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.
Christopher Hartley was just 17 when he also pitched up in Blackpool looking for work in 1997. Sadly, the young man had the misfortune to meet the dangerous Stuart Diamond, who used Hartley to act out his murder fantasy.
Several of the crimes featured are dispiriting domestic murders. These include one committed by the mother-son duo Penelope John and Barry Rogers, who killed her mother in Pembrokeshire, already recounted in an earlier series.
Historic seaside murders explored in the series have been interesting glimpses into the resorts as they were in the past. Louisa Merrifield‘s killing of her Blackpool employer in 1953 was extraordinary. The new series will include further explorations of well-known past crimes, such as the murders of John George Haigh, Neville Heath and John Bodkin Adams.
In more recent times, some of the resorts have gone into something of a decline. If the holiday trade drops, a town can see a rise in drug dealing and disaffected youngsters with few prospects.
These factors were the backdrop to a case in Ilfracombe that features in the new series, that of the disappearance of teenager Charlotte Pinkney in 2004.
Lee Baker’s cruel murder spree
I understand the new series starts with the distressing case of Lee Baker, 19, which took place in prosperous Bournemouth in 1986. After being dropped by his girlfriend, Baker went on a horrific rampage, murdering two people, including his girlfriend’s mother, and the attempted murder of two others.
Before appearing on this episode, I went to the National Archives to research the Baker case. What struck me about it was how inarticulate Baker was in his brutal and crazed campaign of violence and how unbearably cruel he was to his former girlfriend, Caroline Goode.
Murder by the Sea interviews psychologists, former detectives and others involved in the cases. It often makes a meaningful effort to explore the impact of the crimes on the victims and families, while giving valuable insights into how and why they happened.
We do like to be beside the seaside – but sometimes the people encountered there are capable of terrible greed and callousness.
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