I’ve heard CBS Reality’s Murder by the Sea is returning in January (Tuesday 7th 10pm).
For those who haven’t seen it, the premise is that the jolly seaside resort is often the setting for unusual and sometimes frightening homicides.
Why should a place we associate with fun, sun and relaxation suffer such crimes? Having been involved as a talking head in all four series so far, I think several factors are important.
There is the transient nature of holiday resorts. Thousands of pleasure-seekers and workers flock in during the season, meaning many let their guard down and mingle with strangers in search of a good time.
Blackpool and Ilfracombe
One episode was about Stephen Akinmurele, 21, who moved to Blackpool to work as a barman. He murdered three people in their senior years, including his former landlady.
Of the six cases featured in the latest Murder by the Sea series, Louisa May Merrifield’s is the one I would most like to research further.
The Blackpool Poisoner was the final episode on CBS Reality’s British series last week, and it is fascinating.
In 1953 Louisa went to work as a housekeeper for a rather cranky old gal called Sarah Ricketts, aged 79. As I point out during the programme, Louisa was something of a dodgy character, having had 20-odd jobs in three years prior to this.
Murder at the bungalow
Louisa and her third husband, Alfred (who was 24 years her senior at 71) moved into Mrs Ricketts two-bed bungalow at 339 Devonshire Road, Blackpool.
The housekeeper got her employer to change her will, leaving her £3,000 bungalow to Louisa and her husband. Soon after Louisa put rat poison in the old lady’s favourite treat – a jar full of jam.
As Murder by the Sea makes, Louisa was greedy and boastful. She made several blunders and was soon arrested.
This new series about how police question suspected killers begins on CBS Reality on Thursday 3 January.
I am a contributor to it and had to do a lot of research on the six cases included. Watching or listening to lengthy questioning sessions was tedious at times. Unlike TV dramas, there usually isn’t much drama.
At the same time it requires patience for those vital moments when a callous killer may give themselves away.
They vary considerably here, from chilling psychopath Israel Keyes in the US to UK killers Nathan Matthews and Shauna Hoare, who killed teen Becky Watts. The latter tragic case starts the series.
Some of the killers are hard to pin down because they are psychopaths who lie easily and feel no guilt. Others are stupid and incompetent, and soon outfoxed by detectives.
The series, presented by Professor David Wilson, gives rare insights into the reality of all types of homicide and the challenges facing police. But be warned – the cases are generally sad and chilling.
Presented by crime author Geoffrey Wansell, the first case looked at is Stephen Akinmurele. It’s an intriguing but chilling story.
Akinmurele is a little known case, because he killed himself before he could be tried. He is Britain’s most prolific young serial killer, having been charged with murdering five elderly people between 1995 and 1998. Some of these were committed in Blackpool.
I’ve seen the opener and will preview it in full shortly.
I became a fan of author Karin Slaughter when I was a judge for the Crime Writers’ Association Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award a couple of years ago.
This is for the year’s best thriller and her entry in 2015 was Cop Town. The story is set in Atlanta in 1974, a time when the police force is segregated on racial and gender lines.
Karin Slaughter appearing on Written in Blood
I was one of the judges who loved the book and was delighted when it was chosen as the winner.
Written in Blood
When I saw that Karin Slaughter was to be featured on CBS Reality’s Written in Blood series, I dropped everything to watch a preview.
The premise for Written in Blood is a clever one. Crime writer Simon Toyne meets six renowned fellow authors to discuss the influence of true-crime cases on their books.
Karin and Simon Toyne
In this episode, Simon travels to Karin’s home city of Atlanta, Georgia. The case she discuses is that of a vicious travelling spree killer called Paul John Knowles, known rather luridly as the Casanova Killer.
What influenced Karin Slaughter
He was certainly no romantic figure. He was a kidnapper, rapist and murderer. His violent moves between states made him hard to catch for law enforcement agencies back in the 1970s.
Karin, who’s sold something like 35million books, talks about his hatred of women and how the case made an impact on her.
Karin Slaughter’s home city of Atlanta
Though I found the pace of the episode a little plodding in places, it’s certainly an interesting snapshot of a superb author. It goes out next Tuesday, 13 November, on CBS Reality at 10pm.
Other writers featured in the series include Peter Robinson and Tess Gerritson.
By the way, Cop Town is a fascinating period thriller. It follows two young women who join Atlanta’s police force at a time when it has just started to accept women officers in numbers. Ostracised by the men, Kate and Maggie struggle to fit in, while a cop killer stalks the streets. It evokes a time and place I knew little about, and it’s a gripper.