Anger at Easter timing of TV documentary showing resort murder

Lancashire Police Detectives at the Blackpool Murder scene
Lancashire Police Detectives at the Blackpool Murder scene

Tourism chiefs today slammed a decision to air a TV show focusing on a brutal Blackpool murder on the eve of the Easter weekend.

TV cameras have gone behind the scene with Lancashire Police for the programme called The Detectives: Inside The Major Crimes Team, which is on at 9pm tonight.

But the decision to broadcast the programme the day before the Easter holidays, which traditionally marks the start of the season, has angered and dismayed tourism leaders. It comes after council bosses said they would have tried to stop the broadcast of Channel 4’s 999: What’s Your Emergency? series, aired during the 2012 Illuminations season, had they known about the filming beforehand, most of which depicted Blackpool’s darker side.

One tourism boss said today: “It feels like a kick in the teeth.”

Lancashire Police said it understood the concerns raised but has tried to reassure town leaders ahead of tonight’s programme.

A trailer for the series which shows the Big One rollercoaster has been shown on national television this week.

Representatives of organisations including hoteliers group StayBlackpool, the Pleasure Beach and Merlin which operates attractions including the Tower, attended a meeting with police on Monday.

Claire Smith, president of StayBlackpool, said; “There was a lot of anger, and it feels like a kick in the teeth.

“People are angry at the programme and at the timing just before Easter.”

Channel 4’s 999: What’s Your Emergency? sparked outrage when it was shown during the 2012 Illuminations, and depicted Blackpool’s darker side.

Mrs Smith added: “If you’re thinking of coming to Blackpool this weekend and then see this programme, it’s likely you’ll choose to go somewhere else instead.”

Coun Graham Cain, Cabinet Secretary for Blackpool Council, said: “The decision to go ahead with the programme was made by Lancashire Police. While we recognise the magnificent work that the police do Blackpool Council chose not to cooperate with the production company simply because we believe that these sort of programmes do not add any value to a tourist resort.”

Spokespeople for Merlin and the Pleasure Beach said they were ‘reserving judgement’ and would wait to see the programme before making any comment, but Kate Shane, head of Merlin’s Blackpool cluster admitted it was “unfortunate timing”.

Tony Banks, of Blackpool Promotions which has a number of hotels in the resort, said: “The timing of this programme right at the start of the season is a disgrace.

“What kind of image will it portray considering we are the biggest family destination in the country?”

Stephen Pierre, of The Galleon Bar on Abingdon Street, added: “It’s very damaging, and for a tourist town this is the last thing we need just before Easter.”

Coun Tony Williams, leader of the Conservatives on Blackpool Council, said: “Quite often these reality shows seem to focus on the worst aspects of any town or city. I would be asking the producers for a full briefing and assurances before co-operating with any production that undermines the quality of the town.”

A spokesman for Lancashire Police said the programme, filmed in winter 2015, aimed to illustrate the hard work done to investigate complex cases.

He said: “The programme focuses very firmly on the detectives and the work they do to investigate the crimes, and not the place in which those crimes were committed.

“In fact many of the investigations go beyond the boundaries of Lancashire and over the course of four programmes, just two of the investigations involve crimes that happened in Blackpool.

“We understand the concerns that have been raised and we’ve been in contact with the council and other stakeholders to brief them and to offer reassurance regarding the purpose of the programme and what it will show.”

He added: “We wanted to show the citizens of Lancashire and beyond how our officers investigate complex cases, how hard they work to protect and care for victims and their determination to bring those responsible to justice.

“This work goes on everyday but is largely unseen and this series opens the doors to the public to see how we investigate crimes such as murder, sexual offences, robbery and assaults.

“We also felt it important to show our commitment to keeping Lancashire safe following huge budget cuts which has seen our police officer numbers fall by 900 over the past few years.”