Broadchurch: Is The Willow Man Statue Significant?

Every episode of Broadchurch throws up new questions and leaves us guessing on what's to come. But apart from the obvious questions of is Joe guilty? Is Susan lying about Nige? And will Hardy survive until the end of the series?!! there are more subtle hints that we're trying to work out. Right from the very beginning of the series there was of course the theme of the Bluebells, we pondered that one in our article here - pointing out the links between the flower and the themes of death and disappearance. 
But now we're wondering of the significance of a certain statue that Hardy keeps gazing gloomily at from the window of the car as he and Ellie arrive in Sandbrook. We first spotted it in last week's episode as the pair travelled up for a weekend of investigating and awkward hotel room sharing, but it was back again this week as they motored up motorway to check out a new lead..

So what is this statue? The statue is a real life landmark and is called The Willow Man. It's actual location is on the M5 motorway, but we digress. The Willow Man is unsurprisingly constructed of willows, bound round an iron frame, and is described as a permanent wicker man sculpture.

Which brings us to the wicker man connection, the history books tell us that a wicker man is a large construction that was used by Druids or Wiccans in a sacrificial ceremonies - which of course involved human sacrifice. The gruesome tales of the wicker men say that the person or people who were to be sacrificed were placed inside the wicker man which was then set alight - this was seen as a gift to the gods.

There is also the 1973 film The Wicker Man starring Edward Woodward as a police man who arrives on a remote island to investigate the disappearance of a young girl. Whilst there he discovers that the residents of the island are practising all sorts of sexual pagan rituals and unfortunately he meets a grisly end. 

We already know that both Claire and Lee Ashworth and Pippa's parents Cate and Ricky Gillespie were involved in some sort of wife swapping style affairs. With Cate last week telling Hardy about her husband's relationship with next door neighbour Claire and then this week us seeing a sexually charged flashback of Cate and Claire's husband Lee. Where these affairs just the usual result of a marital crisis or was there something more sinister going on?

With last night's discovery of a furnace and the very real possibility that Lisa's body has been disposed using it, what else could the statue hint at?

Broadchurch continues on Monday 9th February at 9pm on ITV and 10pm on TV3