REVIEW: CBS Reality’s The Real Prime Suspect revisits chilling case of Donald Neilson
The former Metropolitan police force veteran who inspired hit drama Prime Suspect’s DCI Jane Tennison, Jackie Malton, returns to detective work in new CBS Reality series The Real Prime Suspect.
The Real Prime Suspect is a real life documentary series re-investigating some of Britain’s most notorious crimes with Malton at the helm. Malton’s extensive contact list means she gains access to the detectives, journalists and witnesses who were at the scene of the crime – helping her provide new insight on how and why some of the country’s most devastating crimes were committed.
The first in the ten part series, which starts tonight at 10pm, features the case of robber, kidnapper and murderer Donald Neilson. The former serviceman, known as the “Black Panther” for his dark clothing, committed more than 400 burglaries. After taking to robbing post offices, he murdered three postmasters during a reign of terror in the early 1970s. In 1975, he kidnapped teenage heiress Leslie Whittle, demanding a £50,000 ransom for her safe return.
The Real Prime Suspect takes its audience to the same park where Whittle was held, imprisoned in a tunnel system far below those searching for her. Malton holds exclusive interviews with the individuals who worked on the investigation, including the police officer who discovered Whittle’s body and one of the journalists who broke the story. Malton listens to the ransom tapes Neilson forced Whittle to record, and the police recordings of Neilson’s interviews in custody. She paints the chilling story of a remorseless narcissist.
Malton, on her first time presenting a television series, is a breath of fresh air. Her knowledge and expertise gives audience a genuine insight into working on a high-profile case, while her continuing empathy for the victims reminds one exactly what was at stake. In one scene, Malton becomes visibly emotional as she explains how some cases “just get you” as an investigator. In another, she relays a terrifying trick played on her by a prisoner that she remembers to this day. These are insights and responses from somebody who has lived the life of a detective – and make for excellent television. It makes for stark contrast with the psychopathic subject of this first episode.