The advance publicity for Rose West and Myra Hindley: The Untold Story (ITV) claimed it would reveal the evidence of their lesbian affair. It didn’t. There were no great revelations, unless you had hitherto considered Britain’s two most notorious female serial killers to be nice people. “What was she like as a person?” Sir Trevor McDonald asked a former inmate, Linda Calvey, who had been locked up with Hindley at HMP Durham. “I didn’t like Myra. I found her to be quite a sinister character,” Calvey replied, in what you might term a statement of the bleeding obvious.
It turned out that Hindley and West developed a friendship, which may or may not have been sexual, while in the same jail. But it lasted barely six weeks, and no one featured had any evidence for it. The most interesting things here were the little details of prison life. West once flew into a rage when an arson attack on her cell nearly killed her pet budgie. The story was included to illustrate West’s temper, but I was more startled by the fact that prisoners are allowed to have pet budgies. Another inmate complained that West got favourable treatment at Low Newton prison: “Her room was like the Premier Inn.” West also has a regular prison visitor who does the phone votes on her behalf for Strictly Come Dancing contestants.
Star interviewee was Calvey, introduced by Sir Trevor as a former inmate who had served seven years for armed robbery and 18 for murder. Further investigation reveals that she shot her lover at point blank range after her hired hitman chickened out, so we’re not dealing with an angel here. But murdering and torturing children is a different league. According to Calvey, Hindley had the gall to say of West: “She killed her own children. Do I really want to mix with somebody like that?”
This was a schlocky hour of television for true crime fans, which rehashed details of the women’s crimes and made a cursory attempt to link their behaviour to their troubled childhoods. Thankfully, it at least had the taste to have the transcript of the haunting tape of Lesley Ann Downey read out, rather than playing it. The programme concluded that Hindley was a master manipulator, whose very presence was chilling, while West seemed a more unlikely killer: “She was like the lady at the supermarket checkout. She almost looked like a librarian,” said another inmate, Marisa Merico. Different personalities, but both guilty of unspeakable crimes. As Merico said: “Two evils together.”