THere, of course, is an infinite, unyielding pathos to the stories of the infinite, relentless survivors in a program about death. This is even more so when this grief was triggered by such brutal means as murder.
This gathering of such terrible stories in A Year of British Murder was no exception. The perfect reminder of the happy ordinariness of life that Shaun Woodburn's best friend remembered after Shaun was beaten to death in front of a pub, broke your heart. "We did not do amazing things," he said. "The best time was literally sitting in my mother's house. Being together was the main thing. "The five-year-old question to a friend who had just stepped into the ashes of their 17-year-old brother," Why did you step on Kyle? "They were glad that their mother had not felt. Take part in the ceremony for their boy.
"I got a last kiss from my Lisa, my lovely girl," said the mother of a woman who was killed by her boyfriend on an ordinary night while smoothing the lipstick-spotted fabric she found when she did Her daughter's house had been cleared from the house. Subtitles ran under the Romanian mother of Razban Sirvu when she talked about her murdered son – "I miss him very much. As my only child he will always be a part of me "- but she had the same unfathomable sadness in her eyes as the parents of Shaun and Kyle and Lisa and barely had to be translated.
You have to deliver such stories well, and A Year of British Murder wavered. One can see the superficial pull of imagination: going through a year – in 2017, when there were 768 victims of murder or manslaughter – putting the voice behind people behind statistics is an obvious way to structure such a piece. In practice, however, it had unforeseen disadvantages.
There was something cold mechanical about illustrating the numbers with people. Here was the one representing the 105 victims of terrorism that has existed since 2000; This was the one who represented the 38% of the victims who were murdered with a knife or a sharp tool. Next up – One of the 17% for whose murder there is no known motive.
The demands on the chronology and the mere depiction meant that certain stories were sometimes given remarkably little time or weight. Especially in the case of Tina Billingham, who was killed after years of abuse by her partner Ron, and her two sons were still struggling with the cumulative weight of all of them.
Aisha Harris had only a few minutes to limit the life of her son Ruben, who was shaken by his father at the age of six months ("children under a child have the highest homicide rate in the UK") had the ill-defined caption which category we used now held) or their own since. She noticed how she tried to pretend that it was only social services that had taken him away.
In the end, and since this approach meant that each story covered only the initial state of mourning of any suffering family or friends, you had the impression of a murder collage rather than a coherent picture of cause or effect that goes beyond what a marginal one Sensible person can already understand and appreciate.
So you have to ask – and I think you have to ask, if you ask vulnerable people to participate in such a program and participate in their loss. What is the point? It was not an exploration of grief or how its development is affected by the circumstances surrounding the death of the loved one and the quick and effective punishment (or not) of the murderer. It was not a study of the murderer's motives or ways of thinking.
It had two functions at best. The lesser was confirmation of what we had already known, certainly before God, though he had long left us; This murder is horrible, the mental wound is immortal and the violation of natural justice and any other kind of justice almost unbearable. The larger was a testimony to the bravery of the people who endure, who, like Shaun's father and others, fight to keep the remnants of justice alive and easily manage to somehow continue in a state of unimaginable pain.
I do not think it's enough, but maybe – especially if I'm included in the round with other shows on the subject that opt for other approaches and drill down – I'm wrong. Maybe it has brought peace to all concerned.