Exploring True Crime in Salford

Just wanted to say thank you our hosts at the ESRC Festival of Social Sciences at Salford University on Saturday. I was invited along by Ian Cummins to take part in the all-day event on the subject of True Crime: Fiction Is Far More True than Any Journalism. 

The process of writing, why people read crime and various ways writers have explored real crimes were all covered. Ian and his colleagues Marian Foley and Martin King were terrific hosts.

We went for a delightful drink in Manchester the night before – my first time in the city – before meeting at the university in Media City on Saturday, which is a rather strange jumble of modern architecture.

Ripper tours and female psychopaths

Mark Blacklock, author of I'm Jack, about Yorkshire Ripper hoaxer John Humble, was great company.

Caroline Jones gave us a tour of, well, Ripper Tours and what a strange entertainment they are. And Caroline Logan, a consultant forensic clinical psychologist, was really interesting in discussing the subject of female psychopaths in fiction.

Beastly subjects, convivial company. I hope their plans to expand the event in future work out…

Keeler and Thorpe – the great British scandals return

Hugh Grant playing Jeremy Thorpe in BBC1’s A Very English Scandal Jeremy Thorpe

Interesting news – the Beeb has announced a new six-part drama called The Trial of Christine Keeler. It is going to focus on the young woman ‘whom the powerful, male-dominated establishment sought to silence and exploit, but who refused to play by their rules’.

Amanda Coe, the award-winning novelist, is writing the script. She said, ‘I’m excited to have the opportunity to bring a fresh lens to a story that has become a powerful fable of our national identity. The astonishing story of Christine Keeler and the so-called Profumo Affair is the Salem Witch Trial meets OJ Simpson. It’s a perfect storm of gender, class, race and power that resonates into the world we’re living in today.’

The other victim of the affair was Stephen Ward. He was the society osteopath who took his own life in 1963 after being hounded by the legal and political establishment.

Profumo Affair and the Nude Murders

The Profumo Affair is tangentially connected to the Nude Murders of the mid-1960s. While researching The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper I read about the scandal. Police and legal figures manipulated Ward. Keeler and her friend Mandy Rice-Davies were portrayed as prostitutes to trap him as someone living off immoral earnings and other crimes.

If anyone wants an insight into how bent the establishment was back then, and the extent of the cover-up, read Geoffrey Robertson’s short but shocking book Stephen Ward Was Innocent, OK.

But Christine Keeler’s story is not the only scandal being explored again. BBC1 is making a three-part dramatisation of events surrounding the fall of former Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe, called A Very English Affair.

Hugh Grant as Thorpe

This will star Hugh Grant and is written by Russell T Davies, here a long way from his Doctor Who success. Thorpe in the 1960s was the young Liberal leader who had a secret he was desperate to hide – his lover Norman Scott, who could destroy his brilliant career. Continue reading

Catching a Serial Killer by Stephen Fulcher

by Stephen Fulcher

Catching a Serial Killer

This is a book that will leave you wondering at the injustice dished out to a detective trying to bring a vile killer to justice.

You may remember Stephen Fulcher’s story from recent headlines. He was the detective superintendent who breached Police and Criminal Evidence rules in an effort to find abducted Sian O’Callaghan. Sian, 22, disappeared after a night out in Swindon in 2011.

When Fulcher’s investigators closed the net on taxi driver Christopher Halliwell, the detective ignored the requirement to make the familiar ‘You do not have to say anything’ speech. Instead, he acted in the hope that Sian was still alive somewhere and he could appeal to Halliwell to confess where. The alternative was to arrest Halliwell, in which case the suspect might clam up and Sian could perish.

Meeting Christopher Halliwell

It was a career-risking move. Fulcher’s reasoning? Sian’s life took priority over rules designed to protect the rights of a suspect.

His encounter with Halliwell is the extraordinary fulcrum of the book. In the countryside, overlooked by a posse of police cars, Fulcher shared cigarettes with Halliwell and got him talking.

Sadly, Sian had been murdered. Halliwell took the police to the place he left her. However, Fulcher had another shock in store – Halliwell revealed the whereabouts of a second victim.

Continue reading