Review: New documentaries Moors Murders and Yorkshire Ripper: The Secret Murders keep banging the drum on gruesome cases that need to be left in respectful silence

Recent weeks may have given me murder fatigue, what with The Nilsen Files and The Ripper Speaks: The Lost Tapes, but there were two new tiresome additions to the canon this week.

By Phil Cunnington
Friday, 25th February 2022, 5:00 pm

Moors Murders (Channel 4, Mon/Tues, 9pm) and Yorkshire Ripper: The Secret Murders (ITV, Weds/Thurs. 9pm) both claimed to reveal new secrets and hidden facts, but that was simply a bad reason to go over old, bloody ground.

One of the worst aspects of Channel 4’s look at the appalling crimes of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley was the weird animated mugshots of the pair, images taken just after they were arrested, becoming icons of evil.

Adding nothing to the stock of what we already know, and lending the pair a humanity which they don’t deserve, it was a gimmick, and a tasteless one at that.

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The famous mugshot of Moors murderer Ian Brady, which Channel 4 animated for its latest documentary on Brady and his accomplice Myra Hindley

The murders were raked over in gruesome detail, mainly using an almost 20-year-old interview with Hindley’s brother-in-law David Smith, once a suspect himself, and very little new was presented.

Much the same could be said of ITV’s Ripper doc, which attempted to link unsolved murders to Peter Sutcliffe, who terrorised West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester throughout the 70s.

These particular waters were muddied by – again –the same old talking heads, including Bruce Jones, Corrie’s Les Battersby, who discovered the body of Ripper victim Jean Jordan.

“The Ripper hysteria was like a drum beat in the back of everything,” someone says, and that insistent rhythm persists today, drowning out the voices of the victims and deafening us to horrors happening now, today.

Stephen Downing, who served almost 30 years in prison for the murder of Wendy Sewell in a graveyard in Bakewell, Derbyshire, before his conviction was quashed as unsafe. Sewell's murder was linked to the Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe in a new ITV documentary called Yorkshire Ripper: The Secret Murders

It’s time to cease the drumming, and let a respectful silence fall on these cases.

Cheaters (BBC1, Tues, 9.50pm & 10.40pm) is a comedy-drama about infidelity, presented in 10-minute chunks. All episodes are on iPlayer, and it’s nothing profound, but easy to binge.

Chloe (BBC1, Sun/Mon, 9pm) ended this week, and unlike a lot of dramas that end with a whimper, this kept its slightly off-kilter atmosphere right to the end. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth catching.