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The Independent Culture
Bang to rights, trussed up like a kipper, its dabs all over the place, a very guilty-looking branch of forensic science was in the dock in Traces of Guilt (BBC2). The film told the story of Tony Keko, sent down for the rest of his natural a couple of years ago for the savage murder of his wife. Since the crime took place in the USA, the documentary was able to reconstruct events by calling on all possible witnesses: the lawyers, the jurors, the police, the judge and the accused. Well, the two accused: Keko and Michael West, the flamboyant forensic scientist whose evidence as an expert witness had been instrumental in Keko's conviction.

The access that the film-crew enjoyed seemed inconceivable to those used to British justice. Policemen staged reconstructions, Keko looked gloomy while sitting in his cell, the judge sat in his chambers discussing his reasons for accepting West's evidence. It was no surprise, however, that the most co-operative of the film's witnesses was West himself, the expert with a mission. A forensic odontologist (in other words, he dusted for teeth imprints), West had developed his own methodology, involving ultra-violet lamps and yellow-tinted goggles. This he put to use to claim that Keko's teeth matched the bite marks on his wife's body, marks that West (and no one else) noticed on the flaking flesh of a corpse which had been exhumed after 14 months underground. The programme nicely built up the case against West: that his evidence was slap-dash, unproven, chocker with wild assertions. All the more so when you heard his motivation for becoming an expert witness. "I feel the Lord wants me to work in this area," he claimed. "To fight the good fight, not for personal glorification." Though we got a measure of his humility when he revealed that he had named one of his bogus scientific discoveries "The West Phenomenon".

The problem with self-aggrandising egoists in the witness box is somewhat compounded when they come dressed in the clothes of science. Keko had a cast-iron alibi; moreover, he had, at the time he was picked up, not a scratch on his body - despite his wife putting up the fight of her life. Yet the fact that some dangerous self-delusionist with a couple of letters after his name gave testimony overwhelmed all other evidence in the jury's mind. Fortunately for Keko, two years after he was first convicted, the judge ordered a retrial when West was thrown out of his professional body as a discredited witness. A bit late, though, for another man West testified against. He was subsequently executed.

For those of us brought up on Animal Magic and Zoo Time, the children's television wildlife series of the Sixties and Seventies, The Really Wild Show (BBC1) comes as almost as big a shock as seeing judges admit they were wrong. Fronted by Michaela Strachan, a presenter who apparently mainlines enthusiasm, it is full of useful information delivered in an entertaining way (good to know, for instance, that an anteater's tongue is 18 inches long). Better still, there was not a hint, as Michaela investigated Jamaican wildlife ("Woahh, wow, that's incredible!" she yelled as she stroked a crocodile) of Desmond Morris being patronising about his pet chimp, or Johnny Morris dressed as a zoo-keeper implying that hippos and tigers alike speak with a west-country accent.

Rolf Harris, on the other hand, clearly still believes in that sort of programming. As his extended advert for the RSPCA, Animal Hospital (BBC1), focused on the work of vets helping pet pooches through injury crises, a conundrum which has been exercising Rolf-watchers for years was finally explained. That bizarre "inch-cha-cha, ung-cha-cha" breathing routine he goes in for is merely his way of communicating with dogs.

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