As the Dorset resort of Broadchurch prepares for the summer season 11-year old Danny Latimer goes missing. Local detective sergeant Ellie Miller returns from holiday with her husband and son to find her desired promotion to inspector has gone to outsider Alec Hardy, anxious to prove himself after gaining a poor reputation. When Danny's corpse is found on a beach the two police officers must tell his parents, Beth and Mark, sister Chloe and grandmother Liz. For Ellie it is especially hard as they are family friends. She is also irked by Hardy's brusque manner with suspects and tendency to call her by her surname. Ellie's nephew, Olly Stevens, cub reporter for the Broadchurch Echo, throws a spanner in the works when he latches onto the investigation and mentions the victim's name on Twitter. This attracts the attention of Karen White from the national Daily Herald, seeking a human interest story, and she arrives at the press conference where Hardy, convinced that Danny was abducted from home before being strangled, swears that the murderer will be brought to justice.