered. The three suspects included Ziggy Malkiewicz (younger version-Jhon Lumsden, older version-Alec Newman), Tom Mackie (younger version-Jack Hesketh, older version-Michael Sheffer), and Alex Gilbey (younger version-Buom Tihngang, older version-Aryon Bakare), all of whom were there at the spot. Reports showed that Rosemary, AKA Rosie, was strangled while being cut across the stomach and left to bleed out. The investigation was led by DI Barney MacLennan (Gilly Gilchrist), DI James Lawson (younger version-Kevin Mains), and PC Janice Hogg (younger version-Gemma Mcelhinney). But in the absence of any concrete proof against the three guys or any other evidence that would lead to answers, the case dissolved soon after the newspapers lost interest. Rosie is survived by her brothers, Colin and Brian.

Twenty-six years have passed since then. A radio podcast by Bel Richmond (Rakhee Thakrar) has dug up the past and brought people’s attention back to Rosie Duff’s murder, claiming that the original investigation was downright negligent. DCS James Lawson (older version-Stuart Bowman) and DI Simon Lees (Steve John Shepherd) thus decide to put a female officer on the case, given the perspective of the case, in order to “stay ahead of” Bel Richmond and whatever way it is in which she is getting all the information regarding a 26-year-old murder. The responsibility falls on the shoulders of young DS Karen Pirie (Lauren Lyle).

The three suspects, Ziggy, Tom, and Alex, are still in touch with each other. All three were interrogated by the police back then. And despite finding loopholes in all three of their stories, they couldn’t charge them with the murder. Presently, they lead their own lives.

DS Karen Pirie and her new assistant, DC Mint Murray (Chris Jenks), are tasked with looking into the case. But as time goes by, new things come to light, things that nobody cared to look into during the original investigation all those years ago, as well as new evidence. Rosie was going to meet someone when she “popped out” of the bar. Pieces of evidence pile up slowly and steadily. That includes a photograph of Rosie at the party where the suspects revealed she didn’t go; semen stains on Rosie’s cardigan that match with Alex Gilbey’s DNA; Rosie’s secret diary, and Iona’s (Rosie’s fellow barmaid) testimony that revealed that Rosie was in a secret relationship; and the birth certificate of Rosie’s daughter [Grace Galloway; played by Bobby Rainsbury] who was then adopted by someone else. However, there are many missing pieces. These include a second crime scene where Rosie was killed (not at the cathedral where her body was found), the murder weapon, a missing box of evidence from the night of the murder, the car Rosie got into before she was killed, and the identity of the father of her child.

Karen’s intuition swings between suspected case attrition and misogyny as she tries to wrap her head around the multiple directions in which the evidence is leading her. Her complicated relationship status with DS Phil Parhatka (Zach Wyatt) has also made it awkward for her to work with him, the Murder Squad in charge of the case. With all this going on, Karen Pirie will have to cross lines that shouldn’t be crossed otherwise. Will she find the person who had killed Rosie Duff? Only if she manages to put together all the pieces of a dirty puzzle that goes back 26 years.


A Silent Treatment

For 26 years, Ziggy, Alex, and Tom have kept quiet about the fateful night. Even on the night Rosie’s body was recovered,  Ziggy was found to have tried to hide evidence, i.e., he tried to discard the note he had given to Rosie that had the address where the boys were headed for the party. Later on, it was revealed that all of them kept quiet owing to the racism that was prevalent at that time, something that would certainly have cost Alex his whole life by making him the primary suspect and eventually sending him to prison, perhaps for the rest of his life. Moreover, the fact that Alex was in a secret relationship with Rosie would have made things more complex, especially since Rosie’s brothers had already proved their ferocity by throwing Ziggy down a dry well, thinking that he was the one responsible for their sister’s death. In any case, Ziggy and Tom were not willing to compromise their friend in any way, even if it meant telling lies after lies. For separate reasons, Ziggy and Tom were also on the radar. Officer Janice Hogg had noticed Ziggy trying to discard the note at the scene, whereas Ziggy was on drugs and was found to have taken a liking to Rosie. So, as each of them had their separate reasons for being found guilty, all three decided to maintain silence as much as they could. Fortunately for them, they weren’t charged and carried on with their lives for 26 years. Twenty-six years later, when they are again called by the police, all three of them, now leading separate lives, find it difficult to cope. They meet and talk about it. Ziggy makes it clear that he intends to tell the truth, but Tom is against it, as he doesn’t want to risk everything all over again.

After Ziggy was killed, Tom tried to reach Alex but wasn’t able to. It needs to be mentioned here that Ziggy liked Alex when they were young. Perhaps, Tom wanted to ensure that Alex was doing well and if he wanted to talk. But Alex has just had a baby, and he isn’t willing to let his past interfere with his present. Then one night, Tom goes into a coma as a result of a drug overdose. The next day, traces of Alex’s semen are found on Rosie’s cardigan, and he is arrested by Karen Pirie, who thinks that it was Alex who killed Rosie. In custody, Alex reveals how he didn’t have a relationship as such with Rosie, as she preferred to keep it between the two of them. Furthermore, he stresses the way the police treated him on that fateful night and that Ziggy was scared for him. Now we, as the audience, also know that Ziggy was scared for Alex, not just as a friend but as someone whom he loved. And Tom knew it. And given that Alex, “a black man in a white country,” had a physical relationship with Rosie, Ziggy and Tom decided to protect him, which would have certainly landed him in lifetime imprisonment. Unfortunately, Ziggy and Tom had to pay the price in their own ways. They were all innocent, but if only they had come out clear back then, the two guys would have been alive. Ultimately, although they weren’t convicted, their silent treatment didn’t come to any fruition as Alex was left alone without his two best friends.


Hidden Truths and Poor Sod

Grace Galloway, the missing link in the whole case, was surprisingly the one responsible for the murder of Ziggy and the attempted murder of Alex. After finding out about the suspects in her mother Rosie’s murder, she set out to kill them all.

Grace was the daughter of Rosie and Lawson, whom Rosie gave birth to in secrecy at her aunt’s place and lied about it to Lawson as well as her own family. Being a minor, Rosie gave her up for adoption because, somewhere deep within, she, too, didn’t want the baby. But somewhere deep within, she did want to have it but unfortunately had to give the baby girl up for adoption. Maybe, if she had been alive, she would have got back to her daughter. No one will know. Lawson didn’t want the baby as it would affect his ambitious career as a policeman. However, he was always possessive of Rosie and wanted to get back with her after she returned from her aunt’s. But Rosie didn’t. Lawson stalked Rosie for three years, trying to make sure that she didn’t get close to any other guy. And finally, when he saw her on the night of June 27th, 1996, sneaking out of the pub, he insisted on giving her a lift to wherever she was going. It was 2:15 am. Based on Karen’s explanation, Lawson took Rosie to his caravan in Loch Leven (the second crime scene), raped her, and strangled her, trying to prove more to himself than to Rosie that he owned her. He then took her unconscious body to the cathedral (the first crime scene), cut her stomach, and left. Rosie Duff died there “slowly.” He hid a whole box of evidence, which had Rosie’s clothes. He even sold the car he had used to move Rosie’s body. But it was “human error” that Rosie’s clothes were misfiled, and the paint on her cardigan was discovered; the same paint that was on the door of Lawson’s caravan. It was the strength of the human mind that allowed the eye-witness to remember the model of the car he saw (that had Lawson in it), i.e., the BMW 325i. And it was Karen’s (brought in by Lawson himself) sheer will to track down Rosie’s daughter, the final piece of the puzzle. The “human” quotient remains visible at every crucial juncture of the case. But the greatest example of “human error” as well as divine intervention is Lawson’s bringing in of a “poor sod” of a woman whom he thought would never solve the case, and it would dissolve yet again and for the final time.


The Ticker

Karen Pirie is brought into the case for the sole reason of being a woman. Before talking about her, let us consider the two reasons why the officers decided to bring in a woman to lead the investigation. Firstly, it was a woman who was murdered at night. The negligence was based on victim-blaming on the part of the police, which seems true for the most part. A woman shouldn’t be out in the early hours all by herself. Well, the fact is that neither a woman nor a man should be out in the late hours on their own. That’s the society we live in, and it hasn’t changed a bit. However, this doesn’t allow the authorities to use it as an excuse to blame the victim. Secondly, the radio podcast was made by a woman too. And as expected, rather than the truth that the podcaster is fighting for, her act of standing for another woman is what is paid heed to. And in trying to maintain this nonsensical “angle” of the case, DCS James Lawson and DI Simon Lees decide that it is better to have a woman handle the case, one that cannot be solved; or at least that’s what they thought. Unfortunately, Karen Pirie wasn’t willing to give up until she found out everything, even if it led to nothing. Episode 1 also hints at the possibility that Karen’s love interest DS Phil Parhatka too, approached her after he found out that she had been chosen for the case because she was a woman. He had previously walked out on her after finding out that she had been given the case and not him. Jealousy followed by sympathy or misogyny followed by patriarchy? Take your pick. Nobody is any wiser.


‘Karen Pirie’ Ending Explained: Did Rosie Duff Have to Die?

No. Rosie Duff was killed out of jealousy by the current DCS, James Lawson. It is fate trolling Lawson as he was the one to appoint Karen Pirie for the case. He thought that appointing a novice officer like Karen would have helped avoid the conundrum that was arising around the Rosie Duff murder case. He was rather confident that there was no existing evidence that could have raised doubts against him in the least. But unbeknownst to him, Karen had reached out to then-PC Janice Hogg. Then it came to light how Lawson was removing the last few bread crumbs that could direct someone towards him for Rosie Duff’s murder. First, he let his boss, DI Barney MacLennon, drown, who had apparently found an eye-witness and was onto Lawson. Then, Lawson removed Janice from the case using the reason that she was involved with Rosie’s brother, Colin, which could jeopardize the case. With both of them gone, Lawson had nothing to worry about and simply moved on to a different case that ultimately led to the premature end of the Rosie-Duff-murder investigation.

What’s surreal is that Lawson didn’t want the baby because it would affect his career. He even chalked out a plan so that no evidence from Rosie’s death could be traced back to him, which would ruin his career too. Twenty-six years later, it was, in fact, evidence from Rosie’s death as well as from Rosie’s baby that sent Lawson to jail. Moreover, Karen Pirie was brought in by Lawson too. “You thought I couldn’t do it. You were sure I’d never do it. I did. “These are Karen’s last words to Lawson.

At the end of the show, Alex and Tom hug each other, their inner turmoil finally coming to a rest. Grace Galloway finds solace after her mother’s killer is sent to prison. She meets her uncles, Rosie’s brothers, Colin and Brian, who are overwhelmed to meet her. Karen is appreciated by DI Simon Lees. She and Phil have reconciled.


“Karen Pirie” is a crime drama starring Lauren Lyle.

Shubhabrata Dutta
Shubhabrata Dutta
Shubhabrata’s greatest regret is the fact that he won’t be able to watch every movie and show ever made. And when he isn’t watching a movie or a show, he is busy thinking about them and how they are made; all while taking care of his hobbies. These include the usual suspects i.e. songs, long walks, books and PC games.
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