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DVD Review

DVD cover

Crimes That Shook Britain


Acorn Media
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: E
Available 12 April 2010

Crimes That Shook Britain investigates some of the country’s most terrible murders through the eyes of people who suffered at the heart of the crime. Together with reconstructions, key interviews and archive material these programmes examine the crime and the criminal, revealing how the fall-out from the cases led to significant changes in British law...

Crimes That Shook Britain features six cases which shocked the UK. Over this two-disc collection we revisit the crimes of serial killer Harold Shipman; the kidnap of Stephanie Slater; the Russell murders; serial killer Beverley Allitt; the Hungerford massacre and the murder of Sarah Payne.

The series is interesting from the point of view that it revisits terrible crimes that gripped the UK as a whole, but offers eye witness accounts that brings the whole thing home to everyone - that these were normal people who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. In the case of Sarah Payne, it explains just how she disappeared and how her family coped with the unfolding events.

However, there are serious flaws in this series. A lot of the events are glossed over and the motives (if any) are never explored. For example, we hear that Sarah Payne would have died quickly, but as her body was found naked (this is hinted at and never fully stated) it would suggest that she was sexually abused by her abductor. While examples like this you may feel should be glossed over on the grounds of taste, this ignoring of facts stops us from realising the true horrors that the criminal perpetrated.

Likewise, with Harold Shipman, a lot of the information is glossed over and in one instance two doctors, who are interviewed for this documentary separately, give conflicting statements as to when one doctor had suspected Shipman of being a murderer.

While this is an interesting series it does leave you with more questions than it actually answers. We never find out what Shipman did with the trinkets he stole from his victims (if indeed he did steal them).

Also, because this series was originally broadcast with advertisement breaks, we are fed the same information several times (in case we'd forgotten) and every now and then we get a quick recap on the events that have happened so far. This feels a little patronising. In fact, the whole production seems to have been constructed with the very stupidest members of society in mind. Episodes like The Hungerford Massacre are told out of synch, flitting back and forwards through time in a desperate attempt to hold the attention of those who might otherwise switch over to another channel. With this episode, in particular, we never learn anything about the motives of the shootings? Instead this episode in particular seems to focus on the events that happen around the eyewitness accounts that are retold here instead of looking at the entire events in order.

Probably the best episode, from an information point of view is the kidnap of Stephanie Slater. Because the victim, Slater, gives her version of events, we much better understand how she was abducted and treated. The motives of the criminal (financial) are also offered, however it's quite obvious that he was quite capable of killing Slater if the she hadn't tried to form a friendship with him.

On balance this is an interesting collection, but don't expect it to really offer up any fresh ideas on why the crimes were committed.


Darren Rea

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