An insight into the criminal mind, this is a major series of the most extraordinary stories behind the greatest crimes and trials of the century. Serial killers, gangsters, assassins and war criminals – Great Crimes and Trials sheds light on 26 crimes that shocked the world, bringing back memories of some of the most notorious cases of the twentieth century.
True stories carefully researched and reconstructed with actual archive footage are all covered here in exacting detail, alongside other shocking stories of murder and mayhem. Cases which have become almost legendary in the annals of crime and detection, each episode combines archive with new interviews to reconstruct one story, coming face-to-face with the felon, analysing the individual and his motive, explaining how the crime was committed and showing breakthroughs in investigations alongside details of the trial.
Narrated by Robert Powell, this gripping and absorbing series charts the crimes of 26 of the most infamous villains ever including Dillinger, Manson, The Yorkshire Ripper, Jack the Stripper and Dr Crippen. With its researchers gaining unprecedented world-wide access to picture libraries, syndicated sources and over 250,000 hours of archive footage, these are the definitive accounts of these appalling murders containing much material that has never been seen before.
Produced by Nugus/Martin Productions in association with Arts and Entertainment Network
Part 1: John Christie of Rillington Place
He had an obsession with disinfecting his flat. When he moved out four bodies were discovered there and two more in the garden. When arrested it became horrifically clear that he had also killed a mother and child in 1949 – a crime for which another man had already been hanged.
On 9 March 1950, an illiterate, partially crippled man called Timothy Evans was hanged at HMP Pentonville for the murders of his wife Beryl and daughter Geraldine. During his trial, he accused the main prosecution witness and his downstairs neighbour at 10 Rillington Place, John Reginald ‘Reg’ Halliday Christie, of being the true killer. No one would believe him for another three years, during which time Christie would lure at least four more women to their deaths (including his wife, Ethel). Tragically, Evans had been telling the truth and died an innocent man.
Part 2: The Black Panther
When in 1975, the kidnapping of a 17-year-old girl was linked to the brutal murder of three British sub-postmasters the police knew they were hunting a cold blooded psychopath. For the girl, her ordeal ended tragically. Months after her abduction from her home in the village of Highley, her body was found hanging in a cold and lonely drainage shaft.
Donald Neilson – “The Black Panther”, had used stealth and meticulous planning to execute this terrible crime like all his others. He had considered this kidnapping for almost three years, ever since he had read that his victim had been left 82,500 Pounds. It would take another eleven months of painstaking police work, failed ransom payments and a chance encounter before the ‘Black Panther’ was eventually cornered and sent to life imprisonment.
Part 3: Murph the Surf
In late October 1964, thieves stole 22 gems from New York City’s Museum of Natural History. Three of the stones were so famous they would be impossible to sell. Within 48 hours, aided by confidential police sources, two men in New York and another two in Miami were arrested.
It wasn’t the perfect crime. In fact, the 1964 robbery of precious gems from a New York museum was noteworthy for the amateur tactics of the trio responsible. One of the thieves was surfing champion Jack “Murph the Surf” Murphy. Catching Murphy and his cohorts was relatively easy. But tracking down the rare gems led investigators on a wild odyssey with mixed results.
Part 4: Jack the Stripper
Jack the Ripper may get all the fame, but his 1960s counterpart, Jack the Stripper, will really send shivers down your spine. At least six women, all prostitutes, were murdered at his hand–possibly more. Most intriguing of all…he was never caught.
In 1964 and 1965, Jack the Stripper, a depraved, unindentified serial killer, is believed to have claimed the lives of six female sex workers in what came to be known as the Hammersmith Nude Murders. All victims were found murdered in or near the River Thames, and the fact that they were all prostitutes and had all been stripped nude led to the killer being nicknamed ‘Jack the Stripper’.
Despite a massive police operation, he seemed to anticipate their every move. He loved to taunt and mock the detectives and killed with impunity. Eventually, he was trapped by bluff, but never caught and brought to justice. To this day no one has been charged.
Part 5: The McKay Kidnapping
It was the first in Britain for centuries. In a cruel and callous kidnapping a woman became the innocent victim of mistaken identity. When kidnappers mistook Muriel McKay for Rupert Murdoch’s wife Anna, the case would go gone down in history as one of the most notorious murder cases of our time and Britain’s first kidnapping. After many efforts to catch her abductors, the police were led to a lonely farmhouse – and two Indo-Trinidadian brothers, Arthur and Nizamodeen Hosein with a ghastly secret.
After seeing Rupert Murdoch and his wife Anna on television one night, the brothers put a plan together – to kidnap Anna Murdoch for ransom. On the 29th December, 1969, assailants broke into the home and abducted McKay while her husband was at work. In a bungled extortion attempt they thought they had taken Mr Murdoch’s then wife Anna.
During the trial on September 1970, the brothers both blamed each other for the planning and executing of the crime but neither confessed. To this day, no one knows what happened to Muriel McKay except the two brothers.
Part 6: The Yorkshire Ripper
The reign of terror that followed the first murder of a Leeds prostitute in 1975, cut a trail of fear across northern England. The ‘Ripper’ never struck twice in the same place. But thankfully, one evening he made a mistake…
Between 1975 and 1981, Peter Sutcliffe, known as the Yorkshire Ripper, murdered 13 women in brutal slayings committed with hammers and screwdrivers. He attacked at least eight more who survived, but a stunningly mishandled police investigation meant he remained at large for six years. It was not a simple matter of incompetence – dogged police work dragged Sutcliffe into the frame repeatedly: over the years, he was interviewed no fewer than nine times in connection with the killings, and released each time. He was diagnosed by four psychiatrists as being a paranoid schizophrenic, acting under the delusion that God had instructed him to kill prostitutes. But eventually in 1981, May 22, Sutcliffe, who had also pleaded guilty to seven attempted murders, was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 30 years.