Murder under the microscope

2011-12-05 00:00

A LIFE-LONG interest in true crime, and gangsters like the Kray twins, dubbed “Britain's own Godfathers”, led British journalist and broadcaster Fred Dinenage to host the new Crime and Investigation Network show Fred Dinenage: Murder Casebook, which airs at 9 pm on Fridays, starting on December 9.

“What we have tried to do in this series is to pose questions around each case,” Dinenage explains.

“We wanted to be able to look more deeply into their cases — to ask: Was the right person caught? What would have happened to them had this case happened today? Were other people involved and never caught?”

These questions are particularly pertinent in the case of Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in Britain. She was found guilty of murdering her estranged lover, David Blakely, at close range with a revolver. The case caused controversy because the public mood was for clemency for an act of passion against a man who had punched her in the abdomen whilst she was pregnant.

In the opening episode, Dinenage and his colleague, criminologist Professor David Wilson, examine what punishment Ellis might have received had she committed the murder today.

The two men also look at the case of John Haigh, the man dubbed the Acid Bath Murderer, who was found guilty of six grotesque murders in which each victim was drained of blood and later dissolved in acid. In the episode, which can be seen on December 16, Dinenage and Wilson test to see how long it would take to dissolve a (dead) chicken in acid, as part of their forensic analysis of the case.

Other cases covered in the series include: The Tea Cup Poisoner, Graham Frederick Young, who was fascinated with poisons and toxic chemicals and poisoned his entire family at the age of 14; John Christie, who was found guilty of murdering six women and storing their bodies in his home in Rillington Place between 1943 and 1953; George Joseph Smith, the Brides in the Bath killer, who left his victims with broken hearts, empty bank accounts and in some cases, dead; and the Welsh Child Killer, Harold Jones, who murdered two young girls in 1921 and may have gone on to become “Jack the Stripper”, an unidentified serial killer in the 1960s.

Dinenage is also a respected author, having ghost written the autobiographies My Story and Our Story for the Kray twins. Asked how the collaboration came about, he said: “I first met Reggie Kray about 20 years ago. He’d been touched by a film on our nightly news magazine programme, Coast to Coast, about a father of two young girls who’d had life-saving kidney transplants. He wanted to help raise some money.

“We later met in Parkhurst Prison on the Isle of Wight. It was there we first spoke about a book. Then I met his twin, Ron, in Broadmoore Hospital … I found the Krays easy to deal with — though, of course, they were both old-age pensioners when we met!”

Dinenage is one of the longest-serving broadcasters on British television. He was the presenter of the children’s shows, hosted coverage of two Olympic Games, and is currently the anchor of the regional news show Meridian Tonight.

Asked to recall the oddest thing that ever happened to him, Dinenage said: “Reggie [Kray] called me about making one or two changes to the book, Our Story.

“It wasn’t a long call — especially when I told him he was ‘live’ on-air — but our viewers were fascinated.”

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