Leroy Henry, Shepton Mallet and the curious case of George Edward Smith.

A few days ago Channel 5 screened another episode of Hidden History of Britain. Presented by former politician Michael Portillo, the episode covered Shepton Mallet Prison and the case of Leroy Henry. Shepton Mallet should be familiar to readers of Crimescribe, as should Leroy Henry who I’ve previously covered. You can watch it here.

I was consulted by programme-makers Transparent Television for this one a few months ago, one of the perks of covering crime’s odds and ends being the occasional consult or interview request. Having now watched it myself, it’s well worth looking at. It’s not Portillo’s first foray into crime documentaries, either. The BBC screened ‘How to kill a human being’ a couple of years  ago and he’s a very watchable presenter.

Henry’s wasn’t the only curious case of former US Air Force Private George Edward Smith. Smith, convicted of murdering senior British diplomat Sir Eric Teichman at Honingham Hall, was hanged on May 8, 1945 by Thomas Pierrepoint, assisted by Herbert Morris. While the rest of the world was going to wake up to the dawning of a new age, Smith was pondering his final hours in Shepton Mallet’s condemned cell.

I covered Smith’s case a couple of years ago, in a guest post for Executed Today, a fascinating site rich in criminal history and thought it was worth remembering. So here it is.

Bye for now.

‘Reality’ TV And Fleeting Fame.

Celebrity and the increasingly desperate search therefore have brought us to the very nadir of so-called ‘showbiz.’ Practically every week yet another parade of desperate divvies in need of public adulation to either feed their gargantuan egos or reassure them that they’re not a talentless waste of space. Watching cattle call auditions where obviously talent-free wannabes are held up for public ridicule, seemingly with the active connivance of whoever’s producing whatever show it might be seems like the modern-day equivalent of watching Christians being thrown to lions or Victorian folk thinking ‘We’re bored and have nothing better to do today, let’s watch a public execution.’

A few years ago a survey of British children, asked what they wanted to be when they grew up, showed a majority wanted to be ‘famous.’ What they wanted to be famous for they didn’t know. How they were going to go about it, they didn’t know that either. But they did want to be famous for something, anything. Well, kiddies, Charles Manson is famous. Vlad the Impaler is famous.  Jack the Ripper will forever be famous. We’ll never know who Jack actually was, but that’s beside the point. Any fame, for any reason and seemingly at any price is the name of the game. And there’s a seemingly never-ending stream of adults (with supposedly greater life experience and therefore no excuse whatsoever) who also want pretty much any kind of fame as long as they’re famous for something.

Shakespeare is famous for his literary genius. Rembrandt for being one of the greatest artists ever to paint a picture. Alexander Fleming for discovering penicillin, a medical breakthrough saving the lives of millions. Yes, they might have enjoyed their fame and some of the perks that went with it, but they actually did something valuable to justify their being well-known in the first place. Whereas most so-called ‘reality tv stars’ haven’t done anything of any particular note beyond being willing to don designer clothes and attend the opening of a window if they think that a single, solitary paparazzi might photograph them doing so.

These Z-list bottomfeeders come from nowhere, instantly attain the kind of treatment normally reserved for people who’ve actually achieved something, develop a sudden God complex (in the manner of bottomfeeders in every profession) and start throwing diva-like tantrums over anything and everything that isn’t as lavish as they’d like. They appear out of nowhere. They turn up anywhere and everywhere for a brief period, endlessly reminding people of their existence (and consummate lack of anything resembling talent, grace, charm, depth, wit or anything but abject narcissism). Then, just like that, they disappear back into obscurity having seldom managed more than to make a bit of cash and a few memories of when they were somehow considered vaguely important. They’re here today and gone tomorrow.

The problem with that is there are always a new crop willing to replace them. ‘Reality TV’ is, perversely and despite all the editing and falsity of individual shows, real.

It’s a never-ending genre collectively titled ‘Lifestyles of the Sad and Desperate.’