Last Night's Television - Whitechapel, ITV1; The Princess and the Gangster, Channel 4

Don't mess with the firm

John Bindon was a charismatic fellow, a great story-teller and the life and soul of every party. He was an occasional actor, who popped up in some seminal 1960s films, including Get Carter and Ken Loach's Poor Cow, playing an alternative version of himself, for he was also a violent small-time criminal and a bully. His posh girlfriend, the Hon Vicki Hodge, still has knife marks to show for their relationship.

However, it was for none of the above that, in the 1970s, Bindon's name was as familiar to me and my schoolfriends as those of our teachers. Somehow, word that he was prodigiously endowed in the manhood department got from the pubs of west London, where Bindon used to hang out in more ways than one, to the corridors of our north-of-England grammar school. It could almost have been me and my mates reminiscing fondly in The Princess and the Gangster, but instead it was Bindon's old friends recalling his party pieces, one of which was to "whirl it around like a helicopter". "He used to slap it on the bar," remembered Hodge. "I just thought it was frightfully funny." At my school, it was even claimed that he could stand six pints of beer on it. He was a legend in his own lunchbox.

The central question of this rather tacky documentary was whether Princess Margaret took Bindon's lunchbox to bed. They met in her playpen, the Caribbean island of Mustique, in 1973. Her marriage to Lord Snowdon was as good as over, and Bindon was taking a timely holiday while coppers in Fulham looked for him in connection with some brouhaha or other. Margaret didn't know that he was a villain, just that he was terribly amusing. She also, it was reported by some of her entourage, was treated to his helicopter trick, after which her "lady-in-waiting sat down and said, 'Well, I've seen bigger'."

Whatever, Margaret and Bindon continued to see each other back in London, and the security forces had a quiet word with him when it emerged that he had photos of himself on Mustique that were deemed likely to "embarrass" the Royal Family. Whether any of this was worthy of an hour of our time or indeed Channel 4's, I'm not sure. Margaret's friends always denied that Bindon was anything other than an acquaintance, and of all the people interviewed here, only Hodge, rather desperately basking in the dubious reflected glory, clung to the belief that they had been sexually involved.

Still, I quite enjoyed the image of Margaret turning furiously in her grave, not so much at the suggestion that she had taken Bindon to the royal bed, but with indignation at the "lookalike" hired for the inevitable dramatic reconstructions. She might have been an appalling woman who behaved with monstrous hauteur towards almost everyone, but she didn't deserve quite such a horsey doppelgänger.

Nor, in truth, did she deserve title billing in what was basically a programme about Bindon – who became a reclusive heroin addict and died of an Aids-related illness in 1993 – in which she should have had little more than a wave-on part. It was plainly absurd to imply, as this documentary did, that she owed her plunge in public opinion to the association with Bindon, which was broken by the Daily Mirror after he was tried for murder, and somewhat mysteriously acquitted, in 1978. There have been some right royal scandals since then that made this one seem very small beer indeed. All the same, speaking of beer, it was good to be reminded of the rumours about Bindon's manhood that used to entertain my schoolfriends and me.

Returning to royal scandals, it is sometimes claimed that one of Queen Victoria's grandsons, the Duke of Clarence, was Jack the Ripper. This theory was aired again last night as the hunt for a modern-day copycat Ripper gathered pace in the increasingly preposterous yet still-watchable Whitechapel, in which Racquel from Only Fools and Horses (or at least the actress who played her, Tessa Peake-Jones) became the latest disembowelled victim. Not so cushty.

Whoever is committing these dreadful crimes is rapidly turning into the drama's most plausible character. The coppers down Whitechapel nick are obviously products of a writer's wishful thinking, with their iffy personal hygiene and inability to understand the word "fallible", while their boss, Detective Inspective Chandler (Rupert Penry-Jones), looks more and more as though he wandered on to the wrong set while making an episode of Heartbeat or Poirot. And yet I find that I want to know what happens next, if only to resolve the question of whether DI Chambers's second-in-command, DS Miles (Phil Davis), practically Olympic standard in the business of jumping to conclusions, is as thick as he appears to be.

One final word on Whitechapel. Last week, I was prepared to forgive the over-zealous use of background music, but during last night's episode, the attempt to depict East End alleyways late at night as deserted except for killer and victim was thoroughly undermined by the apparent presence of not one orchestra but several.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Arts and Entertainment
Umar Ahmed and Kiran Sonia Sawar in ‘My Name Is...’
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
This year's Big Brother champion Helen Wood
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Full company in Ustinov's Studio's Bad Jews
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Harari Guido photographed Kate Bush over the course of 11 years
Music
Arts and Entertainment
Reviews have not been good for Jonathan Liebesman’s take on the much loved eighties cartoon
Film

A The film has amassed an estimated $28.7 million in its opening weekend

Arts and Entertainment
Untwitterably yours: Singer Morrissey has said he doesn't have a twitter account
Music

A statement was published on his fansite, True To You, following release of new album

Arts and Entertainment
Full throttle: Philip Seymour Hoffman and John Turturro in God's Pocket
film
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie Minogue is expected to return to Neighbours for thirtieth anniversary special
tv
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be Lonely Island's second Hollywood venture following their 2007 film Hot Rod
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Day-Lewis stars in the movie There Will Be Blood
music
Arts and Entertainment
Brush with greatness: the artist Norman Cornish in 1999
art
Life and Style
Stress less: relaxation techniques can help focus the mind and put problems in context
art
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
    Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

    But could his predictions of war do the same?
    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

    Young at hort

    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

    Beyond a joke

    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

    A wild night out

    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

    It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
    Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

    Besiktas vs Arsenal

    Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

    The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

    Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment