I am not Nicholas. Podcast

When one of the most respected Police Officers I know of recommends a true crime Podcast it has to be worth having a listen. So thank you Colin Sutton, I took heed, and this is why I think it’s the best podcast I’ve listened to.

Jane MacSorely is an award winning TV Producer who worked for the BBC, but is now a freelance investigative journalist based in Scotland.

This podcast follows her investigation into the case of a man facing extradition, from the UK back to the United States, where he is wanted by the police on Rape charges.

The problem is the man in the UK has a different name, and claims he is not the man wanted by the American Police.

MacSorely wants to get to the bottom of this. Is it a case of mistaken identity by the authorities, or is the man weaving an elaborate web of lies to escape justice?

A little more about the case shortly but first a bit about how it’s presented.

As well as being a true crime investigation it’s just as much about the investigator. Jane MacSorely takes us on a ride from the start of her intrigue into the case, all the way to her conclusion.

The podcast is presented in almost a diary form. Her recordings are amazing. We hear her change her mind, we hear her frustrations, she live records her reactions to breaking news, she tells us how she feels following interviews.

It is a real eye opener for those who have never been involved in an investigation.

Me. I am a Fire Investigator, I have been involved in quiet a few criminal investigations, and I can empathise with MacSorely’s feelings throughout this podcast. And I never thought I’d say that about a journalist.

As an investigator you constantly build hypothesis. You use the “scientific method” to test the hypothesis. If it’s robust you consider it. If it isn’t you disregard it. This might take seconds in your own head, or it might take days, or weeks, of research, but it has to be done, and it will, and should, lead to you changing your mind, until you reach the right conclusion.

MacSorely does this in public, out loud, in the nine episodes of this podcast. At times she believes the man is who he says he is, and at times she thinks he’s the man the Americans say he is. What she doesn’t do is let any cognitive bias she may develop, in either belief, get in the way of her finding the truth. As much as she may want him to be Nicholas, or as much as she may want him to be Arthur, what she really wants is to know the TRUTH.

So who is Nicholas, and who is Arthur.

Nicholas is an American man. When he was young he portrayed himself as being a high achiever in the political world, working for politicians from a ridiculously young age.

He was a child placed into care, where he alleges he was abused.

He is a massive self publicist and sees himself as an important person, seeking an almost celebrity status.

Then he is accused of abusing somebody and receives a criminal conviction.

Shortly after that he announces he has advanced cancer and disappears from public view until his death is reported and his and his “wife” starts to try and arrange a public memorial service for him.

The American Police say he has faked his own death and that he has fled the Country.

Arthur is an unwell man. He has suffered badly with Covid and presents as a weak individual confined to a wheelchair and constantly wearing an oxygen mask.

The first encounter with him is following his release from prison where he was being held as a suspected American fugitive awaiting deportation. It was this trial that first attracted Jane MacSorley to the case. He’s out of incarceration but still faces a court battle to prove he is Arthur and not Nicholas.

He is short tempered and manipulative. At times I believed his story, much like MacSorley, and again just like her, I swayed the other way.

There is evidence presented in this podcast that, at first I found spurious, but which later became relevant.

At best the evidence presented in the podcast, and from what I’ve read in the actual Court Trials, is circumstantial, but there’s a lot of it.

There are obvious questions I, and most people would want to ask, which don’t get asked.

Why was no DNA test made. If they don’t have Nicholas’s on file, which I presume they would have as he has convictions in the States, they have close relatives which could have provided samples for familial comparison.

Arthur was being held for deportation before his release on licence, surely his DNA is also on record.

There are numerous images and videos of Nicholas when he was active in America, and although Arthur disguises his face with the oxygen mask and a beard, comparisons could have been made. MacSorely comes close to this with a short glimpsed observation of him without his mask, but no official image comparisons are recorded.

I don’t recall MacSorely digging into the life history of Arthur in the Podcast. Birth Certificate, School records, employment history, even social media history could all have been looked for or into.

A man cannot just appear in 2020 with no past. Yes it’s relatively easy to create a new identity, but it wouldn’t pass a proper scrutiny. Maybe it was done but either didn’t show anything up or didn’t support the narrative, but it should have been mentioned.

Having said that she does an excellent job of finding out the truth. In fact she obtains a piece of evidence that I’m not sure the law agencies dealing with the case found.

The ninth episode brings us right up to date at the time the podcast was released. With the one of the latest court hearing and it’s findings. No spoilers but I was straight on to google to research the outcome and it’s ramifications.

Jane MacSorely has taken this story as far as it could go…….so far.

Why so far? I’ve just seen a few articles that have reported Nicholas/Arthur’s latest Court appearance in mid February 2023. Safe to say this story still has legs.

Available in 9 episodes of varying length.

Available on Audible

Commissioned by the BBC

Narrated by Jane MacSorely.

Inside Job. Dr Rebecca Myers

One of the things that fascinates me is the way the mid works.

This book gives a great insight into the criminal mind, but also the mind of the person that has to deal with those people.

Dr Rebecca Myers is a Forensic Psychologist who has worked with some of the highest profile offenders in the country. This is her memoir of the first few years of her career.

From day one, when she walked into Graymoor Prison as a young, new graduate, to be told she was going to be the Psychologist leading group therapy for some serious sex offenders; to the end of this part of her life where she took part in a disturbing hostage crisis.

She takes us into the sessions and we hear about some disturbing crimes, but it also shows us the thought process of the criminals, and their lack of empathy to the victims.

The sessions are designed to introduce empathy, and start the prisoner on the road to rehabilitation. Frustrating in most cases, and depending on your point of view, either a waste of time, or a valid attempt to put right a deviant mind.

The offenders are only given first names in the book, but I have a feeling I identified at least one by the description of his crimes, and I suspect a bit of research would also identify some of the others.

The book lays out the hierarchy of offenders in the institutions they are locked up in. The contempt shown to offenders by people who have carried out similar crimes, which in their opinion is worse than the crime they carried out.

Most telling is the effect it has on the prison staff. When Myers first went into Graymoor it wasn’t just the inmates who looked at her as a “piece of meat” Even in the early 2000’s she fought sexism and crudity’s from the overwhelmingly male staff.

As she starts to deal with the inmates in the group sessions it has an effect on the way she thinks and acts.

She is honest in the fact that she entered into an adulterous relationship with a colleague, before recognising his controlling behaviour as being similar to that of the inmates they are trying to counsel.

But what I find most telling, is that from the start of the book, all the way up to the last event she covers, she doubts her own ability to be doing the job. Imposter Syndrome.

She is good at her job, but like a lot of people, she considers herself to have almost stumbled from one thing to another, university, to a job in a prison, to leading group sessions, and ultimately being recalled to duty to deal with a hostage situation.

You don’t end up doing the things she’s done by not being good, it’s no coincidence that she’s called in, yet even after a “successful” outcome she still doubts herself.

I really hope there’s a part two to these memoirs. I’ve looked her up and I think she has a lot more to tell.

Trigger warning. This book is a blunt look at sex offenders and their behaviour through group sessions. There are elements of every chapter that could act as a trigger to anybody who has been subject to any form of sexual abuse.

Pages: 313. Audio Book Length: 7.58. Narrator Emma Wilkes. Publisher: Harper Collins. Available now

Murder in the Neighborhood Ellen J Green

In 1949 a young man cracked. He had brought a machete and planned to cut his neighbours heads off, but because that took planning he had time to think about it and something inside him stopped him.

Then, on Labour Day he picked up a gun and went on a twenty minute walk down the street killing people that annoyed him over the years. Some others, a young boy, a man driving his car, we’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In the end thirteen people lay dead.

The police knew who had done it and made a very quick arrest.

Howard Unruh was a bookish introvert who nobody though of as a threat. What made him flip, the vandalism of a back gate.

This is the story of that day, and the decades that followed. Researched deeply in the community.

Told through the story of survivors and people from the neighbourhood.

I had never heard of Unruh until I picked this book up. The first thing I did was hit Google.

He is thought by many to be Americas first “Mass Shooter” the first to pick up weapons and go on a shooting spree.

So why had I never heard of him. I’m a true crime fan. You would have thought he would have cropped up in my reading, or I’d have seen a TV documentary about the killings.

I think that is what I enjoyed so much about this book. I was new to this crime. Ellen J Green has done a marvellous job of tying together accounts and information from people who were there on the day or who knew the perpetrator and, or, his victims.

Most poignantly the accounts of Raymond, a young boy who witnessed the shootings and how he was affected by them. But most of all Unruh’s mother, who was left living in the small community he had wrecked havoc in, and how she had to live with his actions.

What drove a former model soldier, who had served in the later part of WWII, a man known for his love of the Bible to become Americas first mass shooter.

He was diagnosed to have severe mental health issues, but up until the shooting there doesn’t seem to be much of a worry about him.

He spent the rest of his life in a Maximum Security Hospital.

Did he get away with something there, was he as badly affected by mental health issues as he was diagnosed with.

I’ll let you decide.

Print length: 311 pages. Publisher: Thread. Publishing date: April 28th 2022

American Sherlock. Kate Winkler Dawson

I had heard of Edward Oscar Heinrich, but in somewhat of an urban myth type of way.

I knew he was a real person, and his name seemed to crop up on the edges of research I had done whilst gaining Forensic Qualifications.

So when I saw this book was available to review I knew I was going to read it. Originally I was going to use it as a literacy pallet cleanser, reading a chapter between books. That went out of the window after the first chapter

If you don’t know who Edward Oscar Heinrich is imagine a mad Professor who approached the Police and said science can solve crimes. Now think this happened in the early 1930’s

A lot of his work has gone unrecorded for years, after some of his methods were called into doubt.

But after his death in 1953, at the age of 72, all of his files and equipment went into storage. In the late 1960s the collection was bequeathed to the University of California where it lay untouched for nearly 50 years until the author requested permission to look inside the boxes, and what a treasure chest she opened

Heinrich was integral in some of the most high profile cases of the 20’s, 30s and 40’s

The first case that brought him to attention was when he assisted police in Portland with a crime that had gone wrong. 3 men had tried to stop a train and rob it, a bit like the UK’s Great Train Robbery, only this one went very wrong

The men only succeeded in blowing the train up and killing 4 people.

Heinrich used science to establish what had happened and helped catch the perpetrators.

And so was born Forensic Scene Examination, and Forensic Science in American Law enforcement.

This book looks at some of his more notable, and in some cases infamous, cases.

This is more than a book, it’s a gateway, via Google, into some brilliant reading.

Whether you are a True Crime fan, a Crime Fiction fan, or just somebody who enjoys a good book, you will live this.

But be prepared, it’s going to lead to a lot of reading outside of the covers of this book.

Pages: 359. Publisher U.K: Icon Books. Available now

Boots in the Ashes. Cynthia Beebe

Boots in the Ashes. Cynthia Beebe

A few weeks ago I saw a post on twitter announcing the publication date of a book, Boots in Ashes. Given my 30 years in the Fire Service this caught my attention straight away. When I dug around a bit and found that it was a memoir of an ATF Special Agent, who specialised in Fire and Explosion investigation, the discipline I specialised in for the last 12 of those 30 years, I knew it was a book I wanted to read.

Thankfully I managed to contact the author, Cynthia Beebe, and she helped me get my hands on a copy. That in itself must have been brave, after all she was going to let a subject matter expert review her book. Well I’m glad she did because this is a fantastic read.

Cynthia plots the course of her career by looking at some of the landmark cases she worked on, and some of the experiences she had whilst serving as a Special Agent in the ATF

The cases include the bombing of two Judges homes, targeted “Hits”, and her pursuit of Hells Angel type biker gangs. The book took me longer than usual to read because every time she mentioned a case I reached for Google and got lost in a worm hole of reports and witness accounts. This added a depth to the book, and in fairness each of these stories could have been a true crime book on its own. I hope that there will be another book where we get to hear about some more of her work.

It’s not just the cases though, it’s the way she describes the scenes. That first time she attended a Fire Scene and the confusion she felt at the destruction of the building which had been ravaged by fire. The determination she had to ensure that justice was done and that the culprit was found and taken to court.

The frustrations of working with, what a times were bigoted old men, makes Cynthia’s achievements even more impressive. When I teach University students one of the most often asked questions, by the young women in the class, is can women make good firefighters. My answer is always the same. Some of the best firefighters I ever served with were women. All of the worst firefighters I ever served with were men. Hopefully the question will stop one day but until then I’m going to point those who ask it in the direction of this book.

This book will be a great read for anybody who is into true crime, but I think there will be a lot of Fire Investigators and Crime Scene Investigators in the UK that will be looking for a copy, and they are going to love it

Published in the UK on 25the February 2020 and available on Amazon