Who killed Elsie Frost?
July 3, 2015 10:48 AM   Subscribe

In 1965, 14 year old Elsie Frost was murdered, and her killer was never caught. BBC Radio 4 is releasing serialized podcast episodes of its current investigation into the half-century old cold case. As listeners across Britain contribute new theories, the West Yorkshire police have agreed to review the old evidence. [via Answer Me This]
posted by hurdy gurdy girl (13 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
I get a weird feeling about efforts like this. It feels very arbitrary, to pour all this work into investigating a fifty year old cold case that, on its face, seems no more fascinating than, well, just about any unsolved killing of a child, which there must be a great many in more recent history.

Why this girl, specifically?

This rubs me as very much a case of "if you're white, pretty and bright, we will stop at nothing to solve the case ... even fifty years later."
posted by jayder at 12:33 PM on July 3, 2015

Listening through 1.5 episodes, the focus on the human aspect more than the facts of the case (and the fact that ep. 2 is essentially just a recut of ep. 1) to me forebodes this might fall more on the lurid titillation side of the intersection of sensationalizing intrigue and investigative journalism that most True Crime reports are. I'll probably give it an episode or two more.
posted by johnnydummkopf at 12:41 PM on July 3, 2015

jayder: not sure what nation you live in, but an unusual factor in the UK is that the police take murder seriously. As in: any unsolved deliberate killing that doesn't result in an immediate arrest triggers an investigation involving an unlimited budget and unlimited (often 50-100) officers. Unlike many countries, where murder competes with other crimes for resources, it's tackled as a five-star priority. The clear-up rate is over 90%, because if you throw a fire-hose of resources at a problem it often gets results, and this achieves a key policing goal of making sure the public are aware that it's very hard to get away with murder, which in turn contributes to making premeditated murder a relative rarity.

The only unusual factor here is the time that's ellapsed: cold case reviews after 10, 20, and 30 years are not uncommon.
posted by cstross at 1:00 PM on July 3, 2015 [24 favorites]

I'm 5 episodes in, and so far it's turning into a story about the legal structure of Britain in 1965, the incredibly frustrating and/or protected state of information (specifically Freedom of Information procedures) today, and the general state of cold case investigations in the UK today. It would be boring and aimless without some crime to use as a framework for the story.

Unless things suddenly take a remarkable turn (and this is a show that warns up front that the content might be disturbing, even though the murder has been described all of once, so it seems unlikely), I don't think it's going to get all that lurid. It's a little bit of a mystery, but a polite one.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:02 PM on July 3, 2015

Today a man was arrested for a murder that had been unsolved for thirty years, the murder of 17 year old Melanie Road in 1984. It doesn't appear to be a chance DNA match because the suspect was recently arrested, they were actively looking for him and working this case.

As cstross says, they don't give up easily.
posted by reynir at 3:14 PM on July 3, 2015

I found the first episode really engaging. It's not often you get a focus like that on how people are affected by violence through decades. But the second episode was half recap. Are the rest of the episodes structured like that, beginning with a long recap? I'd understand why, given that each episode is a segment cut from a weekday current affairs radio program, but it's kinda strange when listening as a podcast.
posted by Kattullus at 3:19 PM on July 3, 2015

I'll probably listen to the rest of the show, but it would be nice to know if it's the format throughout.
posted by Kattullus at 3:20 PM on July 3, 2015

I've finished through 8 (all the available episodes) and it's heavily recappy through E5 and then gets a little weird - segment 6 is 6 minutes long, the other 2 less than 15, and I guess by that point there was enough momentum on the story that they didn't spend much time on catching up.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:20 PM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Why this girl, specifically?

The first episode pretty much opens with an explanation -- the dead girl's sister wrote the program and asked for help. She and the brother are interviewed throughout.

...and the fact that ep. 2 is essentially just a recut of ep. 1...

I made it up to episode 7 on a long drive today, and they're ALL that way. The beginning of the next episode is 5-10 minutes of material from the previous episode. That might work if you're listening to it week by week, but it's really annoying when you're listening to them one after the other.

I've gotta say, I really wanted this to be the podcast equivalent of a page-turner, but it's been incredibly anti-climactic so far. Makes you realize how good Serial was/is.
posted by mudpuppie at 5:23 PM on July 3, 2015

an unusual factor in the UK is that the police take murder seriously.

True on the whole, but we have had high profile cases in which the police failed to properly investigate murders such as that of black teenager Stephen Lawrence (in the Lawrence case the police actually protected the killers and smeared the victim's family as they sought justice years after the murder).

A public inquiry led by a high court judge later declared the UK police force to be "institutionally racist", giving it the distinction of being the only police force in the world to have this assessment legally handed to it.
posted by colie at 2:07 AM on July 4, 2015

Everyone's hoping to repeat Serial's success. Expect more of these in the very near future.
posted by Alex Goldman at 3:20 AM on July 4, 2015

I'm concerned that at some point we may run out of dead girls and out entertainment industry would have to stop.
posted by Legomancer at 6:13 AM on July 4, 2015

Now that I've listened to all the episodes so far, I have to say it's very affecting. It's heartbreaking to think about all the pain the family has gone through, and it's heartening that Colin Frost and Ann Cleave now feel like they no longer have to struggle alone.
posted by Kattullus at 3:57 AM on July 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

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