Watching 24 Hours in Police Custody (Channel 4, Mon/Tues, 9pm), however, and you realise the truth is far less exciting, but no less dramatic.
This first two-parter of a new series followed the case of Victoria Breeden, a Cambridgeshire woman who had been caught on tape – well, phone voice recorder – plotting to murder her ex-partner.
At first, the officers investigating the case were unsure whether the recording was enough evidence, yet as the investigation progressed – checking Breeden’s history, her other ex-partners, her criminal record – they soon saw a pattern.
Without the need for undercover officers, firearms or unnecessarily complicated three-letter abbreviations, the detectives compiled a huge dossier of evidence against Breeden.
The subtitle to the programme, ‘Black Widow’, was a little on the histrionic side, but this was an absorbing documentary which shone a light on just how painstakingly detectives put together a case.
All of this in the face of a suspect who tried to manipulate and hoodwink her interrogators with tales of abuse, illness and pain – “It provides her a way to control the situation,” says her ex-husband.
Interviews with her victims – who were all, incredibly, compassionate towards Breeden – added a telling layer of emotion to what could have been cold and aloof, and made you realise that real life is always stranger than fiction.
Best programme by miles this week has been Winter Walks (BBC4, Mon-Fri, 7pm), as well-known faces take a fancy camera and themselves for a walk in the country. Tranquil, beautiful and much-needed.
The Great (Channel 4, Sunday, 9pm) was a colourful, highly-fictionalised account of the early days of Catherine the Great, and was ribald, ridiculous and laugh-out-loud funny. A hoot.
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