CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: No killer can hide from this modern Sherlock

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: Elementary! No killer can hide from this 21st-century Sherlock

Cold Case Forensics: The Murder Of Rachel Nickell

Rating: **** 

 The Apprentice

Rating: ** 

An hour with Dr Angela Gallop is like a tutorial from a real-life Sherlock Holmes. True crime enthusiasts, grab a pen and make notes as you watch.

The veteran crime scene scientist, whose first major investigation was into one of the Yorkshire Ripper murders, detailed the techniques used to identify the killer of Rachel Nickell, in Cold Case Forensics (ITV).

These included simple methods I have not seen employed in any TV drama. One was to reconstruct an attack, wearing gloves coated in black fingerprint powder. 

The smudges showed where DNA traces were most likely to be left by an assailant. In Rachel’s case, which involved sexual assault, buttons and the hems of clothes were key sites.

Another was to take ‘hair combings’ by padding a brush with cotton wool and running it over the scalp of a victim. 

Cold Case Forensics: The Murder Of Rachel Nickell (ITV) detailed the techniques used to identify the killer of Rachel Nickell (pictured)

Crucial particles are caught by the soft fabric, instead of falling away. Combings from Rachel’s toddler, Alex, revealed fragments of red paint that were matched to the killer’s toolbox. 

But these came to light only when Dr Gallop was put on to the case — a decade after the murder.

By then, the psychopath who raped and stabbed her on Wimbledon Common, as she walked with her two-year-old son in 1992, had struck again — killing a mother and daughter in their own home.

The documentary made no excuses for abysmal failings by police. Robert Napper, the murderer, had been reported by his own mother, three years earlier . . . and they ignored her.

Wisely, the programme didn’t dwell on the story, told many times before, of how detectives tried to entrap an innocent man, Colin Stagg, into a confession, while Napper continued his attacks.

 Instead, the focus was on the forensics. Some of the science behind DNA enhancement breakthroughs became too technical, but Dr Gallop’s patient explanations kept reverting to what really mattered: the human elements.

A footprint on the common matched Napper’s shoe, but seemed too small — until the experts demonstrated how mud causes the track to shrink as the foot lifts.

An hour with veteran crime scene scientist, Dr Angela Gallop, is like a tutorial from a real-life Sherlock Holmes

Dr Gallop cited a dictum by pioneering French investigator Edmond Locard: ‘Every contact leaves a trace.’ I recognise that quote — it’s the inspiration for the BBC forensics drama Traces. But I hadn’t read the comment by Locard’s disciple, Paul Kirk, who explained how a criminal sheds countless clues: ‘Wherever he steps, whatever he touches, whatever he leaves, even unconsciously, will serve as a silent witness against him.’

I’d always assumed that the eponymous Silent Witness in that other BBC drama was a corpse dissected by pathologist Dr Nikki Alexander. Not so, it seems.

There are no silent witnesses in The Apprentice (BBC1). This bunch can’t shut up, even when talking themselves ever deeper into trouble. 

‘I hold myself accountable for that load of rubbish,’ announced Shazia after a disastrous pitch, apparently unable to understand that the point of this game is to blame everyone else.

This year’s crop lacks a standout idiot — the sort of disaster magnet who can barely tie shoelaces, but remains steadfastly oblivious to their own stupidity.

Instead, the show is relying on collective stupidity, and the candidates respond. Tasked with filming adverts for an electric motorcycle, one group hired an actress who couldn’t ride a bike.

Sweet shop boss Megan came up with an inadvertently hilarious slogan for electricity on two wheels: ‘Take charge of your bike, take charge of your woman.’

Maybe that’s the way to convert Hell’s Angels to e-power. Go for the chauvinist market.

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