The Trial of Louise Woodward, ITV Thursday 11th November 9pm, ITV Hub

https://www.itv.com/hub/the-trial-of-louise-woodward/10a1090a0001

Matthew Eappen would be around twenty-five now, had he lived. Nineteen-year-old nanny, Louise Woodward was accused and found guilty of shaking the eight-month-old baby in her care so hard it caused subdural hematoma and killed him.

Her trial, soon after the death of Princess Diana in 1987, was a media event—I don’t remember it, but watching footage Woodward’s pasty face was familiar from old newspaper stories.

Key players in the trial, such as the defence team, were interviewed. Many of the same high-profile names that had appeared during the O. J. Simpson murder case. Legal costs paid for by au pair companies that imported labour into New York’s prosperous boroughs. A service-sector also on trial, with the fear of further litigation from ‘shaken-baby syndrome’ a threat to their business model.

As were the middle-class parents of Eappen.  They were both doctors. Trials had been filmed, but until this case streamed only to a local audience. The court-room commentator offered insight into how their closed world was viewed through a lense. Woodward, for example, she suggested was a nervous smiler. That might give the jurors, and those at home, the wrong impression. And she didn’t cry. That was a no-no. But crying at the wrong moment, or inappropriately, could also set jurors against you.

The mother of Matthew, being blonde and pretty, helped their case. But she also didn’t cry enough. And those stay-at-home moms with less than the twin incomes of two doctors were less sympathetic to her need to work, and might have wondered why she wasn’t a stay-at-home mother to their two young children.  

The case itself was a closed-room, but not a mystery of the Agatha Christie variety. Louise Woodward the only suspect. She either shook the baby to death, causing internal bleeding behind the eyes, or she didn’t.  Her defence team took the controversial decision to go for all or nothing. They would not, for example, go for a plea of manslaughter with all its legal complexities and moral nuisances.  Woodward, if found guilty of murder, could expect a minimal of ten or twenty years on prison. Or if the sixteen jurors, whittled down to twelve to the dismay of the defence team, found her not guilty, she’d walk out of the courtroom, there and then.

The case rested on medical science. The prosecution had a text book open-and-shut case. Straight-backed white, medical men declaiming what happened. A pattern they recognised and could show, visually, using props.

The lead defence attorney asked an expert for the prosecution case to ‘imagine’ a different scenario than one he was trying to present. The expert refused, only to be rebuked the judge.

This is where the trail of Louise Woodward fails the viewer. We wouldn’t expect the parents of Matthew Eappen to take part in the re-construction of events, or even Louise Woodward, but we might expect the trail judge to take part and explain how he came to his extraordinary verdict (but twenty-fire years later, perhaps he’s dead).

Certainly, the prosecution team and its experts had little doubt of Woodward’s guilt of ‘shaken-baby syndrome’.

In contrast, her family, and supporters at her small Cheshire English village, portrayed her as a martyr falsely prosecuted for reasons they couldn’t quite fathom. Experts can’t be experts when they contradict a firm belief has become for many a way of life with a contemporary resonance from the election of the moron’s moron to global warming narratives.

The defence case rested on medical expertise, but with a different paradigm. Woodward had been in charge of the children. And she may have shaken Matthew, to help revive him after he had slipped into unconsciousness, but from bleeding to the brain that had happened before—when exactly, wasn’t important—therefore she had responded in a reasonable manner. The black swan argument.  All swans are white, but there might be a black one. And our experts will show you pictures.

Twenty-five years later, a defence expert recanted and agreed such a scenario might have been possible. Another expert sneered. Louise Woodward to him remained a murderer, who had—largely—got away with it.

Certainly, if she didn’t have such an overpriced defence team, it would be difficult to believe that she wouldn’t still be in jail. Portrayed as an English rose, who had been in the wrong place at the wrong time, worked for her in the media (it would have been interesting to compare and contrast the treatment of black or Latino nannies for similar crimes). The world has moved on and Matthew Eappen remains dead. Whodunnit?  You’re the expert.   

Savile: Portrait of a Predator, ITV, STV 9pm, ITV Hub

https://www.itv.com/hub/savile-portrait-of-a-predator/10a1253a0001

https://www.abctales.com/story/celticman/jimmy-savile-and-me

Ten years ago, Sir Jimmy Savile died. His funeral was an event that featured on the news. The great and the good appeared, in sombre tones, mourning our loss. People lined the streets to pay their respects. Sir Keith Stammer was Director of Public Prosecutions. Operation Yewtree was set up in London in 2012 to investigate his alleged sexual offences after girls from Duncroft, a children’s home in Surrey, featured in the tabloids saying he’d sexually abused them. Detective Gary Pankhurst said he followed up on hundreds of reports. He classified Savile as a high-functioning psychopath.

Spokesmen from Surrey Police admitted they’d interviewed the 80-year-old Savile in 2009. A familiar pattern emerged of Savile getting away with everything short of murder.

The question WHY is easily answered.

He was wealthy.

He was a celebrity. He didn’t work for the BBC. The BBC worked for him. They created a show, Jim’ll Fix It, and it did. It fixed it for the serial paedophile.

He counted Margaret Thatcher and Prince Charles as his personal friends. He was part of the British establishment, given a knighthood in 1990. He had access to Kensington Palace and wandered about at will. Princess Diana thought he was creepy, when he tried to lick her hand. Prince Charles failed to comment on Savile’s posthumous reputation as a serial paedophilic abuser of around 500 mostly preadolescent girls. That’s an estimate by NSPCC. Being a conservative, that is a conservative number.  

He had high-ranking policemen friends that acted as minders.

He had criminal friends that acted as minders.

He could play nice, but he could also play scary.

Sylvia Edwards, now 63, appears on the programme. Back then, in the nineteen-seventies, she’s been given the nod by Savile, picked up by runners for Top of the Pops, a show regularly watched by 15 million. There she is onscreen beside celebrity Jimmy Savile as he speaks to his audience at home in their living rooms. The moron’s moron and fellow psychopath, ex-American President, admitted he grabbed women by the pussy, but it was never shown on camera. But here it is on loop, a blonde and very pretty mop-topped girl, jumping up and twisting away as Savile rams his hand up into her pussy.

It was treated as a joke. When she complained to a cameraman, he told her to go away, get lost.

He picked his victims—they were poor and powerless.

A former bass player with Sparks, Ian Hampton, said: ‘I think he regarded Top of the Pops as a happy hunting ground for young ladies. On one occasion I was on Top of the Pops, Savile disappeared with a young girl to a dressing room’.

Claire McAlpine (her image with Savile shown above) for example, an adolescent, who appeared dancing for the cameras on Top of the Pops. She became pregnant, aged fifteen, and killed herself. Her mother had complained to BBC management about her being in Savile’s dressing room.

Hampton asked a producer of the show what was happening with Savile? He wasn’t given answers. Told he was being ridiculous.  

Literally, powerless with a woman interviewed anonymously, telling how she was in a wheelchair, a patient at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. Savile took her away in her wheelchair to abuse her. She was paralysed from the waist down, but she remembered his eyes.

He did charity work. Kerching, this led to lucrative contracts with state institutions such as British Rail, paying him handsomely for acting as their spokesman on child safety, for example. Savile joked that he’d squared it up with Him upstairs for a few things he’d done. Quid pro quo. A peripatetic bachelor, he had the right credentials to become a priest. He had the equivalent of a knighthood with the Roman Catholic Church.

A two-and-a-half-year independent inquiry in France about the abuse of children by clergy, over the past seventy years, found that at least 330,000 children were victims of sexual abuse by clergy and lay members of church institutions.

“The Catholic church is, after the circle of family and friends, the environment that has the highest prevalence of sexual violence,” the report said.

There’s little reason to believe that similar figures of abuse didn’t also happen in the United Kingdom. And again, these are probably underestimates.

Jimmy Savile was a serial sexual abuser. As each spokesman or woman for the institutions involved run for cover, does this programme offer us anything new?

Elton John (2019) Me

Not many folk get to call their book, Me, and expect you to know who they’re talking about. The Glasgow imperative applies here: Who the fuck dae yeh think yeh are? If the answer is Elton John, you go, oh, aye, that’s alright then. Elton John seems to be everywhere at the moment, BBC 1, BBC 2, BBC 4, Radio Four, Channel 4, but I can’t find him on ITV, which is a bit disappointing. He’s an institution.

I thought I’d have a quick shifty at Reg Dwight’s memoir. We already know his story from gossip columns. His love of Princess Diane (Candle in the Wind) and her children, the little royalings. Throw in the queen mother for lunch and yes, I would have thrown her, but you can see how he’s part of the establishment. Remember Elton’s first wife left at the registry office? Gargantuan drinking and drug sessions with the likes of Rod Stewart. I often wondered how the shagger of tall blonde woman and the gay guy that doesn’t shag tall blonde woman got together. The answer is here. Both of them got their start in the music industry as backing for Long John Baldry as he attempted to conquer the world with Bluesology. Baldry is a footnote in the rise and rise of Elton and Rod, both of whom love football. Elton knocked the name off from a band member and loves Watford -forever- and Rod loves Celtic far longer than he caroused with the latest blonde.

Then there’s the Elton away from all that showbiz glitter, hats and hairweaves. He didn’t screw his lyric writer the way many stars would and claim all the credit and profits. Bernie Taupin is worth around $150 million, but Elton did take £15 for the first gig, since he was playing piano, Bernie got a tenner. Elton, I’d guess, is worth considerably more now. The adopter of Take That renegades and other would-be rock stars that fell off the wagon.  The Elton addicted to AA meetings and Drugs Anonymous, give him a sniff of anything like that and Elton will turn up. Throw in his charity work. Raising tens of millions for AID’s charities. Bringing the homosexual into the Establishment and mainstream in a way that Peter Tatchell never could.  

Then there’s his late fatherhood, two boys (I think) with David (I can’t remember what’s-his-name, [Furnish?] which shows who I think is the one that matters).

So, to recap, I don’t really need to read this book to write about it. I did read the mandatory first 50 pages. I should really turn it into a rant about how Me is muscling out me and other authors scratching a living.  How out of the 1.6 billion books bought in the UK in 2018, I sold one Kindle copy that remains unread. Dead. If you turned that into percentages the book would run several volumes longer than War and Peace and be more interesting. Read chapter 1 here free: 0.000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000…% .

Or I’d be snide and say things like Reg Dwight didn’t really write the book, his kinship to books is like the moron’s moron in the Whitehouse, the book was really written by Alexis Petridis a music critic and if Petridis was really a music critic he should find someone else to work with. I’d probably throw in something that has nothing to do with Elton, David Walliams entering the writer’s club that holds those that made more than £100 million in sales. For some reason I can’t stand Walliams, there’s no logic to it, just gut instinct.  

Reg Dwight, the child prodigy that grew up to be Elton John, I don’t know why, but I kinda like him. Maybe it’s because I don’t listen to music and I’m jumping on the bandwagon. Read on.

Wasting Away: The Truth About Anorexia, Channel 4, 10pm

mark austin.jpg

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/wasting-away-the-truth-about-anorexia

My mind went blank and I started to type Alzheimer’s into the search box of Channel 4’s programmes. In a way that’s instructive. You can just start again, wipe out what went before and retype. We are learning about Alzheimer’s. I can throw in phrases like amyloid plaque. Perhaps do a simple drawing of what it means in a cave of dendrites. But I don’t really know what it means, not yet, although my mum had it. In a way the truth about anorexia is a lie, because it assumes there is a simple truth based on subjective experience. The smoking gun is, as with Alzheimer’s the resources we allocate to the NHS and, in particular, the cinderella Mental Health services, which traditionally has been the poor man of the care sector, both in terms of the money spent on it and empirical outcomes.  Mark Austin uses the analogy (which I’ve frequently used myself) if you break a leg you phone an ambulance and get admitted to hospital. The analogy breaks down when the surgeon comes round and says something along the lines of things they (might) say in mental health services: ‘we think we’ve fixed your broken leg. You might need to hop a bit, and it might be sore, with one leg shorter than the other, but that’s the best we can do. Don’t call us back and expect miracles of mobility’. In other words, empirical outcomes in the mental health service are, at best, dodgy, but it’s nobody’s fault but your own.

We need somebody to tell us this is a very bad thing. Who better than his Royal Highness Prince William with his stiff upper lip, wobbling slightly. No common man need mention American socialite Wallis Simpson, of you can never be too thin, or rich, fame. And the truth about anorexia is there is no common man here, no one truth, but lots of fake news. Jeremy Hunt, who favours privatising the NHS, but is Secretary of State for Health, for example, tells us there’s ‘no quick fix’ but by 2020, 95% of young people with mental health issues will be able to see a professional (psychiatrist, presumably a British psychiatrist, and not one of those foreigners we’re trying to exclude) within four weeks and within a week if there case is urgent. I thought every case was urgent, but what do I know, I’m not a health-care specialist. We see here, as we see everywhere else, cases being flipped and weighed and found wanting and parents travelling hundreds of miles, where their daughter or son, finally finds a place in some private hospital in Edinburgh. I wish somebody would explain that truth to me. How it profits rich folk to take care of sick folk, but it still works out cheaper for us all.  Poorer folk with, in modern parlance, mental-health issues always find somewhere closer to visit. It’s called Her Majesty’s Prisons.  We’ve got Princess Diana the godmother of anorexia, looking pretty chic in culled archive images. The largest epidemic in every sense is, of course, the flip side of anorexia, obesity. The poor man’s disease. No need to mention Stephen Hawkin’s criticisms of Tory privateers and implicitly Jeremy Hunt’s stewardship of our NHS.  Now we can start talking truthfully about black holes.

Ask yourself a simple question, if I stopped eating tomorrow, who would notice and who would care? Does it matter? Do I matter?

Roxane Gay, Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body is a better place to look for questions of toxic imagery and culture than this programme.

‘Every body has a story and a history’.

‘The story of my body is not a story of triumph. I don’t have any powerful insights into what it takes to overcome an unruly body and unruly appetites. Mine is not a success story. Mine is simply a true story.’

Upper, middle-class, ITV newsman, Mark Austen and his daughter Maddy go on a journey in which they seek to explore the boundaries of anorexia and the health service, postcode lottery, in the less than United Kingdom, but only take us to NHS Theresienstadt.