Tears, Lies and Videotape – ITV1

“Please come home Shannon, if you’re out there come home. If anyone’s got my daughter, my beautiful Princess daughter please bring her home safe. I need her home.”
Karen Matthews

When a murder or abduction case captures the attention of the media, the cameras arrive and police know an appeal from the victim’s devastated family will make full use of the publicity. Desperate relatives appear to make raw, emotional appeals for information. But sometimes the emotion is fake. In Tears, Lies and Videotape, Professor David Canter the UK’s leading forensic psychologist and Professor Paul Ekman the world’s foremost criminal body language expert, examine the evidence and show how these deceptive storytellers are eventually caught out.

The programme studies the cases of several well-known criminals who have one thing in common – they all denied their crime and lied repeatedly to police before eventually being found out.

On February 19th 2008 distraught mother Karen Matthews dialled 999 to report her nine-year-old daughter missing. The disappearance of her little girl, Shannon, was to trigger the biggest police search in West Yorkshire for over 27 years and Karen’s first media appeal for information on her daughter’s whereabouts showed a mother apparently living through her own worst nightmare.

“Not only were the words that she was using all absolutely spot on, as though she’d scripted those, full of emotion. It was her physical appearance as well that was absolutely striking. She was every inch the mother who didn’t know what to do. It’s the eyes themselves. And if you look at that bit of footage they are the eyes of a woman in utter despair.”
Richard Edwards – Yorkshire Evening Post.

However as the search continued and the days wore on, Karen Matthew’s behaviour gradually changed. A press conference set up thirteen days after Shannon disappeared saw a calm woman take to the stage exhibiting little signs of anxiety or fear. And it seemed that that instead of becoming more frantic as time went on, she was becoming more relaxed.

“We see very little signs of anguish of anxiety, of fear. That is rather flat emotionally and why should it be there? She knows her daughter is just fine.”
Professor Paul Ekman – Criminal body language expert.

After 24 days the incredible news surfaced that Shannon had been found alive, hidden in a flat just a mile and half from her home. Just over three weeks later Karen Matthews was arrested over her involvement in the abduction of her daughter. Disturbing stories began to emerge of her strange behaviour throughout those past few weeks. The public, who had prayed endlessly for Shannon’s return, were repelled by reports of Karen laughing and joking, dancing to police mobile ring tones and forcing tears out for TV appeals.

“Karen didn’t quite seem concerned enough. When she saw Shannon’s face on the screen she said, ‘There’s Shannon she’s famous.’ And I remember thinking, ‘She’s not famous, she’s missing.’”
Richard Edwards – Yorkshire Evening Post.

Professor Paul Ekman, the world’s leading criminal body language examines television footage of Karen while Shannon was still missing. Her plea for Shannon to come home shows her shoulder rise up twice in a row and Ekman reveals this small gesture slip is something he has come across in many situations. In every case the person has always been lying.

In December 1996, Tracie Andrews made an emotional plea for the murderer of her boyfriend Lee Harvey to come forward. Tracie claimed herself and Lee had been the victims of road rage. Her lies were so convincing she even held hands with Lee’s mother during the press conference, before later being uncovered as his killer.

“The interesting thing about Tracie Andrews is she was a model. So she’s actually quite used to being in front of cameras and photographed. And I think her confidence in giving an account of what happened to her and her willingness to portray it, is drawing on her being used to being in front of cameras. And she has her hair down in front of her face so that she doesn’t actually need to show too much of her face in this process.”
Professor David Canter – Forensic Psychologist

Tracie’s story was originally accepted by the authorities as the truth but as her confidence grew she began to slip up. At one point, when describing the attacker, she let down her guard for just a moment.

“Her eyes flashed and what you saw in that moment was that this woman is capable of rage, and again, all the motor drives [cameras] hit instantly on that moment. Even if you just kind of missed it or she’d been looking the other way, the fact that all the photographers reacted meant that everybody’s eyes were focused on this brief flash of anger which was instantly controlled and contained.”
Rod Chaytor – Daily Mirror

“She gives an account without being asked questions, without being prompted. That suggests that she prepared what she would say. She did her homework.”
Professor Paul Ekman – Criminal body language expert.

Other cases featured in the programme include Ian Huntley who murdered schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, Gordon Wardell who claimed his wife was murdered during a professional robbery, Fadi Nasri who paid another man to murder his wife Nisha, Paul Dyson who strangled his fiancé just 24 hours before Valentines Day, and Michael Gifford Hull who killed his wife and buried her in nearby woods.

When criminals lie to the camera they are often full of emotion, excessively descriptive in their version of events or unusually calm. However, at some point their lies catch up with them and when they do, the police are ready and waiting.

Examining the evidence, Tears, Lies & Videotape finds out whether we could have known these criminals were lying and if the signs were there all along.

Monday, 18 May 2009, 9:00PM – 10:00PM