On the move

I’m moving this blog to a new address –

http://www.jarossi.com/

My patience with GoDaddy, who host this site, has run out. From February 2018 robinjarossi.com will disappear to complete my move.

In the meantime, the latest posts will be on the new site, including updates about Dark Son, the forthcoming BBC documentary about the Hammersmith Nude Murders.

The first post is already up. It’s about another new series I’m contributing to – Voice of a Killer Special. Do join me!

Murder in Soho: Who Killed Freddie Mills?

Murder in Soho: Who Killed Freddie Mills? on BBC4 and iPlayer

‘To this day, the case has puzzled me.’

These are the words of Professor Brian J Ford during BBC4’s Murder in Soho: Who Killed Freddie Mills? (catch it on iPlayer). And the death of Britain’s former boxing hero has certainly attracted rumour, legend and some wacky theories since his apparent suicide in 1965.

I was pleased that this documentary took a fairly sober approach to the case. It is far better than the recent irritating and overlong Ruth Ellis Files on BBC4.

It did not focus much on the outlandish claim that Freddie Mills was the serial killer known as Jack the Stripper or the Hammersmith Nude Killer. However, it does make space for author Michael Litchfield, whose book on the case made such assertions. These are unfounded, as far as I am concerned. Author and former police officer Dick Kirby says succinctly the idea is ‘ludicrous’ during the programme.

Mills: suicide or murder?

The film does make a convincing case that Mills probably did not shoot himself in the eye – a very rare method for a person to use when committing suicide.

Various theories are explored to support the idea that Mills was the victim of criminals. The boxing world and West End nightclub land where Mills was a part-owner of a night spot were heavily linked to the underworld.

Does the programme clear up the puzzle once and for all? I don’t think it makes a conclusive case. But it is a fascinating portrait of a much-loved personality – perhaps Britain’s first celebrity and the David Beckham of his time – who seems to have crossed paths with the wrong people.

The Ruth Ellis Files BBC4

Programme Name: The Ruth Ellis Files: A Very British Crime Story - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. 3) - Picture Shows: Andre (SCOOTER CRICK), Ruth (EMMA MOORE) - (C) Wall to Wall Media Ltd - Photographer: Matt Broad

Actors portray Ruth’s son Andre (Scooter Crick) and Ruth Ellis (Emma Moore). Pics: BBC

I was pleasantly intrigued to see two experts I know in a forthcoming BBC4 documentary about Ruth Ellis, starting on Tuesday 13 March, 9pm.

Brian Hook and Andy Rose are highly experienced former detectives. They generously devoted their time to give me a modern perspective on the Nude Killer investigation. I used their input extensively in The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper.

In The Ruth Ellis Files: A Very British Crime Story, Brian and Andy help documentary maker Gillian Pachter to re-examine this notorious case.

Last woman to be hanged

Eillis shot her lover David Blakely outside a pub in Hampstead and in July 1955 became the last woman to be hanged in Britain.

It was, and still is, a shocking case is. Pachter, with insights from experts such as Michael Mansfield QC, along with Brian and Andy, reveals how Ellis was treated brutally by the legal system and prejudices of the time.

Programme Name: The Ruth Ellis Files: A Very British Crime Story - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. 1) - Picture Shows: (L-R) Brian Hook, Louise Cherrington, & Andy Rose (Ex Police Officers) discussing Ruth’s trial. - (C) Wall to Wall Media Ltd - Photographer: Screengrab

Former police officers Brian Hook, Louise Cherrington and Andy Rose discussing the Ruth Ellis case

She was beaten often by Blakely. On one occasion she punched by Blakely and lost a baby she was pregnant with. Pachter also shows how Ellis may have been encouraged to kill Blakely by an admirer who was jealous of her boyfriend.

Desmond Cussen supplied Ellis with the gun she used, showed her how to shoot and drove her to the Hampstead pub. None of this came out at the trial.

Forensics and investigation of the Ellis case

Episode one delves into the police investigation, which is Andy and Brian’s area of expertise. Both have experience of murder scenes and evidence-gathering. Today they teach these subjects at West London University.

My one quibble with the series is the irritating style in which it is made. B-movie footage of cowboys and gangsters are ludicrously inserted into Pachter’s narration. This is distracting and irrelevant.

And insights from the likes of Mansfield are interrupted by endless shots of Pachter entering buildings or looking through files.

These points aside, this is still a fascinating close-up look at a tragic case.

Mindhunter 2

Mindhunter on Netflix

Mindhunter with Holt McCallany and Jonathan Groff

It’s that time of the year when we look back and think about the best of…

The best crime series I’ve seen is Mindhunter on Netflix. I mentioned this unusual, clever drama back in an August post. But having now seen the whole thing, I thought it was more original and interesting than any other 2017 series.

It’s set in 1977 during the early days of criminal profiling at the FBI. Jonathan Groff and Holt McCallany star as agents Holden Ford and Bill Tench. It’s different from mainstream fare in that it is about psychology – what makes psychopaths behave the way they do – rather than the usual fixations with procedure and whodunit.

Interviewing serial killers

Ford and Tench are dealing with serial killers who are already incarcerated. Ford is convinced the FBI should research the mindsets of these killers, because such insight could help to apprehend them. This flies in the face of received wisdom, which is, What’s to understand? They’re all sickos and monsters.

Their boss doesn’t want them talking to convicted killers at all. Meanwhile, Tench believes Ford is too gullible at times to deal with such manipulative figures.

Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit

It’s based on a 1997 book by John Douglas – on whom Thomas Harris modelled Jack Crawford, Hannibal Lecter’s adversary – and Mark Olshaker. Douglas is the man credited with bringing criminal profiling to the FBI. While he is not featured in the series, he is roughly fictionalised as Ford.

Counterbalancing the testosterone on display, Anna Torv plays Wendy Carr, a psychologist. She coolly takes a leading role in attempting to unpick the machinations of killers who hunt humans.

Edmund Kemper, Dennis Rader

The series depicts terrifying real killers such as Edmund Kemper (actor Cameron Britton), the so-called Co-ed killer who murdered his grandparents and several young women before surrendering himself. A recurring figure is seen stalking a family and is obviously the awful Bind Torture Kill murderer, Dennis Rader.

The drama comes not through horrific crimes, but in scenes where the FBI men stumble through tense interviews with these calculating, soulless men. Dialogue is king here.

The gradual understanding of the mindscapes of these killers is more intriguing than any Agatha Christie plot. The nascent profiling insights can also reveal something about modern society and alienation.

Later episodes graft on some irritating storylines about Ford’s friction with his girlfriend (Hannah Gross) and his professional waywardness. But overall, it’s an intriguing, intelligent show. And Netflix has already commissioned series two.

Producer David Fincher, whose directing credits include Seven and Zodiac, said season two will move onto 1979-81. Storylines will includes events surrounding the Atlanta child murders.

5 stars for The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper

Aside

Delighted by today’s review on Breakaway Reviewers

The book meticulously goes through each crime, each victim and each investigation, making it easy to follow the time line. The story is told with compassion for the victims and does not cross the line of thrill seeking. The author has quite obviously researched this crime well and taken time to tell this very sad story. The book is well written and edited and a pleasure to read. There were no grammatical errors or spelling mistakes that I noticed which made a lovely change and made it a pleasure to read. I look forward to the next book by this author; hopefully another true crime as he seem to have a talent for this genre.