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Notorious north-east murders are put in the spotlight


By David Porter

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David Wilson's Crime Files which airs on BBC Scotland turns its attention to the north-east in the next two episodes.

On Sunday, September 19 at 10.30pm the leading criminologist discusses how the popular view of women who kill as either mad or bad is both incorrect and outdated.

He examines two cases of murder by women that do not fit either category and looks at how society struggles to deal with these women.

Investigative journalist Fiona Walker is in Aberdeen to examine a crime from 1934 which shocked the country.

When housewife Jeannie Donald was arrested for the murder of eight-year-old Helen Priestly, the streets were filled with shocked onlookers, desperate for a glimpse of the ‘murderess’.

In the studio, Fiona shows David newspaper reports of the day and reveals original photos taken at the crime scene, as she builds a picture of the woman who failed to fit the stereotype.

David and Fiona are then joined by journalist and producer Isla Traquair to learn about another Aberdeen murder.

When 22-year-old Melanie Sturton’s body was found brutally murdered in a bloody and violent attack, the first assumption was that the killer was male.

But eventually, it was discovered that the perpetrator was a woman, 20-year-old Pamela Gourlay.

Having reported on the murder at the time, and now a close friend of Melanie’s family, Isla describes a killer who defies our preconceptions on gender and crime, and David reveals a new theory on why Pamela may have committed the crime.

David’s last guest is Dr Susan Batchelor who channelled her experience of teenage violence into a career spent trying to understand the relationship between crime and gender.

On Sunday 26, also at 10.30pm on BBC Scotland David opens the book on the Scottish criminal justice system to explore how police and prosecutors build a murder case when the vital component – the dead body – is nowhere to be seen.

He travels to Elgin to investigate one of Scotland’s most notorious no body murders – the case of Arlene Fraser, who disappeared from her home in 1998.

Her body has never been found, but her husband Nat is currently serving 17 years in prison for her murder.

In the studio, David meets former detective superintendent Alan Smith, the deputy senior investigating officer on the case.

Alan reveals some of the small pieces of evidence that helped to secure Nat’s conviction, and gives first-hand insight into the twists and turns of this complicated case.

David then speaks to Professor Peter Duff - an expert on the Scottish criminal justice system - who explains to David the strength of circumstantial evidence and details exactly how a murder conviction can be achieved without a body.

David’s final guest is Euan McIlvride from the Miscarriages of Justice Organisation.

In 1995, Euan was convicted of three counts of embezzlement and fraud, two of which were later quashed on appeal.

Euan speaks with David about the surprisingly high numbers of miscarriages of justice in Scotland, and the devastating effect that wrongful imprisonment can have.

Euan also discusses the controversial proposed Suzanne’s Law, and MOJO’s reason for not supporting it.



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