Crafty criminologist takes on a murderer.
Byline: THE TOP TV TOPICS with paddy shennan, the man with the remote
HE MAY not be a detective, prosecutor, judge or jury, but criminologist Professor David Wilson, after endless poking, prodding and probing, made a pretty good job of getting under his subject's skin (Interview With A Murderer, Channel 4, Sunday).
Bert Spencer was his subject - Bert "I don't run and I don't hide" Spencer.
This is the man who served 15 years in jail for shooting dead his 70-year-old "friend" Hubert Wilkes, at Holloway House Farm, near Stourbridge, in 1979. The previous year, half a mile away at Yew Tree Farm, 13-year-old paper boy Carl Bridgewater was murdered - shot in the face with a shotgun at point-blank range, possibly after disturbing a burglary.
Spencer had initially been the prime suspect, but four men, who became known as the Bridgewater Four, ended up being jailed for Carl's murder in 1979. Their convictions were eventually quashed by the Court of Appeal in 1997.
"I did NOT kill Carl Bridgewater and I am here to prove to you that I did not," Spencer told us at the start of this engrossing 90-minute documentary.
Nothing was proved by anyone, but Spencer and Wilson - in their very different ways - provided a fascinating programme.
And you had to admire Wilson's style. He was polite, pleasant and possibly even chummy, striking up an easy rapport with his prey - before cornering him during their final, onscreen confrontation.
The Professor conducted a PScan test of Spencer for psychopathy, and told him he scored in the high range - before adding: "You are somebody I regard as a liar. As somebody who has bent the truth. As somebody who's manipulative, cunning."
Wilson's approach, it at least seemed to this viewer, had appeared to lull Spencer into a false sense of security, and, after the crafty criminologist dispensed with his Mr Chummy persona, the tension was cranked up to 11.
After the other half of this TV odd couple told him "I will raise this elsewhere", Spencer replied: "OK, do that." Wilson left the room, and his subject said: "Big silence in the room - he's a f*****g nutcase!" He then protested: "It's all a load of absolute nonsense," before beckoning his partner over with the words: "This psychopath needs a cuddle."
But then, seven weeks later, things got more interesting. Wilson landed an interview with Spencer's former wife, Janet, who gave viewers plenty of food for thought.
There are still more questions than answers, but this was brilliant TV.
Criminologist Professor David Wilson with convicted murderer Bert Spencer