How wily old Sarge proved the case for more po­lice on the street

Daily Mail - - Television - CHRISTO­PHER STEVENS

NI­CHoLAS Robinson was 19 years old, a trainee brick­layer, en­gaged to a girl he’d met on the bus. Her name was Shan­non, and nick was talk­ing to her on the phone last year when he an­swered the door and was stabbed by a hooded man.

the teenager tried to run, but col­lapsed. As he lay dy­ing, he called 999. The Mur­der De­tec­tives (C4) re­played that last record­ing — his blurted swear­words, more in sur­prise than anger, and a gasp: ‘I’ve been stabbed re­ally bad.’

tV documentary crews have be­come a com­mon fea­ture in the le­gal sys­tem, fol­low­ing drug busts and beat bob­bies, le­gal aid solic­i­tors and traf­fic war­dens. But this is the first time cam­eras have had full ac­cess to a mur­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and the re­sults were fas­ci­nat­ing.

Sched­uled in three episodes on suc­ces­sive nights, the first part re­vealed how sim­i­lar a real po­lice case is to tV de­tec­tive dra­mas, but also how much more im­por­tant the lower ranks are in re­al­ity.

the most cru­cial break­throughs were made by the fam­ily li­ai­son team, which un­cov­ered a pos­si­ble mo­tive for the mur­der, and by a vet­eran sergeant, who had been pa­trolling the streets for so long that he had known all the lo­cal bad lads since they were in baby bug­gies.

More im­por­tantly, he heard all the gos­sip. His name was Ivor, but ev­ery­one just called him Sarge.

When the hunt for ni­cholas’s killer be­gan, Sarge’s re­sponse was to stand on his patch and look around. He wanted to know who was star­ing at him, who was avoid­ing his gaze, which small-time gang­sters were con­spic­u­ous by their ab­sence.

the CID squad ar­rested the wrong sus­pect, mis­led by DnA ev­i­dence that had ap­par­ently been planted at the scene. But Sarge sim­ply kept his ears open, un­til an anony­mous in­for­mant breathed a name.

this was not a po­lit­i­cal documentary. It had no agenda. the cop­pers were not plead­ing for more fund­ing or less pa­per­work.

But there could be no stronger way to make the case for more uni­formed of­fi­cers on the streets. Men like Sarge are be­yond price. In the light of this show, Chan­cel­lor Ge­orge os­borne’s un­ex­pected de­ci­sion to pro­tect po­lice bud­gets looks more than ever like the only sane choice.

the one ir­ri­ta­tion in the Mur­der De­tec­tives is its ten­dency to slip moody land­scape shots into the edit. ni­cholas died in Stokes Croft, Bris­tol’s rough­est in­ner city area.

But im­ages of the Sec­ond Sev­ern Cross­ing, 15 miles away, kept pop­ping up — at­mo­spheric, and com­pletely ir­rel­e­vant. If you wanted at­mos­phere, Lon­don

Spy (BBC2) served up para­noia and gloomy shad­ows at a top se­cret con­flab in a dis­used ware­house filled with in­dus­trial heat­ing pipes. this was sup­posed to be the one place in Lon­don where our hero, former male pros­ti­tute Danny (Ben Whishaw), felt safe — why it sud­denly be­came his of­fi­cial head­quar­ters, open to all, was not ex­plained.

Lon­don Spy is the most thor­oughly dis­taste­ful BBC drama since the Fall. As Danny in­ves­ti­gates his boyfriend Alex’s mur­der, there are spies, drug deal­ers and gigo­los queu­ing up to tell him that Alex had a murky sex­ual past.

Danny doesn’t want to be­lieve it, but he has to imag­ine it in graphic de­tail, just to be sure. this pro­gramme is noth­ing more than a suc­ces­sion of seedy fan­tasies strung to­gether with a frayed thread of es­pi­onage.

But when Danny un­cov­ered a mo­tive for his lover’s killing, that thread snapped. We are sup­posed to be­lieve that su­per-ge­nius Alex had de­vised a com­puter al­go­rithm that could pin­point dis­hon­est lan­guage — a math­e­mat­i­cal lie de­tec­tor.

that’s a sci-fi de­vice so dread­ful that even Doc­tor Who would re­ject it. And it con­firms that Lon­don Spy was made just be­cause many of the pro­tag­o­nists are gay. What other rea­son could there be? Cer­tainly not the qual­ity of the plot.

Former BBC con­troller of drama Ben Stephen­son used to moan there weren’t enough ho­mo­sex­ual char­ac­ters on tV and pledged to com­mis­sion the first good ‘gay script’ to land on his desk.

Fun­nily enough, Lon­don Spy is writ­ten by Stephen­son’s part­ner, tom Rob Smith. now there’s a co­in­ci­dence.

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