Sensing Murder psychics: zero arrests

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Sue Nicholson, host Amanda Billings, Kelvin Cruickshank and Deb Webber of Sensing Murder. PICTURE: New Zealand Herald

So-called psychics on Sensing Murder were an “entertainment angle” to boost viewer numbers and detectives should focus on the benefit of prime-time exposure for cold cases, a researcher for the show told police.
The researcher told police “no matter what you think of the value (or otherwise) of psychics, Sensing Murder can be seen as a valuable opportunity to refresh attempts to get answers to some long-held unanswered questions”.
“For my perspective, the presence of the psychics is more an entertainment angle aimed at drawing in viewers and the real strength of the programme is in the publicity that long-running investigations can get and, hopefully, new information is gleaned as a result,” the researcher wrote.
Police disagreed with internal e-mails released through the Official Information Act revealing that not one show in the 39 episodes filmed over more than a decade had provided a single piece of useful information.
The show featured so-called psychics Kelvin Cruickshank, Deb Webber and Sue Nicholson, pitting them against three unsolved murders and the disappearance of a child. All are still unsolved.
It was made by television production company Screentime, which distanced itself from the comments of its researcher, backing the visions of the three stars of the show.
That support will not be echoed by police approached for help with the cold cases, with experienced detectives saying in e-mails it has never produced any useful information.
In one e-mail, police told Screentime it would not get involved with one of the cold-cases because doing so could harm police efforts.
The official police policy on psychics says officers should not give any “credibility” to paranormal tips and warned of the impact such information could have on those affected by crime.
The e-mail trail showed police so keen to keep distance from the show they did not want free-phone or Crimestoppers phone numbers listed at the end of episodes.
Managing director of showmakers’ Screentime Philly De Lacey offered another reason for the show she said it gave comfort and closure to the families of those who had died.
She would not describe herself as a believer but said information coming from those portrayed as psychics “must be genuine” because she could not explain it.
When told the show had prompted nothing in 39 episodes, de Lacey said there had been information of value.
“There may be reasons why that information may or may not be able to be taken forward.”
TVNZ’s in-house lawyer Brent McAnulty responded to an OIA request about the show earlier this year, saying the “mediums do receive a fee for their appearance” but it was not paid by TVNZ.
A TVNZ spokeswoman said the show was “compelling” for viewers and it was not for the broadcaster to tell people what they should believe.
Police detective-turned-defence lawyer Tony Bouchier said grieving families with no answers would “clutch at anything to get closure”.
“In some ways, I think it is exploiting the vulnerable. Crime shows sell advertising whatever form they take and that’s all broadcasters are interested in.”
New Zealand Herald

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