I’m delighted that journalist Chris Summers has written a short blog today about his life covering crime. His excellent blog, total crime, is a vital source of information for me as a true crime podcaster. I hope you enjoy his comments below.
A LIFE OF CRIME: WRITNG ABOUT IT, THAT IS
By Chris Summers
It wasn’t always like this.
When I started out as a journalist I wanted to be a war correspondent and my hero was Robert Fisk, who wrote fiendishly complex and dense articles about the different militias battling each other in 1980s Beirut.
But then Fred and Rose West came along.
I was a reporter on the Gloucester Citizen, the city’s evening newspaper, when one afternoon in February 1994 the police started digging up a back garden looking for a missing teenager.
They found not just one body, but nine, plus another two buried in shallow graves near Fred’s childhood home in Herefordshire and one more beneath another house in Gloucester.
Fred killed himself, Rose was jailed for life and I had well and truly got the crime beat bug.
In 1997 I got a job on the BBC News website and found myself living in London.
It wasn’t long before I was pestering my news editor to let me go down to the Old Bailey and cover murder trials and dig into whatever potential miscarriage of justice intrigued me.
I visited Jack Whomes, wrongly convicted of the infamous Rettendon Range Rove murders – better known as the Essex Boys case – and got to know his family, and to this day I still get Christmas cards from Thomas Bourke, who is also still in jail for a double murder I’m sure he did not commit.
Sadly I have to say I was never able to unearth the priceless nugget which would have proved their innocence.
We can’t all be Don Hale, I guess.
I became a specialist in “trial backgrounders” – those detailed articles which are published at the end of a court case when some evil scumbag has been found guilty.
I would often write a “guilty” and a “not guilty” version. Nothing could go wrong, right?
On my day off one day one of my colleagues mistakenly published the Guilty version after a poor unfortunate was cleared of a series of gun crimes.
Rash of panicked phone calls, online article rapidly dumped, red faces all round.
By this time I had about four volumes of what I referred to as my “murderbooks”.
Lists of murders which had been carried out since 1990, or occasionally before.
One day I decided I wanted to upload them onto the internet and I got the idea for Totalcrime.co.uk, a WordPress blog which is mainly databases – homicides, organised crime groups, serial killers, miscarriages of justice.
But also articles about cases which intrigued me.
I left the BBC in 2015 but Totalcrime was never going to pay the mortgage.
So I went to work for the Daily Star Online, the Mail Online and now Sputnik News but remained the same crime-obsessed journalist and a proud member of the Crime Reporters’ Association.
And then I began to get into podcasts.
I’m a big fan of Criminal, with the mellifluous voice of Phoebe Judge, and of course UK True Crime, presented by the inimitable Adam.
So here I am, on his blog.
If you have a moment please take a look at totalcrime.co.uk (Total Crime) peruse the databases and feel free to send me an email about what cases you’d like me to cover.
Hopefully I’ve got many years of grisly crime reporting left in me. Y�6+Zusw�V