Police failures in this Ripper drama are sickening to watch
Police failures in this Ripper drama are sickening to watch: CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV
The Long Shadow
The Crash Detectives
The performances are compelling. The props, wardrobe and backdrops evoke the era vividly, and the research is impeccable.
Yet both BBC’s Jimmy Savile drama starring Steve Coogan, The Reckoning, and the painstaking retelling of the Yorkshire Ripper investigation, The Long Shadow (ITV1), are upsetting, even gruelling to watch — because both lay bare the repeated failure of the authorities to prevent atrocious sexual crimes that continued for years.
The Reckoning, reviewed in Saturday’s Daily Mail, blames practically everyone bar the police. Successive governments, the health service, the Church and the Press are all accused of enabling or even sheltering Savile — as well as the BBC, though its own culpability is not emphasised nearly enough.
In fact, Savile also cultivated protection for himself with several forces. The only hint of this came in a brief scene where a young bobby in Leeds, during the early 1960s, ignored claims that the DJ had ordered a beating for a teenage lad.
The police, and only the police, are held responsible for the failure to stop Peter Sutcliffe. Their incompetence depicted in The Long Shadow almost defies belief. Lee Ingleby plays the detective in charge of the case as a man so far out of his depth, a submarine couldn’t find him.
CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: Their incompetence depicted in The Long Shadow almost defies belief. Lee Ingleby plays the detective in charge of the case as a man so far out of his depth, a submarine couldn’t find him
The Assistant Chief Constable (David Morrissey) who pulls rank to take over the manhunt exhibits appalling insensitivity to the parents of one of the Ripper’s victims, a girl of 16. But the truly shocking scene came after two officers in a patrol car spotted a young woman with blood on her face.
Donna (Molly Wright) had been violently assaulted by a punter. The police arrested her, taunted and insulted her, and charged her with ‘loitering for the purpose of being a common prostitute’.
In another scene that would be unbelievable if it weren’t true, a WPC (Cara Theobold) is sent into Leeds red-light district as bait for the killer, without enough training even to be able to operate her radio.
It’s sickening, frustrating and angering to watch, and as the investigation stalls, those emotions are stirred again and again.
What neither drama addresses are the connections between Savile and Sutcliffe. The two certainly knew each other in the 1990s: there’s a bizarre photograph of the TV presenter introducing heavyweight boxer Frank Bruno to the serial killer, at Broadmoor secure psychiatric hospital (Bruno later regretted the incident, saying he’d been unaware it was Sutcliffe).
But their links could go back much further. In February 1977, after the third Ripper victim, Irene Richardson, was found with bite wounds, close to one of Savile’s flats, so many rumours circulated that the DJ was involved in her murder that police had an imprint taken of his teeth, to test for a match.
Fascinating half-hour documentary series The Crash Detectives follows Gwent police’s collision investigation team, piecing together evidence after road accidents
Forensics have advanced beyond measure since then, as The Crash Detectives (BBC2) demonstrates. This fascinating half-hour documentary series follows Gwent police’s collision investigation team, piecing together evidence after road accidents.
The first episode, filmed in 2019, began after a night-time hit-and-run incident on a Welsh mountain road that left a 19-year-old pedestrian dead. Every fragment of broken bumper from the car involved was a potential clue.
The vehicle was quickly identified, and found, and at first the driver seemed to have a plausible explanation — he thought, in the darkness, that he’d clipped a piece of fly-tipped rubbish.
But blood tests for drugs, and mounting contradictions in his story, quickly betrayed his guilt. More interesting than his cowardly evasions were the multiple ways police could uncover what really happened — from the car’s onboard computer system, to neighbours’ security cameras.
It made a reassuring counterpoint to the night’s other dramas.
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