Body­cam footage in this mur­der hunt throws the viewer into the thick of it

The Guardian - G2 - - Reviews Television - By Sam Wol­las­ton

Cam­eras – they are ev­ery­where. Not just all over our streets and roads, but also in our cars, look­ing out, dash­cams. To lower an in­sur­ance pre­mium, per­haps, or to record traf­fic in­ci­dents, or crazy stuff to up­load to Youtube. Or, as in the footage here in An Hour to Catch a Killer With Trevor Mc­don­ald (ITV), to record some­one’s last-known move­ments.

Filmed from in­side an­other ve­hi­cle that was park­ing at the time, a white Kia pulls up in an ur­ban res­i­den­tial street in Gateshead. A wo­man in a brown coat gets out of the pas­sen­ger side, says good­bye to the driver, and heads to a house. Her name is Alice Rug­gles, and within an hour she will be dead. “Alice, Alice, Alice,” cries her flat­mate on the har­row­ing 999 call record­ing. “Oh my God, she’s dead, she’s dead.”

More cam­eras, body­cams now, worn by the mur­der squad. We will see ex­actly what they see, we are told. Although not, thank­fully, the bath­room where Alice’s body lies with stab wounds to the neck. De­tec­tive Chief In­spec­tor Lisa Theaker, who is in charge, must act quickly. De­ci­sions made in the first hour of a mur­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion, when ev­i­dence is fresh and un­tainted, are crit­i­cal. The po­lice mur­der man­ual calls this The Golden Hour, says Sir Trevor, from a bridge over the Tyne.

DCI Theaker makes the right de­ci­sions: se­cures the crime scene, cor­rob­o­rates wit­ness ac­counts. And or­ders checks on phone records, CCTV and au­to­matic num­ber­plate recog­ni­tion (ANPR) – which seems to make up the lion’s share of de­tec­tive work nowa­days, and is how peo­ple get caught and con­victed. It might not be the best whodunnit. “Who” be­comes ob­vi­ous as soon as they – and we – learn about the ex-boyfriend. And hear an­other pre­vi­ous 999 record­ing, this time made by Alice, calmer than the other, made by her flat­mate, but no less chilling. Since she split with her boyfriend, he has hacked into her Face­book ac­count and her phone, she tells the op­er­a­tor. “And then, tonight, I had a knock at my door and there was no one there, and then it hap­pened again, two or three times.” His name is Harry Dhillon.

Theaker is not rul­ing out other av­enues. They are look­ing at the flat­mate’s story, about how the door was locked from the in­side when she came home so she had to climb through the win­dow. Could she re­ally have got through, when the win­dow is so small and so high? And is this big foot­print on the sofa re­ally hers? It’s a red her­ring though – the an­swers to all of the above turn out to be yes. Theaker, and we, know who the killer is.

She or­ders Dhillon’s ar­rest, at the Ed­in­burgh bar­racks where he serves as a lance cor­po­ral. Again, by mur­der squad of­fi­cers wear­ing body­cams, so Lisa Theaker, the de­tec­tive chief in­spec­tor in charge of the mur­der hunt

we see it all, as they do. He is bun­dled into a van and driven back to Ty­ne­side, where we join them in the in­ter­view room. The ac­cess is ex­tra­or­di­nary, as it was in the BBC se­ries The De­tec­tives, which has just ended. The Bri­tish po­lice ap­pear to have be­come more open to TV doc­u­men­tary. Per­haps the BBC show delved deeper into the painstak­ing nitty-gritty of po­lice pro­ce­dure, but the body­cam footage in this one – which could have been a gim­mick – re­ally does add some­thing, throw­ing you into the thick of it. Maybe I would have no­ticed the scratches on Dhillon’s face any­way, and spec­u­lated on their sig­nif­i­cance, but I am feel­ing less of a viewer and more part of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

I wouldn’t mind work­ing un­der Theaker; she seems to be an ex­cel­lent boss – driven and metic­u­lous, but also one who un­der­stands the im­por­tance of praise, big­ging up mem­bers of her team to get the best out of them.

They may have their man, but they don’t have the ev­i­dence for a con­vic­tion. He de­nies it. The Golden Hour is over, but it is still a race against time be­fore they have to re­lease him. Re­sults are waited on – swabs from the lab, phone records – and they con­tinue to ques­tion him, gath­er­ing de­tails, wait­ing for him to make a mis­take.

They get him, just in time. And he knows it; af­ter a word with his so­lic­i­tor, he goes from ly­ing to no-com­ment­ing. At trial, Dhillon is found guilty of mur­der and sen­tenced to life in prison.

Trevor Mc­don­ald, mean­while, has been to see Alice’s par­ents. They knew im­me­di­ately who had killed their daugh­ter, and talk heart-break­ingly about strug­gling to come to terms with it. It is an im­por­tant re­minder that this isn’t a whodunnit; it’s not just about the hunt and the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. More than any­thing, it is about a hu­man tragedy and an Alice-shaped hole in the world.

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