Dear Channel 5,

I am writing to you regarding the programme you aired on the 8th May 2014, entitled 'The OAP Killer: First Kill, Last Kill.' I recently had the displeasure of watching it on 'catch up' and, unfortunately, it is still fresh in my mind. I appreciate that the subject matter is not meant to be palatable. It is, after all, a programme about the serial killer Kenneth Erskine and his horrific crimes. I understand that, and I expected the facts to be difficult to hear.

What I didn't expect, and what drew my attention, disbelief, and frankly anger, is the massive disparity between the way the programme represented Erskine's male and female victims.

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I was also alarmed by the distasteful way in which your reconstructions portrayed the female victims in particular.

This is an open letter, Channel 5. The reason I've chosen to make this letter open is because I feel that the issues I am raising are essentially relevant to the current discussions in the media about 'rape culture'. Whether people choose to believe it exists or not, 'rape culture' is an issue. Why not put #rapeculture into twitter and see how many results you get? That should tell you how many people believe in it. The Centre For Relationship Abuse Awareness, says that,

'rape culture is the desensitisation of and acceptance of violence against women as normal'

Yes, you may say. We know. But what has all this got to do with us and our programme on Kenneth Erskine? Well, Channel 5, I'll come to that.

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Firstly, for those that are choosing to read this letter, and who may not have watched the programme, (still available over at 5 on demand if you can bear it) let us first go over the facts. The 'OAP Killer', Kenneth Erskine, was initially convicted of 7 murders, by strangulation. Erskine targeted elderly men and women, and in most cases he carried out an act of buggery on his victims. It's not nice. It's horrific and unthinkable, but unfortunately we have to think about it, because it happened and Channel 5 have chosen to make a programme about it. Of his seven 'official' victims, three were women, and two of them were sexually assaulted either before or after death. The rest were men. Each man was sexually assaulted either before or after death.

In addition to this, there were four other suspicious deaths attributed to Erskine that he wasn't 'officially' convicted of, but is believed to have been responsible for. At least one of these had been sexually assaulted, and all of them were men.

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Let me just pause there to let you digest the facts; a potential total of 11 victims, three were women and two of those women were raped. Erskine murdered five men and all five were raped, with the very real likelihood that there were another three male victims. We can conclude, therefore, that the majority of Erskine's known victims were male. However, after watching 'The OAP Killer: First Kill, Last Kill' you'd be forgiven for thinking that none of the men were raped, and that most of his victims were women.

Erskine only ever raped by buggery, yet the word itself, the phrase 'male rape' nor the word 'sodomy' were used in the programme. At first I thought that maybe, Channel 5, you were trying to be tasteful in your documentation of these awful crimes. Maybe you had deliberately chosen to emit these words to protect the dignity of Erskine's tragic victims? As the programme went on, however, and I watched the repetitive and frankly distasteful reconstructions of the crimes themselves, over and over, I started to realise that this couldn't be the case. During your programme, there are (and I have counted) a total of 13 'flashes' of dramatised violent attacks and some longer reconstruction sequences. In 11 of these you used female actresses. In the other two, the victim can not be seen and could be male or female. The actor playing Erskine can be seen sitting on the women's chests, leering over them with a sweaty brow. In one particularly disturbing scene he is seen to slowly rip open a women's nightdress whilst lustfully and depravedly looking down upon his victim. Later in the show, in what I can only describe as the most insensitive depiction of reconstructive rape and murder that I have ever seen, we can see the feet of Erskine and his victim, rocking violently together, Erskine presumably in the act of buggering the dead or nearly dead victim.

I ask you Channel 5, how is that image more acceptable to your viewers than mentioning male rape? The sorrow I felt for that woman and her poor relatives, whom I desperately hoped were not watching your show, was immeasurable. Why, Channel 5, is it acceptable for the families and relatives of the female victims in this case to be subjected to that horrific reconstructive image of their loved one being raped and murdered? When, in comparison, you clearly feel that even documenting the rapes of the male victims would have been a step too far?

Read more in Part 2 #Television #Police