Normally, news of the winners of the BAFTA television awards pass me by like a cloud in the sky, ephemeral and unsubstantial; show business has never concerned me, and the personalities, unless connected with classical music, concern me less. But I would highlight one actor, one mini-series; and through those two examples, perhaps an indictment and even possibly an understanding of why the Press had, speedily, to institute their own Independent Regulator, even though they still have not complied with the demands of that Regulator.
The actor was Jason Watkins, and the mini-series named was ‘The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies’ . If the reader recalls, a young woman named Joanna Yeates, living in a Bristol flat owned by Jefferies was officially listed as ‘missing’, and a huge search was undertaken by both police and volunteers. The police interviewed Jefferies, a semi-retired lecturer and well-known eccentric, but leave, seemingly satisfied with his replies to their questions. Unfortunately, the very image of Chris Jefferies, grey hair askew, waving his hands in the air as he stated that he did not wish to speak to the media, together with a large number of unsupported and slanderous rumours about his character, set the majority of the national and local press into virtual ‘witch-hunt ‘ mode. The bold headlines stated he was a ‘peeping tom’, a full face photo of Jefferies was surrounded by headlines asking if the dead body was hidden next to his flat?
Chris Jefferies was in custody for three days, questioned by detectives, and ultimately released as the police had absolutely no evidence against him, but he was dissected extensively in the newspapers and on television, with the following results:-
He was weird……….Guilty
He swept his long hair in an overcomb, and through a mistaken choice of shampoo, had dyed it blue….Guilty
He was pedantic in the extreme, correcting himself as well as others, just to prove that his knowledge of the English language was better than that of his audience …………..Definitely Guilty.
He had never married……………..therefore probably homosexual and …Guilty
The way he pronounced words and said his sentences was also weird.”….Why bother with a trial; Hang him!
His love of the poetry of the Pre-Raphaelite poet Christina Rossetti and idiosyncratic pronunciation of place names was almost unworldly……need I say more?
Shortly after the arrest and subsequent release of Chris Jefferies, I wrote a small post surmising that if Mr. Jefferies had any sense, he would be in conversations with solicitors regarding the substantial defamations to which he had been subjected, and I am so glad that he literally took them to the proverbial cleaners, but, and unfortunately it is a big ‘but’; Mr’.Jefferies, that mild, unassuming man, of a typical ‘absent-minded professor’ image, will never, ever be able to walk down a Bristol street whilst being anonymous, ever again.
Jason Watkins did a marvellous job of depicting that ‘professor’ image in that remarkable drama, and both his award, as well as that given the television drama itself were well deserved, but the problem remains; the Press is reluctant these days to burst into black headlines because of the memories of the phone hacking trials, as well as the Leveson Inquiry and their Independent Complaints Organisation; but just give them time, and another nice juicy sex-drenched murder, and then watch what they print about any suspect!
Some readers may be aware that, apart from playing football and cricket when a youngster, I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in any sport. None; nada; zilch interest. As that makes me somewhat unique in my own wider family and local area, I am looked upon as always being a little ‘weird’ myself. Heaven help me if a footballer gets himself killed within five miles of my home! I have also written a novel in which a right-wing politician gains high office in Great Britain. I am truly doomed!
As I wrote at the time on my blog:-
All I would ever say about Chris Jefferies’ life is that I do hope he hasn’t got a copy of ‘Mein Kampf’ on his bookshelf; hasn’t visited the BNP website regularly on his computer, or worst of all been reading the collected speeches of Margaret Thatcher, because he really would be condemned out of hand!