Friday, 7 January 2011

How to report a murder in the absence of facts? Use a psychic!

The time between a murder and someone being charged has always posed problems for the tabloids. Eager to keep the story running, but with no real hook for it, they often end up scrabbling around for something, anything to keep people glued in anticipation of someone being caught. So it is with the Joanna (now just 'Jo') Yeates murder.

Today we find several papers tossing wildly different logs into the fire. The Sun goes with this good old-fashioned campaign nonsense:


The Mirror features the previous suspect, now released without charge, continuing to vow to clear his name. The Mail, meanwhile, goes back to one of its favourite social ills, Facebook, with a rather flimsy-sounding suggestion that Yeates may possibly have been killed by someone who knew her through the social networking site:


I won't go into much detail on that, as it's already been very well covered by Natalie Dzerins over at Forty Shades Of Grey, which you may go and read now as long as you promise to come back.

Today's prize for most grotesque coverage, though, must go to The Daily Star, who have gone for this:


It's a bad enough headline in itself, but it becomes even more grim when you realise that this story, this new 'evidence', worthy of a front page headline no less, is based entirely on the claims of a single psychic. Yes, you read that right, a national newspaper has given over its front page to the wild claims of a psychic investigator.

In the article we get some more detail about the claims;
The psychic investigator insists she “saw” Jo being attacked by two of a group of five men after she rejected their offer of a lift.

It's later revealed that this vision took place 10 days before Yeates went missing. She speculates further, saying "The girl wasn’t bosom friends with the men. It looked like they offered her a lift but she didn’t take it and they followed her". It looked like? Is a psychic giving rough details of something she saw in a vision of something which may or may not have been relevant, really good enough for a national newspaper front page? Apparently it is.

The psychic in question is Carol Everett, a shameless self-promoter who has attached her, er, unique gift, to various high-profile cases, including the Ian Huntley murders and the Washington sniper. She claimed to have drawn Huntley and Maxine Carr before they were arrested, a claim which seems impressive at first but falls apart when you scroll down to the untouched image, which has 'Carr' with beyond-shoulder-length hair, and an utterly generic white male drawing which claims Huntley has blue eyes (he doesn't), piercings (none visible) and isn't even sure whether the thing on his head is hair or a scarf. [EDIT: thanks to @tabloidwatch on Twitter for correcting me here, I think the 'piercing' may have been a description of Huntley's eyes. Which still aren't blue, mind].

I don't want to get dragged too far into the subject of whether psychics are real or not, but ultimately this kind of unfounded speculation from a single source who has no knowledge of the case can't be helpful, particularly when she's allowed to toss out potentially serious misinformation like this:
Carol described the killer she saw as of mixed race, 5ft 11in to 6ft tall and in his early 20s
Perhaps it's the mysterious "some Puerto Rican guy" from South Park. Either way, this really feels like tremendous barrel-scraping from a paper content to give a platform to self-promoting bullshit merchants for the sake of keeping voyeurists entertained.


  1. How far can you go into the "subject of whether psychics are real or not"?!

    This far: THEY AREN'T

  2. Well, quite! I just meant I didn't want to derail the post by debunking psychics, since most people are aware it's obvious bullshit anyway.

  3. Sorry, didn't mean to derail! Just found it amusing that you used more words to avoid derailing than are actually required when discussing the subject in question.

    Should have said: great post. This Star bullshit is egregious, abhorrent. They should be ashamed, although I'm quite sure anyone who works for the Star is incapable of shame.

  4. The Mail headline is just ridiculous. Police are checking out her contacts, some of whom are no doubt on Facebook. How exactly is this a headline story? Other than to permit the Mail to once again run an "It's All Facebook's Fault" piece of nonsense.

  5. 'Nail' her killer? 'Nail' them? Really?

    Not quite sure what else to say to that.

  6. Yeh, it's all the fault of that nasty internets which their readers definitely should never go to and learn how to google for real facts on it, no sirree, 'cos it'll rape their credit cards and ethnics will steal their identity off've Facespace to become computer virus terriorists grooming children for Julian Assange's army of rapists, and stuff.

    Ya rly!

    Fantastic article and also loved the Forty Shades Of Grey link, well maybe loved isn't the word, but good reading!

    Great blog, B3ta put me onto it, it's been bookmarked and I'll be coming back for more, keep it coming!

    You might also want to ask b3ta about the Daily Fail mirror site someone there set up so ya don't have to run up their viewing figures when you link to it to laugh at them, I'd post it here but can't for the life of me find it right now and the boards gone quiet as it's evening, so no point asking till tomorrow.

    Found this on there tho: enjoy!

  7. Well done!

    The only time you should pick up the Daily Fail is if you've run out of toilet paper. Just make sure you don't confuse the used sheets with the unused! Hint: One is dangerous toxic waste contaminated with excrement, the other has just had a bum wiped on it.

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