I’ve come down with a case of homoeapathy so in the words of Monty Python, now for something completely different.
The man of the title is psychologist Paul Britton who, it would appear, is the man who convinced the police they should go after Colin Stagg for the brutal murder of Rachel Nickell on Wimbledon Common in 1992. Frankly, the events of the case make me wonder if Britton had watched one too many episodes of “Cracker”, the TV series about a forensic psychologist, and had begun to confuse television fiction with reality.
I am not for one moment suggesting that forensic psychology is a “woo” subject, just that Britton’s application of it had crossed the line. Forensic psychology was invented by the FBI and proved to be a useful tool in tracking down serial killers by means of the creation of a psychological profile which helps invesigators narrow down the number of suspects. When they think they have their man, though, American investigators still look for physical evidence linking him to the crime. Britton’s application of the technique was somewhat different. As I understand it, the events unfolded as follows:
Colin Stagg wrote a letter in reply to an ad in a Lonely Hearts magazine. The woman receiving it thought that Stagg sounded a little iffy and took the letter to the police. The police advised her that the letter committed no offense but it would appear that they still retained it because it ended up in the hands of the team investigating Rachel Nickell’s murder.
Paul Britton was advising the police on the case and constructed an offender profile. It would appear that he expressed the view that Colin Stagg could fit the profile. So far, so orthodox, and if all that subsequently happenned was that police questioned Stagg and looked for physical evidence linking him to the murder I don’t think they could be faulted.
In fact, the police decided to set up a honey-trap. They got a policewoman, “Lizzie James”, to contact Stagg claiming to be a friend of the woman who had placed the lonely hearts ad. “James” told him that although Stagg did not appeal to the advertiser, he did to her. She tried but failed to get him to admit to being the killer.
Lacking any other suspect (had they been looking?) the police decided to arrest and charge Stagg anyway and to present the offender profile, plus things he had allegedly said that could be used to make him fit the profile, as evidence. Essentially, their case amounted to “He’s a wrong un, we can tell just by looking at him”. Unsurprisingly (except to the police and the tabloid press) the judge threw the case out.
The gutter journalists then proceeded to show what a lovely bunch they are by labelling Stagg as “the man who got away with murder”, making him an outcast from society and totally unemployable. Amongst other claims, they alleged that he was into black magic. In fact, according to journalist Ted Hynds (who is co-author of “Pariah”, Stagg’s account of the case), the books on his shelves are actually on Celtic mythology and early English history. I don’t know how the confusion as to their nature arose. It could be that the gutter journalists are too pig ignorant to know the difference between history, mythology and magic. Or it could be middle-class prejudice against a working-class man who dares to have intellectual interests.
“Lizzie James”, incidently, left the police in 1998 on health grounds. In 2001 the Metropolitan Police paid her £125,000 in an out-of-court settlement of her claims of psychiatric injury. Given that she almost certainly honestly believed she had been sent to date a psychotic sex killer there is merit in her claim. But what compensation has Colin Stagg received for having his life destroyed? Contrary to what you might read in the gutter press, the answer is nothing, zilch and half of sod all.