Last Night’s TV – Tears, Lies and Videotape


This wasn’t quite the ‘enlightening’ show I’d expected it to; I had thought that Professors Canter and Ekman would give us an in-depth ‘how to spot a liar’ sort of thing, but in fact, although they did discuss how body language often betrayed the lies of those featured telling them, I had, as I say, expected a somewhat more technical explanation.

Nonetheless, it was a very interesting programme and one that shows the gullibility of not only ‘us’, as in the public, but the police too, and even those closest to the supposed victim, who in these cases, turned out to be the perpetrator of a crime.

And of coursed, hindsight is 20/20 and when one looks back at footage of the crocodile tears invoked for the cameras by the likes of Karen Matthews and Tracie Andrews, one can see that there were of course ‘signs’ that even people with a rudimentary awareness of body language and its use in deception could see…

Tracie Andrews

That said, I never believed Karen Matthews’ story, nor Tracie Andrews, nor Gordon Wardell’s – the man who said his wife had been abducted in order to get her to open the safe at the bank she worked at – and one of the detectives working on the case revealed how his mother had called him having seen Wardell’s TV appeal to say “He’s the one that did it, that husband”

For someone who wouldn’t do it, it’s hard to imagine how these people have the audaciousness to not only lie to the police but to millions of people via TV appeals, but most especially hurt by her terrible lies in the case of Tracie Andrews was her victim, Lee Harvey’s mother. She actually held Tracie’s hand as she made her emotional plea for witnesses to the press. To later find out that hand was used to murder her son must’ve been the cruellest of betrayals.

professor david-canterWe saw testimony from Professor Canter who discussed the notorious Soham murderer Ian Huntley.

During one of many interviews with the media, Huntley stated “It makes it worse knowing I was the last person to speak to them. If only I’d kept them here longer or something…” As Canter pointed out, how could he know he was the last person to see them or speak to them unless he’d killed them?Ian Huntley

I remember that interview and I recall remarking on it to my daughter who at the time was in fact studying at University for a forensic psychology degree and we pondered that very point. However, we came to the conclusion at the time that he may have meant that he’d been the last known person to speak to them, as according to the police at the time, nobody else had come forward to say they’d seen Holly and Jessica after they saw Huntley. We now of course know why.

However, I was totally taken in by the TV appeals made by Fadi Nasri, who’d paid a ‘hitman’ to kill his wife and Paul Dyson who’d murdered his fiancé. paul-dyson

Dyson’s tears during the press conference about her disappearance seemed genuine, and as Professer Canter pointed out last night, they were genuine, but they were tears of remorse for what he’d done, not tears about the ‘fact’ that at the time, his fiancé was assumed missing.

Human nature is both a fascinating and an horrific thing; to coldly sit and lie to everybody – police, press, public, but worst of all, loved ones and family – must be an enormous burden to bear actually. To know that you have in fact killed someone and, as in Tracie Andrews case, have your victim’s mother supporting and comforting you must surely be horrendous? But there, that’s making the assumption that these people have a conscience and are capable of feeling guilt, which may be not applicable to these monstrous people.

In Tracie Andrews’ case, we heard how she’d made what one police detective called “a serious attempt” at suicide as the net drew in around her. I wonder if this attempt was prompted by guilt at what she’d done or the knowledge that her lies were about to be exposed? I don’t suppose we’ll ever know.

However, the main feature of last night’s programme was Karen Matthews who, according to her closest friends – and despite once admitting her complicity in the crime – now maintains her innocence and insists she had nothing to do with the abduction of her daughter Shannon.

To me anyway, it was clear she was lying from the outset. This became completely obvious to me when she used the words, “My beautiful princess daughter”. It was clearly scripted; nobody uses that phraseology in reality and she’d evidently given a great deal of thought to what she was going to say to the press. Here’s a clip from one of the many reports regarding Shannon’s disappearance and when she was found…

However, one of perhaps the wider issues and saddest indictments about our society is that while Shannon was still missing – and nobody knew about her mother’s complicity in that disappearance – the outpouring of public offers of money and sympathy that we’d seen when Madeleine McCann went missing, simply didn’t happen. And why? Because Shannon and her odd and disparate family were of Britain’s sub-class, and Shannon wasn’t as valued by society as a whole as Madeleine McCann was.

For Madeleine, millions of pounds poured into the fund to find her; celebrities and high profile people such as David Beckham made TV appeals for her to be found, but no such attention was forthcoming for Shannon Matthews. And despite Karen Matthews’ friends saying they don’t believe she did it for the money – namely, the reward offered for finding her – I believe that was precisely why she did it…

I believe she thought that the Find Madeleine fund would be replicated and become a Find Shannon fund from which she could drain money. I don’t believe it’s beyond belief that at some point, she might have killed Shannon in order to stop her secret ever coming out. Luckily, things didn’t get that far for as cunning as she was, she wasn’t intelligent enough – nor were her accomplices – to pull it off, which I still believe is the only reason Shannon is alive today.

Overall, this was a highly interesting programme but in actuality, it served little purpose other than to appeal to the ‘morbid’ fascination that we have with murder and those who commit it. The only person featured last night who wasn’t a murderer was Karen Matthews; everybody else had murdered their victims.

However, as many people mentioned last night, from now on – or rather, since Karen Matthews’ numerous TV appeals turned out to be one lie after another – when and if a ‘victim’ makes a TV appeal, we’ll perhaps spend less time listening to what they say and more time paying attention to how long they blink or if they ‘look’ guilty, if they cry too much or too little…

In doing so, someone who could in fact be innocent may be wrongly judged and their appeals fall on deaf ears when the viewing public make amateur psychological evaluations. So if there’s any ‘danger’ inherent in shows of this nature it’s that, but otherwise, it was, as I said, morbidly fascinating to revisit the events surrounding some of Britain’s most high profile cases but as I also mentioned earlier, I had expected a good deal more input from Professors Canter and Ekman than there actually was.

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.