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How tiny details helped police put murderers behind bars

As In Cold Blood returns for a new series tonight on BBC One NI, producer Jacqueline Newell looks at how four notorious murderers were brought to justice

Police file 1

Terence Philip Whiting (30)

Victim: His girlfriend Wendy McAteer (17) whole badly beaten body was found in a lane

Jailed for life

Police file 2

Jacqueline Crymble (35)

Victim: Her husband, Paul, also 35, who was abducted from home in 2004 and later suffocated

Jailed for life

Police file 3

Robert George Harvey (38)

Victim: He battered frail oap Till Campbell to death with an axe

Jailed for life

Police file 4

James William McCoy (21)

Victim: He stabbed pensioner Billy Spence at his guesthouse in 2008

Jailed for life

It is a reflection of life here nowadays that non-terrorist linked murders have come to figure more prominently in the media. Murder is a reality in Northern Ireland and its effects and legacy are long-reaching and sometimes devastating.

There were a total of 19 homicides (17 non-terrorist) over the 2009-2010 period.

However this is the lowest number in any 12-month period since 1970.

Stirling Film and TV Productions have been making real crime programmes for over 10 years.

During this decade we have forged close relationships with police, forensics teams and pathologists who have given us access to material which many programme-makers could only dream of and the opportunity to give viewers a remarkable insight into the detective work and forensics of real murder cases.

The devil is always in the detail and it is the detail which makes In Cold Blood intriguing for many viewers: the exact words spoken by suspects at interview, the first hand accounts of arresting officers, witness statements at the crime scene, pathologist reports on cause of death.

The new four-part series of In Cold Blood has taken nine months to make and has been a collaboration between the production company, the PSNI, the Forensic Agency of NI and the families of the victims.

When the series was commissioned we sat down with the PSNI's head of Crime Operations and discussed cases with successful convictions and which were also interesting from a psychological and human-interest perspective.

As programme makers we have to be careful not to sensationalise events whilst still maintaining the public interest. With access to police ‘scene of crime’ photographs and footage, post-mortem reports, etc, the production team has to decide what and how much to reveal and reconstruct from the evidence available to us.

The later time slot for the series can accommodate graphic violence and language but we are always conscious that there will be families, friends, neighbours and colleagues of the victims watching.

We also have to carefully research the casting and portrayal of the victims in the dramatisation and the programmes are shown to the families before transmission to prepare them before they see it on the television screens.

The series is an intriguing and fascinating one to work on, to give viewers an insight into the detailed detective and forensic work that begins once an investigation has been triggered.

It’s also a very demanding and often emotional series dealing with victims and hearing of their personal loss — their personal stories make you realise that people’s lives have been changed forever by these events.

In the other programmes in this new series, we have been fortunate to get access to some of the most recent murder cases which have, for one reason or another, caught the public imagination.

While making In Cold Blood we came to appreciate the dedication of the PSNI officers in catching and convicting the murderers.

With new surveillance, investigative and forensics techniques, the police and judiciary are better equipped than ever before to prevent and solve crimes.

In Cold Blood, BBC1 NI, tonight, 10.35pm

Chain of events led to a violent death

The whiting file

Wendy McAteer was a fun loving teenager from Limavady who had planned a career in hairdressing before her fateful meeting with a labourer — Terence Philip Whiting — from England who was working around the neighbourhood.

Her family were shocked when they discovered Wendy was seeing an older man. She was just 17-years-old.

They took steps to protect her by inviting her new boyfriend to live with Wendy in their family home.

Sadly nothing could prevent the chain of events which led to Wendy’s death at the hands of a violent opportunist criminal who ended her life when she decided to end their relationship.

Killed by a man who lived nearby

The Harvey file

In another case, pensioner Tilly Campbell lived in a peaceful area of Donaghadee. She was a feisty, energetic lady who, despite losing her husband two years previously, had made the most of friends and family and always put great store by her appearance.

When she was found partially clothed in her spare room after a brutal attack, it was a terrible blow to the whole community.

It was a double shock to learn that the prime suspect was a neighbour known to Tilly and that a search of his premises revealed weapons and other related paraphernalia which proved a history of criminal activity.

The news was heartbreaking for all concerned including the mother of the perpetrator who had no idea of her son’s secret life and who had also been a friend of Tilly Campbell.

The Father’s Day murder by a wife ... and her lover

The Crymble file

We had been waiting for three years for the notorious Crymble case to go to appeal —which we look at in the first programme tonight.

When it was finally quashed we began talking to the family which, in this instance, included the children of Jacqueline and Paul Crymble, Paul Crymble’s mother Shirley, Jacqueline Crymble’s sister Nicola Cree and Paul’s best friend Jim McFarland.

Paul Crymble was murdered on Father’s Day in June 2004 by his wife Jacqueline and her lover Roger Ferguson.

When police were called to the scene of Paul’s supposed abduction, however, Jacqueline was found bound hand and foot claiming to have dialed 999 with her tongue.

The discovery of Paul’s body later that morning and his wife’s reaction to the news caused them to look more closely at her statements and behaviour.

Follow-up investigations with friends, neighbours and family uncovered Jacqueline’s previous extra marital affairs and a current one with Roger Ferguson.

Growing forensic evidence at the scene of the abduction was paying dividends and implicating Jacqueline in the violence which was inflicted on Paul.

Moreover a suspected accomplice of Roger Ferguson eventually testified to planning and execution of Paul Crymble by his wife and lover.

The couple were tried in Omagh Court in May 2007. The case went to appeal and was quashed on March 17 2010. Jacqueline Crymble continues to deny the murder of her husband.

Paid for friendship with his own life

The McCoy file

The murder of landlord, Billy Spence in Bangor in July 2008 sent shock waves through the whole community.

Billy was a highly respected and popular B&B owner who was famed for not just the quality of his accommodation, but also the friendship which he offered his customers.

Unfortunately, it was the friendship he offered to a local youth that resulted in his death.

The murderer had been found on Billy’s premises on several occasions. Billy had refrained from reporting him to the police believing him to be harmless but on their last deadly encounter, Billy had no time to call for help.

CCTV footage in the house recorded some of the key events on the night of the murder and helped identify the suspect.

In Cold Blood has been given permission to include this footage in the programme.

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