Last Night's TV: It's hard to believe he was a lady killer

Was Dr Crippen Innocent? Revealed, Five; Duncan Bannatyne Takes On Big Tobacco, BBC2

I think there's something going on. First, we learn that Valerie Singleton isn't a lesbian after all. Now, Five is telling us that Dr Crippen wasn't a murderer.

That doleful little man in Madame Tussauds, with the Kipling moustache and the wire-rimmed glasses, doesn't offer an epitome of the meek exterior concealing a murderous mind, he's actually looking so harmless and disconsolate because he didn't do it. What next? A special edition of Horizon throwing doubt on the theory that the world is round? I exaggerate a little, I grant you, but there was no question that it was a bit of a surprise to find that Revealed, a strand that I generally associate with uncovering the Catholic sympathies of popes, had actually come up with some real revelations in its Was Dr Crippen Innocent? documentary.

If Crippen was alive today, his case would have been handled very differently. Having whipped up an international media frenzy with the help of Marconi's new wireless after his escape across the Atlantic, Crippen would have retained Max Clifford to look after the media bids for exclusives and explore reality-television opportunities. He would then have used the cash to retain the best criminal lawyer available. As it was, the film suggested, poor Dr Crippen got railroaded, his barristers deprived of critical information that was available at the time of his trial (evidence that Cora had attempted to withdraw the couple's life savings shortly before her disappearance and that she had been using a local removals firm to take away her belongings). More gravely, Crippen didn't have access to information that would have made his conviction for Cora's murder utterly impossible, largely because most of the information didn't emerge until decades after his death.

The engine for Five's film – a human V8 called John Trestrail, who has made something of a hobby out of the Crippen case – started with a hunch based on his own experience as a leading toxicologist. Why, he asked himself, would a poisoner bury the fleshy parts of his victim in the cellar in his house when he'd successfully managed to dispose of all the really awkward chunks? And when he managed to test samples of what was found in Crippen's cellar, the mystery deepened further. Not only was it not Cora (if DNA tests using her living relatives were accurate), it wasn't even a woman. Since the remains were found wrapped up in Dr Crippen's pyjama tops, the only conclusion was that he'd bumped someone else off or that the investigating detective had done a little bit of evidential gardening, planting some helpful clues after three days of searches in the house had turned up nothing helpful. And perhaps the Crown had had a bit of help from its pathologist, Bernard Spilsbury, who confidently asserted that a scar on the remains matched Cora's medical record.

Whatever your views on the oddity of Crippen's behaviour at the time (he told friends and relatives that Cora had been taken ill and died in America and then legged it as soon as the police turned up), it was clear he wouldn't even have needed a particularly competent lawyer to walk free. As it was, it was just four weeks after the verdict was handed down that he was taking his last short walk in Pentonville prison. Roger Graef's film was a thoroughly enjoyable bit of forensic work, but the mind flinched a little from the thought of the hood rasping over the face of a man who still had no idea who was under the cobbles of his coal cellar.

Even if Crippen was a murderer, his death toll would have fallen far short of those pillars of the business community British American Tobacco, a company that likes to pretend that it is dealing in "lifestyle choice" and "pleasure", but is actually profitably engaged in selling a poison-delivery system. In Duncan Bannatyne Takes on Big Tobacco, the Dragons' Den regular travelled to Africa to find out what the company was up to in one of the few remaining growth markets. It was – surprise, surprise – up to no good, profiting, for instance, from "single-stick" sales of cigarettes (breaking packs down so poorer customers can buy one at a time), despite the fact that this is known to encourage purchases by underage smokers.

Bannatyne's film wasn't entirely satisfactory, since quite a lot of the evidence he found occupied that grey area into which tobacco companies have successfully been herded by various forms of health legislation. But he successfully conveyed the ugliness of the underlying enterprise. The World Health Organisation estimates that smoking accounts for 5.4 million deaths a year, more than tuberculosis, Aids and malaria combined. And while rich Westerners such as Bill Gates and Bill Clinton are attempting to reduce the fatalities caused by the latter three, British American Tobacco executives are working their socks off to increase sales and thereby the death toll from smoking. Bannatyne doorstepped BAT's annual shareholder meeting and secured this succinct disclaimer of ethical responsibility from one passing investor: "If they're stupid enough to smoke..."

Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Prince and 3RDEYEGIRL are releasing Plectrum Electrum next month

music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Arts and Entertainment
John Kearns winner of the Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award with last years winners: Bridget Christie and Frank Skinner
comedyJohn Kearns becomes the first Free Fringe act to win the top prize
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Sue Vice
booksAcademic says we should not disregard books because they unexpectedly change genre
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Muscato performs as Michael Crawford in Stars in Their Eyes

TV
Arts and Entertainment
‘Game of Thrones’

TV
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.

    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
    Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

    What is the appeal of Twitch?

    Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
    Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

    How bosses are making us work harder

    As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
    Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

    Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

    As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
    Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

    A tale of two writers

    Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
    Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

    Should pupils get a lie in?

    Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
    Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

    Prepare for Jewish jokes...

    ... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
    SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

    A dream come true for SJ Watson

    Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
    Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

    Paul Scholes column

    Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
    Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

    Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

    A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
    Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

    The science of herding is cracked

    Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
    Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

    This tyrant doesn’t rule

    It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?