Sunday, February 25, 2007

Diane Lazarus and the Suffolk murders: two stories are better than one

Psychics recognise that the support of their believers does little to persuade the general population of the reality of their abilities, and they have often sought validation by associating themselves with police work and missing person cases. In the US, where psychics are fixtures of mainstream television, this has led to unedifying spectacle of Sylvia Browne telling Shaun Hornbeck’s parents that he was dead (see ).

Little is said about this in the UK from the police side, although a recent FOI enquiry reported in the Skeptic Express found only one, unsolved case, where the police authority acknowledged the use of a psychic.

Diane Lazarus, winner of Channel Five’s Psychic Challenge, is keen to follow Browne’s example, and has claimed involvement in several cases, including Mark Green and Muriel Drinkwater (see Skeptic Express ), and most recently the Suffolk murders. Although she offered her help to the police, they did not take her up, and therefore she spoke to the press, leading to a story published in Wales on Sunday
Twist religious motive behind deaths 17th December, also
analysed in the Skeptic Express.

The only specific characteristics of the perpetrator were: “a young lad, a hoodie” and strong “religious” character.

Shortly afterwards, a suspect aged 38 was arrested on 18th December. He was then bailed and a second man, 48, was arrested on 19th December, and has now been charged with the murders. So not very young, then.

But in addition to the Wales on Sunday story, she had also spoken to the rival South Wales Guardian, who printed their story on 20th December.
Psychic senses profile of Suffolk strangler.
Since the South Wales Guardian is a weekly paper, it is not clear when the story was written (ie whether before the first arrest on the 18th). But what is clear is that the information provided by Lazarus differs considerably from that in the Echo:
She believes that the man - probably in his thirties - has large hands and is much stronger than he appears.
Nothing about religion there.
Lazarus has therefore covered the ground with the only specific information of which she is sure: that the murderer was a young lad, or in his thirties. If either of these choices had been correct, her powers would have been confirmed by incontrovertible evidence.

If the accused lawyer is smart, he will call Lazarus as a witness, in the hope that some members of the jury will believe in psychics, so that the following exchange can take place:
Lawyer: So you’ve helped the police in the past?
Lazarus: Oh yes, several times : Mark Green, etc etc
Lawyer: And you’re convinced that you can sense the true perpetrator
Lazarus: Yes
Lawyer: You sensed a young man with religious convictions was the murderer?
Lazarus: Yes
Lawyer: Would you describe the accused as such a man?
Lazarus: No, definitely not.
Lawyer: You sensed a man in his thirties with large hands. Is this the accused?
Lazarus: No, definitely not.
Lawyer: So you believe that the accused is not the man who is responsible for the murders?
Lazarus: Yes I do.

This should be enough to implant reasonable doubt in the jury and hence lead to his acquittal, guilty or not.

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