Thursday, December 30, 2010

Watching the Amateur Detectives

Well, thank God they've arrested someone for that woman in Bristol's murder. Not just because, obviously, justice needs to be done, but because it will hopefully spell an end to the media's own investigation of the crime. As soon as I heard the words uttered by a reporter that 'the police clearly need the public's help to solve this murder', my heart sank, as I knew that we were in for seemingly endless press speculation about motives, suspects, along with reconstructions and re-enactments. All based upon highly dubious 'information' from neighbours, acquaintances and some bloke they spoke to on the bus. When the police say that they need the public's help, they mean that they need witnesses to come forward, people who might not think that something they saw or heard was significant, so didn't initially come forward. What they aren't doing is inviting people to conduct their own amateur, Miss Marple-style investigation.

But that never deters the press, particularly when they're in the middle of the post-Christmas, pre-New Year news shortage. Reporters endlessly go over police statements, interview relatives, and reconstruct the victim's last movements. It gets to the stage that you suspect that there's some kind of race going on between the various news outlets to be the first to unmask the murderer. Mind you, even with a suspect in custody, the media speculation continues, this time focusing on profiling the man arrested. According to The Guardian, he's a 'pillar of local society' - it's that old press standby of seeming amazed that murderers look just like the rest of us: they can even be respectable middle class property owners! I really don't know why the media always seem to think that we should be able to spot potential murderers. Indeed, the only person I know who has been convicted of murder, (a client I dealt with for several years through work), was outwardly one of the meekest people I've dealt with, and never presented any obvious threat either to myself or society. But then again, The Guardian article does keep coming back to the matter of the current suspect's wild hair. Maybe it's all in the hair - a tip to all murderers then: shave your head and nobody will ever suspect you.

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