Stories from 1995:

Trial of the crew who murdered stowaways

Published November 1995.

The chief officer said it all. After the French police had questioned him, when finally they had persuaded him to admit to eight wretched, blood murders – to admit that he had been there personally with his pistol in his hand while the Africans were shot to death – the Ukrainian sailor cocked his chin at the cops and told them that he had done nothing wrong really. He said: “Europe will thank us for what we did.”

How Scotland Yard shielded a gangster from justice – news and feature

Published November 1995.

News story –

The scoop monger

Published October 1995.

When politicians in different corners of the world wonder out loud whether Rupert Murdoch is becoming too powerful, they are thinking normally on a grand scale, about his potential to manipulate governments or to subvert national cultures. However, the same question can arise on a much more human scale, if any ordinary individuals find themselves challenging Rupert’s rule.

Climbing out of old age

Published July 1995.

There is something about climbing that lends itself to symbolism – the struggle towards the highest peak, the search for footholds on the future – and so naturally, it is tempting to take one look at Sid Thompson and Cliff Sandham, clinging to a rock tower in the Lake District like two gnats on a knitting needle, and see them as a metaphor for the conquest of old age.

Snapshots of poverty – the school

Published June 1995.

There is a small boy in the playground, probably about eight years old, and he is crying while his young mother stands and looks away. In a flat voice, she says “Shut your mouth”. He cries on. “Shut your mouth”. He cries on. She turns and leans into his face. “Shut your mouth or I’ll slap you.” He shuts his mouth and starts to cry through his nose instead, and his mother looks away again.

Snapshots of poverty – the doctor’s surgery

Published June 1995.

At first, when she walks in to see Dr Dowson, her problem seems quite clear: she has two small boys who are as mad as monkeys. They slide and wrestle around the floor, they yell and scream, they drag anything loose off Dr Dowson’s desk and start a tug-of-war with his stethoscope, while she sits with her shoulders slumped and says that she gets headaches and needs some tablets.

Snapshots of poverty – the red-light area

Published June 1995.

The Anglican Cathedral of Liverpool is like a mountain. Its great brown bulk soars up over the life below and, high above the houses with the boards across their windows, beyond the sight of the shops with grids of steel across their glass, the summit of its spire is lost in the clouds of a grey English evening. It is the biggest Anglican church on the planet and, tonight, it will be full.

Snapshots of poverty – the courtroom

Published June 1995.

Mr Bourke is a magistrate of the gentle school, courteous to the point of deference, rather like the old English character actor Wilfred Hyde White with his air of barely suppressed confusion. He sits on his high-backed wooden chair, peering over the top of his spectacles at the ceaseless flow of wretches and rogues through the dock below him and, from time to time, he likes to shake his head and sadly murmur what has become his catch-phrase. “Well,” he says, more or less to himself. “So there it is.”

The mother who lost all her children – follow-up

Published May 1995.

It is nearly 18 months now since Tina Sampson was famous. In the early days of 1994, she was one of the notorious “Home Alone” mothers, who was said to have left her five small boys alone in a house so foul with dog mess and general filth that police officers were physically sick and social workers described it as a toilet. To a national chorus of approval, all five of her boys, aged between six months and six years, were taken away from her.

The murder of Daniel Handley – three features

Published April 1995.

Feature 1 –

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