What is Crime Guy?

Crime Guy started as a podcast during lockdown and gradually morphed into a true crime research site for professionals and hardcore amateurs to learn more about the very few cold cases that I am deeply involved in. You can read a lot more about the work at the website here. It is also an after-hours outlet that gives me something else to worry about after the working day is complete!

Welcome, I’m Paul

I began getting re-immersed in true crime in the 2020 summer of lockdown, after watching I'll Be Gone In The Dark the TV series about the EAR/ONS/GSK killer in the US, but mainly because I found Michelle McNamara's own story even more compelling. I started looking out for true crime podcasts and found most of the professionally produced ones were in the US. There are a growing number of UK-based ones, which I will be reviewing in the coming months. But I wanted to ask myself the question you've already asked yourself: why do I find this so addictive?

I will admit to enjoying the spooky feeling I get late at night when watching true crime. The fact that it was mainly American cases added a distance between me and the stories, which I found gave me 'permission' to enjoy the spooky tales. Events happening decades ago, to people thousands of miles away, don't feel quite real to me. It seemed I could watch this stuff and enjoy it and keep a clear conscience. Soon enough, my mind wandered back to some cases that spooked me as a child: Christopher Laverack, Hindley and Brady, usually known as the Moors Murderers, Peter Sutcliffe. And then later in my life came Fred and Rosemary West, and Harold Shipman. Notice how most of those cases are known by the names of the killers, because they were prolific serial killers. Not like us, crazy as hell weirdos.

The killer of Christopher Laverack is not famous, and neither was Christopher. He was just an ordinary nine year-old kid from my home town. I didn't know him, but I felt like I should, and I sure got to know him after he was murdered. His story has stayed with me for over thirty years. And perhaps all those crazy killers were more like us than we hoped?

It was getting harder to justify the entertainment angle, the closer to home the crimes. There were ways to justify it still: Shipman was a crazy doctor but his victims were really old, some of them terminally ill, and he didn't use violence. I didn't like the person I was becoming. The Wests, well that was a long time ago. Hindley and Brady, the Moors Murderers, cast a shadow over my childhood after Pauline Reade was found in 1987, twenty years after her murder, which led to that gruesome duo admitting Pauline's murder and that of Keith Bennett, who was never found.

Even worse, you very quickly get inured to the grisly details. It was never the gore that drew me in, I knew that. Every chance I had, I skipped over it. Some of the Moors stuff was unbelievably sadistic. So what was drawing me in? I suddenly realised, as Michelle McNamara had years earlier, that my love of research, of discovering new information, of curing the world of its secrets, was the big draw for me.

The possibility that I could use skills learned years earlier investigating plane crashes, space shuttles, industrial disasters for my teenage novels, turned around and used for a higher purpose. Yes, I know how to research, how to interview, how to sift, and I have powerful tools for interrogating data and spreadsheets. Yes, I believed I could help to solve a crime, if not solve one myself. And so, after the work of Michelle McNamara, out of reading Billy Jensen, out of following Paul Holes in his TV show and his podcast with Billy, out of all of that was emerging an idea. What if? What if I could become a Citizen Detective, a bit like Bellingcat but for British cold cases rather than the funny happenings of the Cold War? Could I really build a small team of amateur investigators? Armed with nothing more than patience, persistence, and time, could we turn over stones neglected by the over-worked police forces of England? Can we find the needle in the haystack that DNA could have found if only someone had discovered it faster? I don't yet know the answer to all of this, but I know I am going to try. My love of espionage and the Cold War, of James Bond and George Smiley, of the cover-up and the conspiracy, of negligence and ill-doings, might it all be put to useful employment in the real world? I hope so. Will you join me?

Need a Researcher?

I am happy to help any journalist, podcaster, documentary producer, or anyone else who wants to get to the truth of a difficult case. I’m an experienced researcher who loves rooting through newspapers and archives. My first significant research project in the 1990s was a close inspection of the Challenger space shuttle disaster. Soon after, I found myself deeply involved in the TWA 800 plane crash in 1996. After that there was Flixborough, one of the world’s worst chemical factory explosions. There is something about a mystery. I want to find the truth, or some new aspect to a story that nobody else noticed.