CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: A forensic look at the real-life CSI heroes who bring killers to book
Forensics: The Real CSI
Secret Safari: Into The Wild
The things we did for fun before telly and cinema do not bear thinking about. You might imagine our Victorian ancestors enjoyed a night at the music hall, but what they really liked was a good, gory dissection.
Anatomy lectures, at which surgeons sliced up a human body to show its workings, were packed out with medical students and everyone else who had a strong stomach for intestines. Demand for fresh cadavers was so high that doctors ran out of executed prisoners and relied on grave robbers.
Some ‘body snatchers’ even stalked the streets, murdering people to sell their corpses for anatomy demonstrations. Talk about making your own entertainment.
That bloodthirsty tendency survives in our craving for true-crime documentaries. Forensics: The Real CSI (BBC2) included upsetting images of a murder scene in a child’s bedroom, as a blood-spatter analyst calmly pointed out handprints and droplets from the knife, smeared across the wall.
You might imagine our Victorian ancestors enjoyed a night at the music hall, but what they really liked was a good, gory dissection. That bloodthirsty tendency survives in our craving for true-crime documentaries. Pictured: Senior investigator Jo Ward in Forensics: The Real CSI (BBC2)
The victim was 43-year-old mother-of-four Nelly Moustafa, whose drug-crazed husband Tamer stabbed her to death in a frenzied attack at their Birmingham home.
He then called the police and announced: ‘Hello, I’ve just murdered my wife. With a knife. All the kids are at school. Send someone quickly please.’ A recording of the 999 confession was replayed at the outset of the programme.
There was never any mystery about the identity of the killer. This was not a whodunit, though 40-year-old Moustafa was too cowardly to answer questions at the station — instead hiding his face and claiming he didn’t remember what had happened.
The real interest in the first episode of this new series lay in how the forensics team pieced together the order of events when the suspect was telling them nothing. Slowly, the full horror of the crime clicked into focus.
After killing his wife and phoning the police, Moustafa dosed himself with cocaine, then broke into the house next door and murdered his neighbour Zahida Bi, 52.
The real interest in the first episode of this new series lay in how the forensics team pieced together the order of events when the suspect was telling them nothing. Slowly, the full horror of the crime clicked into focus. Pictured: Senior investigator Jo Ward in Forensics: The Real CSI (BBC2)
Establishing the correct sequence was essential, to demolish the claims of Moustafa’s defence lawyers that he was not responsible for his actions when he killed the women.
If the 999 call happened between the two murders, he was clearly capable of rational thought. This was a case to be cracked with scientific observation.
But analytical precision comes at a human cost. Senior investigator Jo Ward admitted that she could not always prevent cases from weighing on her emotions. One particularly brutal domestic killing left her suffering from panic attacks, she said. It’s easy to see why. These documentaries are absorbing and informative, but the brutality at their core is genuinely disturbing.
We often forget the brutality of life in the wilderness. Nature films usually concentrate on the beauty and majesty of the animal kingdom, but Secret Safari: Into The Wild (C4) has not disguised the real world’s cruelty. A few shots of Africa’s wildlife silhouetted against sunsets made splendid sights, but mostly this series is dedicated to the visceral reality of the savannah.
No sooner had we met lioness Sior’s three adorable cubs at the conservation park of Ol Pejeta in Kenya than they were trampled by buffalo. One was killed, another badly injured.
The story of Cedric the clueless ostrich was no happier. He found a mate, but when she put him in charge of guarding their clutch of eggs, Cedric lost interest and wandered off. It didn’t take long for hyenas and jackals to find the nest. Nature has its own body snatchers.
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