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Sensing Murder

Episode: A Bump in the Night — Alicia O'Reilly


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Sensing Murder The narrator of "Sensing Murder", actress Rebecca Gibney, introduces this episode with:

Rebecca: In 1980 six year old Alicia O'Reilly was brutally raped and murdered in her own bed. Her killer has never been caught...
Psychics Deb and Kelvin have tuned into the spirit of the murdered six year old with the aim of producing new leads.

In the introduction to the show we are shown various snippets of what is to come. One shows psychic Kelvin Cruickshank asking the following question of the production team. Note he is asking the production team, not the spirit of the victim, as you would expect a psychic to do. He obviously expected to receive a reply of some sort from the production team.

Kelvin: If I said she was strangled, would that be on the right track?
Was this question part of a larger block of questions such as:
Kelvin: If I said she was stabbed, would that be on the right track?

No response from the production team

Kelvin: If I said she was shot, would that be on the right track?

No response

Kelvin: If I said she was strangled, would that be on the right track?

Yes, it would be. [We are told that positive statments will be confirmed.]

While this exchange is fictional, that last question from Kelvin is real. Maybe the rest are as well but the producution team only shows us the one question.
In the show proper we are not shown this particular piece again, or what Kelvin asked before and after it, or exactly what the production team's response was. However, by references that Kelvin makes later in the show we can be confident that the production team did confirm that she was strangled.

This is something that psychics always say they never do. They tell us that they will provide intimate details without any prompting. Without receiving any clues from the real world. They will not pump the other person for information, a ploy known as 'cold reading'.

Yet here the psychic is shown doing exactly that. Right at the very start of the program. Making a guess and asking if he's "on the right track".

The program doesn't get any better.

Alicia's mother and the police begin by describing Alicia's personality and background for the viewer:

Mother: She was naughty, mischevious...

Mother: She would talk to anybody.

Police: She was outgoing, probably a little bit precocious

Mother: In the house in Canal Rd I had a boyfriend at the time called Nigel. I lived with a young woman called Isabel. Isabel's boyfriend was called Jimmy.

Rebecca: The horrific attack on Alicia O'Reilly remains one of New Zealand's most despicable unsolved crimes.

Rebecca then details how the psychics were chosen:
Rebecca: 70 psychics from across NZ were tested. A little known solved murder was chosen for the testing procedure.
Presented with only a photograph of the victim the psychics were asked to produce details of the crime, the location and the killer.
Of the 70 psychics tested only three were able to describe intimate details of the case... 100 Australian psychics were also tested. Only five were able to provide intimate details of the obscure solved murder used in the testing procedure.
The two psychics involved in this episode of "Sensing Murder" were:

Kelvin Cruickshank

Medium

New Zealand

Deb Webber

Psychic Investigator

Australia

Kelvin
Deb

(Note: We have been threatened with legal action by Ninox Television, the producers of 'Sensing Murder', and told to remove the photos of the psychics. So to give you an idea of what your typical male and female psychic medium looks like, we have inserted what we believe are close facsimiles.)

This murder received wide media coverage at the time. The murder happened in Auckland. Kelvin lives in Auckland and thus it would be surprising if Kelvin was not aware of it. In other episodes of "Sensing Murder", the production team specifically states that the psychics do not live in the city where the murder was committed. In this episode the production team conveniently omits to inform the viewer of this probable 'insider knowledge'.

Rebecca describes the rules under which the psychics and production team will operate:

Rebecca:
  • The psychics know they are working on an unsolved murder, but they have not been given any details of the case or the people involved.
  • The psychics have never met and have been kept separate from each other at all times.
  • The psychics have been kept under constant supervision to prevent them from researching the case.
  • Only positive statements were confirmed during the readings.
  • Each psychic has been filmed in one day.
This 'rule' is a major flaw in the program's design:
Rebecca: Only positive statements were confirmed during the readings.
While this may seem fair, all it does is let the psychic know that their guesses are correct, and they will phrase their following statements and questions accordingly. It also means that if a statement isn't confirmed then the psychic can safely assume it to be false, and they can quickly move on to something else. By their silence they are in effect saying to the psychic, "No, that guess or statement is wrong". Whether they realise it or not, they are providing the psychics with information.

The only way to prevent this transfer of answers from production team to psychic is to use a camera team that knows nothing about the crime. They merely record the reading and producers later view it to discover whether the psychic said anything of relevance to the case. The psychic knows exactly what information they need to provide — intimate details of the crime, location and killer. They have supposedly already done this to win a place on the show.

However what the psychics do on the show is nothing more than a party trick involving 'cold reading' and a version of the games 'Twenty Questions' and 'Animal, Vegetable or Mineral'.

The readings that the viewer sees are short, heavily edited segments, often only one sentence, interspersed with the readings of the other psychics. Spliced into this are actual photos relating to the crime and a re-enactment of the crime using actors. These act out the crime in a way the psychics or production team think it may have happened. They are only guesses and sometimes they are completely false, but they come across as factual.

So let's look at some of those sound-bites in the order they were screened and see if they show evidence of trickery.

Note that the transcript is not complete. I am only detailing those segments that display clear evidence of cheating and those that can be more simply explained by trickery rather than psychic ability. This deception could be on the part of the psychic or the production team or both. I have tried to include all segments where claims are made that can be verified.

As for the critics, it's no good claiming that certain segments that I don't list could have been the result of true psychic ability if the numerous ones I do list are obviously false. If true psychic ability exists there is no need to fake any of the segments. At the very least the believer must explain why deception and cheating was required for at least some parts of the show.

The first psychic to give a reading is Deb:

Rebecca: Deb is given a photo of Alicia which she chooses to keep face down.

Deb: I am picking up a woman but I keep picking up a child in the room.

Note that Deb is not prepared to commit, offering 'woman' and 'child'. There is only three possible options - man, woman, child. While she hasn't mentioned 'a man', he could easily walk into "the room" if need be.
Deb: Friendly in the street, whoever this person was, knew the neighbours, everyone knew her, who, who this person was, still got a lot of friendliness...
Deb says "knew her" indicating a female but promptly changes back to "this person". She still doesn't know the victim's sex or age. She needs more clues, but from who, Alicia or the production team?
Rebecca: Alicia was well known... she often stood near the letterbox and chatted to the locals.

Rebecca: Kelvin is also offered Alicia's photo. Like Deb he chooses not to look at it.

Kelvin: I kinda think that, I haven't looked at the photo yet, but the feeling was female...

This is just another childish party trick. He has a 50/50 chance of guessing correctly, and if he does it will seem more impressive and be screened in the show. If he is wrong it will be edited out. They break Kelvin's last sentence with a photo of Alicia flashing on the screen and then continue with:
Kelvin: ...and she was a little shy.
As the previous statements show, Alicia's mother, the Police and the other psychic have all indicated that she was anything but shy. Kelvin is wrong but we are not told that. Throughout the program Rebecca continually reminds the viewer of the apparent successes of the psychics but completely ignores their mistakes.
Also we are left with the impression that Kelvin said "the feeling was female and she was a little shy" but the introduced break suggests that he said these two things at separate times.

Addressing the production team Deb asks:

Deb: Can I have a first name?
Remember Rebecca stated the rules of the show including:
The psychics... have not been given any details of the case or the people involved.
They also won their spot on this show by working from nothing more than photograph, and "were able to provide intimate details of the obscure solved murder".

Now just a few minutes into her pyschic reading Deb Webber is already asking for more information, and the production team are providing it. The production team hand Deb an already prepared cutout with 'Alicia' printed on it in large black letters signifying that they fully intended providing this information if asked for it. Did they also have others with 'Female', '6', 'Rape', '1980' etc written on them?

Deb: It's a female. Ahh, Alicia.
As she is handed the large printed name, face up, we hear Deb state, "It's a female". Thus it is not until she sees the name that Deb realises that the victim is female. This vital information is provided willingly by the production team and not the 'spirit world'.
Deb: Alicia feels that she is around about five years old.
Alicia was actually six when she died. Wherever Deb fished five from, it certainly wasn't Alicia. Kids are normally very conscious of how old they are, often down to the exact month. Many even exaggerate with statements like "I'm seven in July".
Kelvin: She makes reference to 'baby', but of course working with spirit when they say 'baby' it can mean two things. One she's the youngest or two they may have had another baby.
Kelvin is still fishing for clues and is unwilling to say whether she is a baby, a kid or an adult.
Deb: She's light skinned, that I can see here... She's got tiny little fingers, little nails...
Deb believes Alicia is a five-year-old girl. It would be an obvious guess to say she has "tiny little fingers, little nails".
Deb: She's got the brown hair, she likes fair hair but I think she's got bit, umm, the dark, the darker hair. [Pause]. Oh she likes the dark in my hair but she's got the light hair.
Deb starts with a definite "She's got the brown hair", but after a pause she changes to the complete opposite. An unconscious signal from the production team perhaps? These readings would be far more believable if the production team filming the reading knew nothing of the case and therefore couldn't give anything away.
Rebecca: Kelvin looks at Alicia's photo for the first time.
Finally Kelvin is shown roughly how old Alicia is, that she's not an adult and also what she looks like. Her hairstyle, clothing, style of photo etc also give clues as to what decade it might have been taken, thus giving a clue as to when the murder occurred.
Kelvin: So this photo must have been about seven or eight when she was taken this photo.... She's just standing over here in the corner now. She's indicating that her colouring-in skills were really good.
Since we know Alicia is six, Kelvin is obviously trying to guess Alicia's age by the photo, not by any link with her in the spirit world. Kelvin is wrong. Yet neither Rebecca nor Alicia who is "standing over here in the corner now" talking to Kelvin make any attempt to correct Kelvin. Why do they let the viewer keep this falsehood?

Kelvin continues:

Kelvin: She's also talking about 'What Now?', as in the program, so 'What Now?', I've got to go into the eighties.

Rebecca: Alicia was murdered in 1980.

Rebecca's short concise statement implies that Kelvin's prediction is spot-on. What Rebecca and the production team deviously omit to tell the viewer is that the kid's TV program 'What Now?' did not go to air until 1981. Alicia was murdered one year before it began so it can never have been a show she watched. Never.

Even if Kelvin was correct, which he wasn't, "the eighties" is still a spread of ten years, so that's not very accurate. Certainly not 1980. But why did he even say "the eighties"? Did he remember that the murder happened sometime in the "the eighties" and he needed some clue that a six year might supply? However 'What Now?' is New Zealand's longest running children's program and is still going. If Alicia was murdered in a year that 'What Now?' screened, that could mean any of the last 26 years, not just the "the eighties". But certainly not 1980, the year she was murdered. Another trick that backfired, but probably no one noticed.

Rather than talking with a non-existent spirit, Kelvin's mind is obviously manufacturing the information he's producing. He relies on the fact that people almost never check up on the information provided by psychics.

Suddenly Deb decides not to trust what Alicia has told her:

Deb: Why does she say she's five?
What has caused Deb to suddenly question her belief that Alicia is five, what clue has she seen? There is silence and a very long pause as Deb obviously looks for non-verbal signals from the production team. There is a mysterious tap off camera and then Deb continues with:
Deb: She's older than five.
More flashes on screen of Alicia and then we go back to Deb who looks away with an annoyed look and says:
Deb: I should have said six.
Was that mysterious tap off camera a hint that Deb should increase Alicia's age by one? Alicia was six when she died.

Kelvin returns to his 'What Now?' reference:

Kelvin: Of course she makes reference to 'What Now?' She made reference to that earlier, so this must have been her Saturday morning treat, [pause] and Saturday may be significant for the time of the week too, who knows?

Rebecca: Alicia was murdered in the early hours of Saturday morning.

For the second time Kelvin tells the viewer about Alicia's bogus link with 'What Now?' and for the second time Rebecca refuses to take the opportunity to inform the viewer that this is false. Also Kelvin does not say that Alicia was murdered on Saturday morning as Rebecca suggests. He has no idea if anything really happened on a Saturday, and if it did, what it was. He finishes with "who knows?" Well Kelvin doesn't, that's for sure.

While the reader may insist that the production team only confirms positive statements during the reading, and therefore being false, there was no confirmation of the 'What Now?' statement. However we never hear the psychics statements being confirmed during the reading. Rebecca does break in and make vague confirmations, often before and after each ad break, however these never refer to particular psychics or their particular statements. These are always all encompassing statements such as:

Rebecca: The psychics are correct...
The psychics must be struggling to provide relevant information so the production team interferes again:
Rebecca: Kelvin is given drawings that Alicia did in the months before her death.
This is again breaking the rules. The psychics are not supposed to be supplied with clues. Remember Rebecca clearly stated the rules of the show including:
The psychics... have not been given any details of the case or the people involved.
But now the production team is again providing clues from which the psychics can make guesses about the victim's life.

Kelvin looks at Alicia's drawing of a four storey house:

Kelvin: It's almost as if this girl's drawn her own life, before she's gone. It shows her house...
However Kelvin's guess is wrong, but we are not told this. Alicia lived in a single storey house. He continues:
Kelvin: It shows... her animal by the look, her dog, by the look of it.
A member of the production team is heard to respond very quietly:
Woman on production team: Cat.

Kelvin: Oh, cat is it? [Kelvin looks up at the person who said "cat" for confirmation and smiles]. She talked about the cats earlier. Oh it is too.

This is a blatant example of cheating. The production team not only tells the psychic that they are wrong, they also give him the correct answer. He smoothly covers up this mistake with, "She talked about the cats earlier", as if he knew all along that she had cats. But they didn't have cats, plural, but only one cat. How many other times is the psychic corrected or fed the answer by the production team? It also clearly demonstrates that Kelvin's guesses are derived from the drawings, not from the spirit of Alicia.
Kelvin: She's showing me daddy working really, really hard. The word business was earlier, never, never hardly home anymore.

Rebecca: Alicia's parents split up when she was a baby. Her father lived in Australia.

Kelvin's statement indicates that Alicia's father lives with her and is part of the family. Alicia mentions "business" and shows Kelvin her "daddy working really, really hard". Rebecca doesn't clearly state that all this is wrong, but her statement suggests Alicia knows little of her father. She doesn't say, "Alicia regularly visits her father". No doubt Rebecca hopes the viewer will reinterpret Alicia's "never, never hardly home anymore" as meaning he has left home for good.

Again Kelvin is not communicating with Alicia but merely making basic assumptions about families. To further show that Kelvin's readings are correct, Rebecca assures us that:

Rebecca: The psychics have correctly established key facts about Alicia's personality and background.
Neither psychic could determine her name, or the name of any family member, first or last. Deb said she was five, Kelvin said at least seven or eight. Deb felt she was outgoing yet Kelvin said she was shy. Kelvin had her living in a four story house with her dog and daddy. Apart from Deb saying she was outgoing, all these guesses are wrong, so they have not "correctly established key facts".

However, even if they were correct, they are of no importance. The police already know about Alicia's personality and background. So far we have seen nothing more than a poorly performed party trick.

Deb goes on to describe Alicia's bedroom:

Deb: Her bed's like that, corner, like that, and the other bed's somewhere over here.
While staring intensely at the production team, Deb indicates that Alicia's bed is at right angles to her sister's. The camera pans down to her hands so we can't see her face but she suddenly changes her mind, waves her hands around and finally shows them parallel to each other but some distance apart.
Deb: Where does she take, no over here.
The beds were parallel and actually quite close to each other. Kelvin also offers his vision of the girls' bedroom:
Kelvin: There seems to be another bed in here. All I'm seeing is pillows, bedspreads, sheets.
Amazing. Who would have expected "pillows, bedspreads, sheets" in a bedroom? Maybe he really is psychic, otherwise how did he know that? Deb also provides us with an insightful description of the bedroom:
Deb: She keeps saying wall, wall, wall [Deb indicates the same wall three times], window, bed, another bed or something here, and then the door.
This silly description would fit most bedrooms on the planet. Note also that she has already described the orientation of the second bed, but in this statement she is not sure whether there is a second bed or something else. And as simple as her description sounds, it still doesn't match the bedroom's floor layout that flashes onto the screen.

The psychics have only mentioned pillows, bedspreads, sheets, walls, windows, doors and maybe a second bed, yet Rebecca insults the viewers' intelligence with:

Rebecca: The psychics have accurately described the girls' bedroom.
Deb then attempts to guess when the crime occurred:
Deb: Dark, she's saying it's dark, but it's dark outside not inside. [Pause] But the lights are off so it's all dark now.
Did another signal from the production team cause Deb change her mind?
Deb: Her mum was at the home, when she was taken, and she's inside though, I can't get her outside, I can see them both inside.
Here Deb states that Alicia was taken from the house, which of course is false. She also hasn't determined when the event happened or that it happened inside, suggesting that Alicia was outside "when she was taken" and that her mother is "inside though".
Kelvin: Is there something to do with the window?
Another example of the psychics fishing for information from the production team. Apart from Santa Claus, the only entry points to houses are through windows and doors. It's quite simple to eliminate one or the other, especially when you have a helpful production team that knows the answer.
Deb: Whoever went into the house was sneaking around, in the house. I don't think the mother knew.
It's pretty obvious that an intruder would be "sneaking around" and that the mother didn't know. Do we really need a psychic to tell us inane stuff like this? Kelvin immediately follows with a worthless statement of his own:
Kelvin: I've just got this funny feeling that something disturbed, something disturbed, something moved, something, I shouldn't use the word something but there's a disturbance.
He's right, he shouldn't use the word "something" but unfortunately psychics always seem to use empty, vague and meaningless words like this in their readings.
Rebecca: Both [psychics] have correctly identified that an intruder has entered the house while Alicia O'Reilly and her family were sleeping. Now the psychics ask the spirit of the murdered six year old to tell them how she died.
Actually the psychics have told us nothing about the other family members, the mother's boyfriend, the mother's flatmate or mentioned that they were all sleeping.

Kelvin comes out with this seemingly innocent and extremely obvious statement:

Kelvin: You can obviously understand a six year old not being able to defend herself?
Yes we can Kelvin. We don't need to be psychic to guess that. But why does Kelvin now say "six year old"? He has previously said she was at least seven or eight. Did the production team correct him on this as they did with 'dog'? He continues with:
Kelvin: ...I think that's how she passed through, being strangled.
Alicia was smothered or strangled. While this statement from Kelvin may seem extremely accurate, we must remember that at the very beginning of the program we were shown Kelvin asking the production team:
Kelvin: If I said she was strangled, would that be on the right track?
Thus Kelvin already knew that Alicia was strangled. The production team doesn't replay that previous question here and therefore his vision of, "I think that's how she passed through, being strangled" seems impressive. It's not. It's cheating.
Deb: I asked Alicia who found her and all I got was an image of the back of a male. The back of the head of a male.
The screen flashes to a re-enactment of a male finding Alicia, showing him from behind. But this is the view of the cameraman and the mother, not Alicia. Alicia would have seen his face, so why does she show Deb his back? The production team also throws in the following statement from Kelvin:
Kelvin: Again she brings back that 'J', so, I don't know if there's a James or a Jimmy connected somewhere along the lines.
Alicia's body was found by Big Jim. However there is no indication that Kelvin is referring to who found Alicia when he said this. He could have been talking about her brother, father, killer, uncle, neighbour, teacher, or anyone "connected somewhere along the lines". The fact that the production team don't include footage of the lead-up to his statement means it's highly likely Kelvin was not talking about the discover of Alicia's body.
Rebecca: Now the psychics ask Alicia to describe the man who murdered her.

Deb: About a size eight shoe.

That fact right there should solve the case! Amazing stuff.
Kelvin: OK, she's telling me about as old as her Dad at the time, maybe just a couple of years older.
Yet as Rebecca has already told us, Alicia's parents split up when she was a baby and her father lived in Australia. It is extremely unlikely she would compare the killer to her father whom we have no reason to believe she has even seen recently. She would be more likely to compare the killer to her mother's boyfriend or even Big Jim. Also it is well established that young children are notoriously bad at guessing the age of adults, yet she can age the killer within a couple of years of her father. Also I'm sure that if Kelvin had asked exactly how old her father was she wouldn't know.
Kelvin: She talking about people being roadblocked, asked, checked, talked, stopped. Our community has never been the same.
Oh come on Kelvin. Do you really expect us to believe that a six year old would say, "Our community has never been the same"? This is just Kelvin making up stuff. And remember he lives in Auckland so he probably even remembers the reaction of the police and people to the murder. The rape and murder of little girls wasn't that common in 1980, so Kelvin would remember some things about the case.
Kelvin: I know this is a little weird but she must have been buried in a white coffin.
We are shown footage of a white coffin but there is no confirmation that her coffin was white or that we are actually seeing Alicia's funeral, although of course we are led to believe we are. Even so, what is "weird" or unexpected about a child being buried in a white coffin? I can remember seeing many white coffins and it's probably a popular choice especially for children.

Psychics often describe traits that fit most people in the hope that we will see them as being specific to the victim:

Kelvin: She must have talked flat out... like kids of that age do.
Thus Kelvin lets slip that he is simply describing what he thinks a typical six year would act like. Even though he has been talking with her he doesn't know if she talked flat out. Why not? He doesn't say, "She does talk flat out". He is merely hoping that if she is like a typical six year she will. He's guessing again and his language reveals this.

Next the production team tries to get the psychics to determine the location of the murder.

Rebecca: We give Deb a map and challenge her to pinpoint where Alicia was killed.
We are shown 16 seconds of edited footage of Deb pointing at a map.
Deb: She's got me in here somewhere.
She waves at three or four suburbs, including the one where the murder occurred. We are given no indication of how long and how many false guesses it took to reach this point. Certainly longer than 16 seconds.
Rebecca: We drive Deb to Canal Rd where Alicia died.
Deb never mentions Canal Rd. The production team must drive Deb to the exact street because she fails the challenge and is unable "to pinpoint where Alicia was killed".
Rebecca: On a different day we drive Kelvin to Canal Rd.
Since we see no footage of Kelvin with the map it can be assumed that he couldn't even locate the correct area of Auckland and thus gave the production team no usable footage. Like Deb they had to tell him the correct street. Not very psychic.

Driving along Canal Rd Kelvin can't locate Alicia's house and decides to get out and walk. The production team, camera etc are already set up outside his van and are blocking his path to his right so he heads off down the street to his left, which just happens to be in the correct direction. Does the production team accidentally or deliberately point him in this direction? Remember they know where the house is and if they believe he also knows, then they will naturally expect him to head to the left and will innocently set up their camera accordingly.

Next we are informed by Rebecca that:

Rebecca: Kelvin is standing exactly opposite Alicia's house.

Kelvin: I don't know where it is exactly but I'm feeling most of the stuff in this area here.

Kelvin waves to indicate the area he is referring to, but it is not made clear to the viewer that he is pointing in the opposite direction to the house, which is across the street behind him.

Driving down Canal Rd with the production team Rebecca informs us:

Rebecca: Deb has just passed Alicia's house.

Deb: You're either getting too close to it or you've gone past it. I'm not sure. [Glances at production team. The vehicle immediately slows and begins to turn around.]

As Deb notices that the vehicle is turning to go back along the street she follows with:
Deb: I think you've gone past it.
Deb has not asked to go back and she correctly assumes that the vehicle would not retrace its path if they had not yet reached the house. Thus the production team is slowly but surely leading the psychics to the correct house.
Kelvin: In this area... I'm just so confused... she must have played along here...
Kelvin has already been told that he is in the correct street, so saying that, "she must have played along here" is a pretty safe guess, but that doesn't stop Deb trying the same trick. What kids don't play in their own street?:
Deb: She played in the whole street.
Kelvin is unable to locate the house, even though he is standing across the street, so the production team step in again and actually tell him:
Rebecca: Kelvin is told that he is outside Alicia's house.
Kelvin tries to make excuses regarding his failure to recognise it:
Kelvin: Everything that I've been shown if I look at the house is the opposite of, it seems to be backwards. [Pauses, looks at the house] The sliding windows was something that I saw but I didn't even think to tell you, which is really dumb.
Psychics always claim that they actually knew things beforehand but didn't bother to tell anyone. Any idiot can use this ploy, but it also takes an idiot to believe it.

However Kelvin's claim about the windows doesn't even make sense. These windows, known as double hung sash windows, slide up and down, not sideways like more modern windows. Thus the old sliding windows would look exactly the same even if they were reversed, and if you knew the house had sliding windows you would naturally pick the one with sliding windows. He didn't, because he didn't know about them until the house was pointed out to him.

Deb is also unable to locate the house, even though she also is standing across the street. She points at Alicia's house and then the one across the street:

Deb: It's either that one or this one.
The camera pans off Deb to Alicia's house and stays focused on it. It does not pan to show the other house that Deb is considering. Deliberately or otherwise, it should be obvious to Deb that the house the production team are concentrating on is probably Alicia's house. However she doesn't take the hint and seeks more clarification. She points to Alicia's house and two more houses on the same side of the street. She is no longer indicating the house across the street although she continues to glance back at it:
Deb: That one? That one? That one?
Deb stares at the wrong house then looks at Alicia's house. She then looks directly at the production team. After a brief pause she breaks into a smile, looks over to Alicia's house and asks:
Deb: That one?
By the way she asks this question and her expression it is obvious that the production team have indicated which one she should pick. The filming quickly stops and then appears to continue from the same point but from a different angle.
Deb: I think it's that one.
Deb says this with what appears to be a guilty look on her face. She looks down and walks off towards the house. Rebecca summarises what has just happened with:
Rebecca: Deb is certain she has found the house.
The viewer is left with the impression that not only is Deb certain that she has located the house, but that she located it without help. But let's look again at the last four on-screen appearances of Deb where she says, "It's either that one or this one. That one? That one? That one? That one? I think it's that one".

Deb is not at all certain which is the correct house. "I think it's that one" is not a sign of certainty. Rebecca however continues with the ruse that both psychics have found the house:

Rebecca: Having located her house, the psychics endeavour to find more clues.
How can Rebecca say this with a straight face? No doubt she would debate how Deb found the house but she has already informed us, "Kelvin is told that he is outside Alicia's house"? This is a blatant deception. She should have said, "Although only one psychic could locate the house, both psychics now endeavour to find more clues". Perhaps some will claim that Rebecca is simply saying that the house was found, it doesn't matter by whom or how many. However after the ad break Rebecca reinforces that both psychics found the house with this statement:
Rebecca: Guided by the spirit of Alicia O'Reilly, psychics Deb and Kelvin have found the house where the six year old met her death in 1980.
Note that Gibey specifically says, "Deb and Kelvin have found the house", and that they did so because of the spirit of Alicia. No mention that they were actually guided by the production team, Kelvin most definitely.

Strong, powerful reinforcing statements like this from Rebecca are the reason that people come away believing that the psychics were successful, when in fact they failed miserably.

This 'location' segment of the program is a major failure for the psychics. It must be reiterated that both psychics were chosen for this show because it is said they could name the location of an obscure murder simply by looking at a photo of the victim. By location we must assume that the production team would not accept vague descriptions such as the 'North Island of NZ' or even the 'Wellington area'.

Alicia's murder was not obscure and received wide media coverage. In addition to the photo which supposedly was all that they required, they were also provided with the first name of the victim and drawings done by the victim. They have spent a good part of the day talking with the production team who have detailed knowledge of the crime. As a result of their readings, the psychics now have a considerable number of facts about the crime. They both claim that they have been given details of the house by the spirit of Alicia. As for location, the production team have told them the city, suburb and street. They have taken them to within metres of the house.

With all this addition information and numerous clues, both psychics are still unable to locate the house.

Rebecca explains how psychics can locate the scene of a murder:

Rebecca: In the psychic realm, buildings are said to retain an emotional imprint of their past occupants. Someone who dies violently is said to leave an even stronger imprint.
To gain a place on the show they could sense the location of a crime that happened elsewhere in the country. They could sense this "emotional imprint". Yet standing across the street they sense nothing.

They cannot identify the house. Why should we believe them when they say they can identify the killer?

Unperturbed the psychics continue with their act. Deb is shown glancing at the house then looking away. Based on what she says next, the production team obviously think she is still unsure which house it is and have non-verbally confirmed that it is Alicia's house:

Deb: Yeah it's this one, but she doesn't want me to go near it, I know.
Deb is then shown walking down the side of the house:
Deb: Which one was your room? She likes this side of the house, cause this is her side.

Rebecca: Deb is correct. Alicia's bedroom was on this side of the house.

Note that Rebecca repeats Deb's description of "this side of the house", but at the same time a picture of the front of the house showing Alicia's bedroom flashes onto the screen. While one wall of Alicia's bedroom was on this side, the bedroom windows faced the front. The bedroom side wall is just a blank wall and the window further along that Deb is looking at is not Alicia's bedroom. Anyone pointing out the bedroom would naturally point to the windows at the front, not the side.

Deb then employs a trick Kelvin used earlier, claiming to have known about the windows:

Deb: I knew they were latch windows, push up.
But unfortunately Deb is still looking at the wrong windows and the wrong end of the house. For the first time we actually see one of the production team come into view and physically turn Deb around so she is facing towards the bedroom end of the house.
Woman on production team: If you just stand this way...
The woman hands Deb a page and begins to point to things on it and talks to Deb. What she says is drowned out by Rebecca explaining:
Rebecca: Because the psychics are unable to enter the house, Deb is given a diagram showing the layout.

Deb: [To Alicia] Take me into your bedroom...

Deb is shown studying a detailed floor layout of the house and looking back to the bedroom at the rear of the house. However Deb told us earlier in the show that Alicia's bedroom had two beds in it and this fact was confirmed to her by the production team. The rear bedroom clearly only has one bed so it can't be Alicia's. Thus Deb now moves her attention to the only bedroom in the house with two beds:
Deb: She wants to go into the front room, she doesn't want me to go down there, [points at the rear bedroom] she wants to go there, she'll go there now, that's it. [points at the front bedroom on the floor layout]

Rebecca: Alicia slept in the front bedroom.

Although remember that Rebecca has just recently told viewers:
Rebecca: Deb is correct. Alicia's bedroom was on this side of the house.
No matter what the psychics say Rebecca attempts to show it in a positive light.

As further proof that Deb believed Alicia's bedroom was on the side at the rear, she know realises she must change the exit path of the killer:

Deb: So he must have got out the front window not the side window?
So much for Deb's intimate knowledge of Alicia's bedroom and the killer's movements. Her next question shows that she isn't even quite sure which bed is Alicia's. Deb points at Alicia's bed on the floor layout:
Deb: So that's her bed isn't it?
We then hear a very quiet response from the production team:
Woman on production team: Yeah.

Deb: I knew that, but she keeps pointing over to here.

"I knew that". Yeah right! Then why ask? Yet another blatant example of cheating. The production team give Deb the correct answer. How many other times is the psychic corrected or fed the answer non-verbally by the production team?

Deb goes on to describe the killer's escape:

Deb: He came out the driveway, cause I saw him coming out the driveway
The house that was Alicia's has a tall fence at the front and a gate and driveway to the left of the section. However at the time of the murder there was no fence and no driveway at the house. How could Deb see the killer coming out of a driveway that didn't exist?

Kelvin also makes the same mistake. He is shown standing on the driveway looking through the gate at Alicia's room:

Kelvin: Ok here's the gist. If that's the room right there, which where I think, then this will be my left, from the angle I've looked at it, upon, because of the way the windows shaped close to the driveway.
Any visions that Alicia provided of the killer and his escape would not have included reference to a driveway because it didn't exist then. There is also no explanation of what this rubbish from Kelvin really means, but they obviously included it because it's the only reference that Kelvin makes to the location of Alicia's bedroom. However he was no doubt given the same floor layout as Deb so could easily determine where her room was.
Rebecca: Deb asks Alicia when [the killer had attacked others]

Deb: 1980. Pretty close to it, round about the same, so it would be '83.

However at no stage prior to this has Deb indicated that she knew when Alicia was murdered. If she had channelled this during her reading it would naturally have been screened as evidence of her psychic ability. The production team must have provided her with this fact.

As for the killer's car Deb provides:

Deb: Number plate... G, C. It's got lots of numbers... CG 8357.
This is never mentioned again, even by the private investigator hired to follow up new leads provided by the psychics, so it is obviously a false lead. Keeping it in the program leaves the impression that it is a valuable clue yet to be followed up. However it's just a random group of characters that any fool can make up.

The final part of the episode has a team of private investigators attempting to make sense of the vague information that has been provided by the psychics.

Rebecca: Former detective Duncan Holland heads a team of investigators.
The psychics' predictions are shown and the private investigator (PI) responds to them:
Kelvin: She's showing me paint, painter. [Kelvin makes an action of someone painting.]
Kelvin: I feel like I'm looking at a chute in a factory... there seems to be a big staircase on the outside. [While Kelvin is relating his vision, several pictures of a factory with a chute and a staircase appear on the screen.]
Private Investigator: We searched the surrounding suburbs for a similar factory and found this one... which closely resembles Kelvin's description.
The same factory that was flashed on the screen when Kelvin was having his vision is now again shown to the viewer. This camera trickery falsely reinforces the idea that the factory Kelvin saw and the one the PI located are one and the same.

However Kelvin only provided two clues about the factory:

  1. There was a chute in the factory. However the one the PI found had a chute on the outside.
  2. There was a big staircase on the outside. The one the PI found had a small fire escape. It only went from the ground to the first floor. Hardly a big staircase, and anyway, most factories could be expected to have some sort of stairs/fire escape on the outside.

Thus the PI is lying. The factory they show us does not 'closely resemble Kelvin's description'.

The PI continues:

Private Investigator: Directly across from the factory we made what could be a significant discovery.
Deb: Have you got a company here that's IPA or something? [The large silver letters 'IPA' appear on the screen.] It's just I asked her for a symbol or something of who he works for. It looks like IPA. [The large silver letters 'IPA' appear again, more slowly this time.]
Private Investigator: In 1980, this chemical factory manufactured a product called IPA. IPA contains antimony. [We are shown a picture of smallish, single storey sheds, supposedly across the road from Kelvin's factory, which in no way resemble a normal factory or Kelvin's factory. They look like someone's small backyard business. There is no signage.]
The PI continues:
Private Investigator: Forensic tests of the killer's hair left on Alicia showed that the hair was contaminated with uncommonly high levels of antimony.
Earlier in the show Rebecca informed us of the following:
Rebecca: Five types of heavy metals were present in the hair. One called antimony was rare and was only used in two industries, pottery and paint.
However the Police (Barry Mathews, Asst. Commissioner ret. and Detective Inspector Stuart Allsopp Smith of the Avondale Police appear throughout the episode) then tell us that both these industries had stopped using antimony many years prior to the murder. They thought that the killer might have been exposed to antimony by scraping off old paint from houses during renovations. However this practise was far too common to be of any use.

There are a number of problems with these painter / factory / IPA remarks. Kelvin tells us that the killer worked in a certain factory which the PI pretends to find. We are not told whether this factory was involved in the pottery or paint industries. Obviously it wasn't as it's never mentioned again. Kelvin suggested that the killer is a painter, yet the PI is now suggesting that he's a chemical plant worker, since Deb mentioned the letters IPA. How do we get from IPA to a nondescript group of sheds that the PI claims used to be a chemical factory? Well Deb said that IPA was the symbol of the company the killer worked for. Yet obviously this company was not called IPA. The tenuous link the PI finds is that this unnamed company used to make a product called IPA. We aren't told what sort of product IPA is, but we can be sure it's not paint or else the PI would have described it as 'a paint called IPA', not 'a product called IPA'. Thus the information that Kelvin provided has been completely rejected. We have deserted his factory and forgotten about paint. Likewise Deb's assertion that he worked for a company called IPA has also been rejected. So even though Kelvin's factory and paint and Deb's IPA company lead nowhere, and are not mentioned again in the show, we are nevertheless left with the impression that they were important clues. When in fact they were bogus, nothing but red herrings.

The next scene immediately jumps to this:

Deb: Well I feel really, really... sick when I say the name bleep bleep bleep John.
It then cuts to a different scene of Deb saying something else which is bleeped out entirely. She pauses and then says:
Deb: John.
Private Investigator: Deb came up with the name of the man she believed killed Alicia. Our investigations have revealed that a man with a similar name had ties to the local chemistry industry in 1980. For legal reasons we can't reveal his name.
What was hidden by the bleeps? Deb doesn't appear to be saying anything other than "Tom, Dick or Harry." There is no evidence that she has mentioned a surname, although this is what the bleeps are supposed to suggest. But when people speak someone's name they usually give the surname last, such as John Smith, not Smith John, as it's suggested Deb has done.

But I suppose John is a pretty uncommon name, so that alone should be an important clue!

The PI then tells us that he found someone with a similar name that had ties to the local chemical industry. Not the same name mind you, but merely a similar name. In other words the PI is admitting that they could find no one that matched the name Deb provided. And this man with a similar name that the PI found obviously had no connection with the aforementioned factory or with the product IPA. If he had the PI would have highlighted this fact, not just that he had ties to the local chemical industry, which could simply mean he was an accountant for a chemical company on the other side of Auckland. But what is this link between the chemical industry and the killer? Remember that neither Deb or Kelvin have said that the killer worked in the chemical industry, and the presence of antimony doesn't justify this connection either.

And why would Deb and/or Alicia give a name that's similar to the killer's, and not the killer's actual name? But let's remember that the Police have no idea what the killer's name is, so we have no way of judging whether the name Deb plucked out of thin air has any relevance or not. No matter what name Deb blurted out, it wouldn't take much searching to find someone with a similar name. Or even an identical name. I have a rather uncommon surname, but I discovered that someone with an identical first name and surname to me lived at the opposite end of the South Island, when AMEX accidentally sent me his bill. Not only that, we both worked in the same field and for the same nation-wide company. I also run the 'SETI @ home' software on my PC. Searching their database I again discovered someone with my identical name who lived in the USA. And by amazing coincidence we again worked in the same rather specialised field. So finding people with names similar to someone else's must be a piece of cake.

To demonstrate how easy it is to fit innocent people to crimes by listening to the screwed up ramblings of psychics, the PI spreads his search outside Auckland on more bogus advice from Kelvin:

Kelvin: The person's still alive. I would suspect that Tauranga would be somewhere that we need to look at.
Private Investigator: Our investigations also identified a Tauranga man with a similar name who was convicted for raping a teenage girl.
Note that this man supposedly raped a teenager, not a six-year-old girl, and he did not murder his rape victim. The crime was not similar, even thought the name may have been similar to that dreamt up by Deb, and remember that name was something similar to 'John'. The PI continues:
Private Investigator: He was 29 at the time Alicia was murdered. We will pass his details on to Police to see if he was connected to the Avondale area in 1980.
Finally we think we may have a lead, but this is followed immediately by:
Private Investigator: NZ Police state they deal in factual evidence only and do not employ the services of psychics.
Up until this point, the PI, a former police detective, has continually related Police answers to his queries and the Police have been interviewed throughout the episode regarding the case, yet now they appear to want to have nothing to do with him. Why would they listen to trivial stuff but refuse to follow up real leads? Most likely the police told the PI that this Tauranga man is not in any way connected to the murder of Alicia. This is the PI's devious way of avoiding telling the viewer that this lead was just another red herring. Thus the possibility remains in the viewer's mind that this lead still needs to be investigated.

Rather than uncover new leads, the private investigator Duncan Holland has merely reached conclusions that any corrupt investigator, lawyer or policeman trying to frame someone would be proud of. If this is the result you can expect from one of his investigations, his company Corporate Risks should be avoided like the plague.

A visitor to this website was curious as to where Deb might have got the letters IPA and the killer's name from. This would only be an important question if these two snippets of information were true, if they had some real, verifiable connection to the case. Then you could rightly ask, "How did she know that?" But as we've shown, both these predictions came to nothing, and in fact we were never told the killer's name, we only heard 'bleep bleep'. In a mystery like this it's quite safe to throw up any old name you want, for while the case remains unsolved no one can prove you wrong. We can never prove the killer's name isn't 'bleep bleep' if they never reveal what 'bleep bleep' is. Likewise the IPA company clue could mean numerous things if you're prepared to corrupt it into other things like the private investigator did, changing from a company name to a chemical product. If you swap the letters around, as Deb did earlier with her licence plate letters, you get API. Put a gap after the A and you get A Pi. Maybe the killer worked for a bakery making pies? Deb could also have safely claimed that the killer's middle name was Arnold, that he loved burritos, was hopeless at maths and was once abducted by aliens as a child. Until the Police find the killer and confirm these claims, all these predictions are no more than useless guesses. If these claims were eventually confirmed then that would be a whole new ball game. Until then we can safely assume that Deb is using her overactive imagination and just making things up.

During the episode Rebecca told us the following about spirit communication:

Rebecca: Communicating with children can be challenging in everyday life. The same is true for psychics trying to communicate with children in spirit. Returning to the place of her murder was difficult for six year old Alicia.
She then concludes the episode with this gem:
Rebecca: If Alicia was alive today she would be 32... instead, Alicia will always be six.
If true, these statements have enormous philosophical implications. It means that when people die they remain locked at that age. They don't age or mature. All the psychics' communication in this show was with a child. They only saw and spoke with a child. Alicia is forced to spend eternity as a six year old. Her sister died when only six hours old and will remain like this for all eternity. Who in the spirit world is looking after all these babies and children? If you don't change physically, mentally or emotionally once you die, then people that die with horrific injuries or those that suffer from Alzheimer's must be frozen at this stage just as Alicia is. If you die in old age you are stuck for an eternity as an old age pensioner, only without the pension. Perhaps it is better to die in your twenties and spend eternity fit, healthy, knowing everything and still able to enjoy sex?

Or perhaps the psychics are just talking more crap and haven't really thought this idea through?

Of course there will be other examples of trickery in the show. Every time I view it I see more faults, but you've got to stop somewhere. How many 'smoking guns' do you need? So let's wrap up and see what the psychics have achieved.

Who, when, why, where, what.

These are the questions police investigators ask when confronted by a murder.

How did the psychics fare in answering these crucial questions?

  • They couldn't provide the victim's first or last name.
  • They couldn't provide the killer's first or last name.
  • They couldn't provide the first or last name of any family member.
  • They couldn't provide the flatmate's first or last name.
  • They couldn't provide the boyfriend's first or last name.
  • They couldn't provide the first or last name of any suspect.
  • They couldn't provide the address or approximate location of where the murder occurred.
  • They couldn't provide the address or approximate location of where the killer lived.
  • They couldn't provide the date that the murder occurred.
  • They couldn't provide any new evidence.

To summarise:

Regarding the murder, the psychics could not determine who was involved, when it happened, where it happened or any new evidence.

The psychics could answer none of these vital questions. None.

Because of the obvious deceptions employed in 'Sensing Murder', it is easily shown to be a scam. The fact that the case remains unsolved only confirms this.

Return to 'Episode Transcripts'


Authors:   John L. Ateo,   Gordon S.
Copyright 2007, by the 'SILLY BELIEFS' website. All rights reserved.


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Last Updated Sep 2007