'Sensing Murder — Insight'
A Skeptic Defects to the Dark Side
Geoff Husson, Director & Associate Producer of 'Sensing Murder Insight' has read our review and emailed us the following response.
As with Nigel's response, we don't agree with all his comments so we have added our own in purple.
From: "Geoff Husson"
Please accept my congratulations on your observations and conclusions of the Sensing Murder programme 'Insight' - it obviously took you a long time to write and we are flattered that you feel it is worthy of such analysis.
Thank you, but you shouldn't feel flattered. We analysed this episode to provide an alternative explanation to that proposed by 'Sensing Murder' and Nigel Latta. We didn't set out to prove definitively that the psychic obtained her reading by cheating, but merely to show that this was possible and even probable. We're sick of gullible people gushing over how amazing these psychics are and merely wished to show that it could all be achieved by trickery. We weren't praising your show but exposing it as a scam.Though I disagree with many of your conclusions I readily admit there are continuity inconsistencies and technical errors in the programme. These are as a result of production vagaries, time and budget. They may have resulted in causing doubts among perceptive viewers but, albeit after the fact, have rational explanations that you have not considered. These errors were inadvertent and are not connected with cheating. I particularly refer to different stools in front of Deb, red bins outside Sandwiches, scaffolding on the Sandwiches building and the open door of the house in which Margaret Walker died. You obviously don't understand that cutaway shots can be filmed weeks later and inserted later and, when used, do not distract from the fact that the filming of the psychic took place in one day. We do not break filming with the psychics to film cutaways, which means that through out the reading the camera is permanently looking at the psychic thus enabling us focus all of our attention on what is being said and recording the same. Therefore, to suggest that the psychics have time and opportunities to cheat while cutaways are being filmed is an absurd and ignorant conclusion. With particular reference to the door in the vacant house being open - think about it - if it had been left wide open as a clue for Deb, do you think Nigel Latta would not have noticed it and commented?! The house was completely locked up when Deb arrived. This open-door cutaway was filmed AFTER the psychic reading was completed.
You are confused. We said on two occasions that we didn't belief Deb was involved with your filming of fake shots or 'cutaways' so please don't accuse us of reaching 'an absurd and ignorant conclusion'. At no stage do we suggest that Deb was off cheating while you were filming these. Instead we accuse you of cheating by inserting these fake shots to portray a sequence of events that never happened. Deb never indicated the pub through the windscreen as shown, she never had a photo placed in front of her as shown and she never walked straight up to and into that house. You continually remind the viewer that all the scenes with the psychic were shot as one sequence, yet you then insert fake shots into this sequence. Viewers can not differentiate between the real scenes with Deb and the ones that you insert later, thus they assume they're all real. You know that your fake 'cutaway' shots help the viewer get a better impression of what the psychic appears to be doing, that's why you insert them. You don't have a shot of Deb identifying the pub so you insert a fake one. Regardless of whether she did or didn't, viewers now swear they saw Deb identifying the pub. Yet this claim is based on your fake shot. Whether you intended to be deceptive or not, the fact is you have tricked the viewer.We dispute your claim that the Margaret Walker case was not 'little known'. Yes, there was 20/20 item about her son's struggle to have the ruling of accidental death overturned - but Deb Webber lives in Australia , and there is no chance she can have seen the 20/20 item. Yes, the 20/20 item is online, but it does not come up when you search for 'unsolved murder'. There is no reference to the case being an "unsolved murder" in any books or articles. Prior to filming the Margaret Walker case, Sensing Murder had never investigated any case that was not considered by police to be an unsolved homicide, and so even if she had attempted to research cases beforehand, it is highly unlikely she would have bothered to research the Margaret Walker case anyway. An interesting aside, nowhere in the only piece of publicity available (i.e, the 20/20 item) does it mention that Margaret had six children. Not many 23 year olds have 6 kids, so this was a pretty big punt on Deb's part if she was taking a lucky guess.
During the program 'Sensing Murder' told us that Margaret's son David 'created his freak persona and Freak fashion label solely to keep Margaret's case in the spotlight', yet you now seem to have forgotten that. Also once a story has been related on nationwide TV and in the major newspapers we don't think you can still claim that it is a 'little known case'. Boring, irrelevant and uninteresting perhaps but not 'little known'. And do we know for sure that the 20/20 episode never screened in Australia? And just because Deb Webber lives in Australia we can't say there is 'no chance' that she hasn't seen it. It's Australia not Siberia. She also spends time in NZ doing her travelling psychic shows so she could well have been in NZ when the episode screened.I note the methodology used to derive your conclusions is a recurrent process throughout the document and, in my view, has gaping holes in its logic. The detail of which I will address. I suppose I'm sceptical about sceptics because I find you don't apply your own methodology to your own work (point in case above re cutaways - you simply haven't done your home work). Incidentally, by publishing those stills from the programme you may be liable to prosecution by TVNZ for breaching copyright.
Or to be more frank, 'by publishing those images you're showing people exactly where we cheated'.New information regarding Margaret was provided by Deb. True or false? Who knows?
She went to the house with someone
May not be much, but its enough to discredit your claim that Deb brought no new information to light. The fact is she did.
No she didn't. You started this section by asking whether Deb provided new information about Margaret and correctly answered it with 'Who knows?' You realise that none of these statements can be verified and must remain guesses. A guess is not a fact. Deb could have included in that list statements such as, 'She was a secret fan of 'Star Trek' and 'The person she struggled with was a Gemini'. You would describe it as new information brought to light, we would describe it as vague, useless rambling. There is not one statement in that list that is new and surprising. New information would be things like the name of the person seen leaving the pub with her.It is also the case that psychics often concur (as Deb did in the Insight Programme) with police records. However, psychics do not and cannot gain access to police files - therefore they can't cheat. The production crew rarely get access to police files - another fact. Only by contacting the police after a filmed reading will the police confirm or deny questions we put to them. These questions are composed from our analysis of the filmed readings and at this point our investigators (former police officers) make enquiries with investigating police to check the relevance and quality of content. Neither we nor the psychics have access to police files. In the George Engelbrecht case, when the psychic's findings were presented to police, the former 2IC on the case admitted that the psychics had come up with detailed information held in the police files that had never been made public. Superintendent Paul Nickalls (who appeared on the Insight programme to congratulate psychic Kelvin Cruickshank) confirmed that the psychics correctly stated information about the weapons; the offender's shoe-print; the location of the victim's body; where the offender's footprints went in the house; as well as crucial details about a suspect that was originally discounted, but is now being actively re-investigated as a result of the psychic's conclusions, with police hopeful of a breakthrough. Superintendent Paul Nickalls said this information was closely guarded by top-ranking police, was never made public, or leaked to the media, and there is no way the psychics can have obtained it.
It is well known that police often keep certain details of cases secret for operational reasons, so why would they then release this to the first film crew that came along for broadcasting on nationwide TV? It hardly seems a good way to keep a secret. It's likely that any information revealed to 'Sensing Murder' was already considered to be public knowledge by the police. There is no doubt that a case may be solved by the renewed interest created 'Sensing Murder', but this will come about by natural means, not psychic. Remember that not one 'Sensing Murder' case has been solved even with the added bonus of your psychics.AS YOU SEE IT, THERE ARE AT LEAST SIX OPTIONS AS TO HOW DEB WEBBER ARRIVED AT HER INFORMATION.
The six options you publish are out of the 'self fulfilling prophecy' mould. You make a statement in line with the outcome you seek.
Why for example have you not made exhaustive research into the following list of options (and its by no means definitive) as being subjects that might explain or vindicate your preconceived notion that Deb is cheating?
The answer is simple - it's because you have an outcome which you wish to achieve and construct statements to support what are no more than your beliefs. The tail wags the dog. Not very scientific. And scary also as the implication is that the end justifies the means.
For a start, please don't pile all the blame on Deb. We blame you of cheating too, remember?Your maths too is appalling. The pie chart is complete fiction. The facts are that we filmed Deb for 6 hours for insertion into a programme which is sixty six minutes in length. Obviously something has to go! But why assume unused material is worthless or plain wrong? The truth is that a considerable amount of Deb's reading was valid and accurate according to police records - we simply have to make professional decisions and choices of what to include. It would be true to say in Deb's case we were spoilt for choice.
Obviously maths was not your strong point at school although you at least recognised it as a pie chart. We produced this pie chart with MS Excel using the following data. You told us when Deb's reading began and when 30 minutes had elapsed. Between these two points you only showed us 103 seconds of this 30 minute segment of the reading. You showed us less than 6% of the first 30 minutes. The pie chart correctly represented this fact.The following paragraph is from the transcript. The segment played on air is highlighted in red. You will see the surrounding material is relevant, but too long-winded for inclusion in the episode:
"She keeps saying mother to me, so I've got her as a mum, not a good relationship, bad relationship with the fathers of her children. Lot of toughness, arguments. Not a lot of money, not a lot of new things. I'm getting a struggle, single mother energy, this hurt her, she was devastated, she misses her children. She says she was too young, too young to have too many children, but she loves them so she doesn't want to hurt them by saying that. She must have been very young when she first got pregnant, 16, 17, (She didn't know what she was doing. I just asked if there were different fathers for the different children cos I'm feeling that different genetics with the kids. She just said I was a bad girl that's how she felt, but she wasn't, you shouldn't judge someone for their experiences on earth, that's what we're here for and she had some hard calls. She doesn't feel like she was a very good mum even though she loved her kids, she didn't feel like they got what they needed but she didn't realise that until she passed, she was too in a different reality, not stable, rockiness, which we've already gathered through her earlier communication. God there's a few kids here a pile of children, wonder if she's got six, amazing, they're just there, but it's like theyre not all with her, she keeps saying I couldn't look after them, I couldn't look after them".
All of this paragraph is correct, and yet we just chose to broadcast the final sentence. Therefore, I ask on what scientific basis do you conclude that unused material is worthless or plain wrong? And further: what relevance has wedding photographers to do with Sensing Murder? Incidentally, one of my colleagues was formerly a wedding videographer and said that he used to film up to 8 hours of video to edit into a 20 minute finished tape.
It's funny how you claim that 'all of this paragraph is correct', yet the sentence that was screened is not exactly the same as your transcript. There are several mistakes in this sentence alone, so your transcript is not very reliable. We conclude that it is worthless for the same reason that you didn't broadcast it. It's vague and contains mistakes. For example she began by saying that Margaret had a bad relationship with the fathers of her children. She says she knew they had different fathers, yet half way through she then says she is now asking Margaret if there were different fathers for the children. Why has she forgotten?How can you say a huge proportion of what Deb said is WRONG when you haven't read the transcripts? Wild conjecture I think!
We'd be happy to read the entire transcripts and perhaps revise our opinion. Please contact us to arrange delivery. However, since there are errors in just that one sentence, the entire transcript is probably rife with errors, so please arrange to send us the video footage instead. We'll send it back. Promise.It has never been the intention of the programme to solve a case nor have we ever proclaimed as much. We have clearly only sought to bring new insight or perhaps a new perspective to an existing enquiry. This we have done. Indeed one police department opened a new incident room as a direct result of the programme.
Well at least you won't be disappointed then. You never intended to solve a case and you haven't. No sleepless nights then? You should make this lack of intention more blatant on your program. The gullible public is of the opinion that your psychics are there to provide the information that will break these cases. They are convinced that it is psychic information that will solve these cases, not conventional police work that may be generated by renewed interest in the case.As you point out, we have openly declared that positive statements can be, but are not always, confirmed. Deb out of the blue said the letter 'M' - this was confirmed. No other letters were confirmed. All the letters Deb spoke of were letters contained in the word MARGARET. Whether Nigel saw the confirmation of 'M' or not is irrelevant. Because Nigel didn't see it does not make it cheating, it merely makes Nigel unobservant at that particular point in the reading. So again no proof of cheating. Frequently names have been forthcoming without confirmations, as in the case of Agnes Ali'i Va 'a and many others.
As we explained, with this ploy of confirming correct statements, all 'Sensing Murder' has done is legitimise a form of cheating by writing it into the rules.As far as 'counting' horses are concerned you still failed to described how the information allegedly conveyed was conveyed. Either from human to horse or crew to Deb. You merely state that if a horse can do it so can Deb. Again not a scientific argument.
You invited Nigel onto the show and trumpeted his skill in reading body language, yet now you're saying you don't see how non-verbal cues could be passed unconsciously between humans and/or animals. You obviously don't believe us that there is science involved so perhaps you should give your expert a call and get him to explain it. (In the References at the bottom of the main essay we have provided some links to articles on Clever Hans the counting horse.)For your information the crew know nothing of a case. They are hired from a company that provides freelance crews. It is total pot luck as to which crew turns up on the day. They are booked only days in advance by a booking manager and most don't know where they will be working next until 24 hours before a crew call. There is no possibility that any crew have either the time or inclination to research a case and then work out a clandestine way of communicating the information to a psychic. However in the event that you wildly conclude that this is not the case, and you believe that information is being passed on, then if its not by spoken word or written secretive notes, or writings on an off screen black/white board, (and Nigel Latta will attest to not seeing any of these things or activities), then you must subscribe to a theory of mind reading. In which case you are obliged to admit that something extraordinary is happening.
By 'film crew' we mean, along with Nigel Latta and most lay people, everyone that was present during the filming of Deb Webber. This includes producers, directors, associate producers, researchers, production assistants etc and not just the team holding the cameras, microphones and lights.Granted that, on occasions, Deb may take a little time in reaching a conclusive statement. But conclusive statement she makes. She revealed fifty six facts about Margaret Walker and only three confirmations witnessed by Nigel Latta. Apart from those three, the room was silent from all others except Deb.(as the field sound tape bears witness to)
As we've revealed, Nigel's memory about how many confirmations you provided is flawed and the broadcast episode proves that. We never get to hear the field sound tape, and based on the editing you did to the video tape we wouldn't know what you might have added or deleted. Remember that two of the confirmations that Nigel says he heard have been deleted from the episode that you broadcast.By confirming the letter 'M' how could that possibly guide the psychic to come up with: Margaret had 6 children, she was a prostitute, she was a thief, she had been in prison etc etc.... No, you are on the wrong trail here and your evidence is absent.
We never suggested that your confirming the letter M led to Deb getting the other info. What we did raise was the possibility that by confirming correct statements and ignoring false ones Deb could, if given enough time and by process of elimination, arrive at all these facts. Deb could throw out all manner of possibilities and sprinkled in amongst them would be, by accident, a few correct bits. She could say Margaret might have been a dressmaker or a shop assistant or a housewife or a prostitute or unemployed or a biochemist. A devious editor could then pluck out the 'prostitute' sound bite and delete the rest. And remember there is 5 hours and 48 minutes of Deb saying things that we never get to hear. You can pack a lot of guesses into that amount of time. And remember that it's easy to make up statements with unsolved cases. Being unsolved means there are things that no one knows and thus the psychics can waffle with complete freedom.I defy any sceptic to sit in a room with a down turned picture of a deceased person and come up with 56 facts.
This is silly. Skeptics have never even suggested that they could do it. If you remember we're saying it can't be done.Unfortunately, I have to move on to my next job and my time has run out on this e-mail. I'd love to write more. I'm sorry it's so sketchy. These comments are spontaneous and I know are broad observations - I'll conclude with this.
I'm the biggest sceptic of all. I directed 8 out of the 16 Sensing Murder shows and was also one of the two associate producers. I am not sure if I believe the psychics communicate with the dead. I am more inclined to believe they have some kind of gift or savant inclination that enables them to see things or tune into passed events. I believe, in fact I know, the crew and production team don't cheat, and do not pass on information. Nigel Latta (whose expertise in profiling criminals and liars is indisputable) does not believe the psychics have studied up and retained information about every unsolved case in New Zealand . He was confident he could ascertain through the psychic's body language whether they were recounting previously learned facts. I do not have Nigel's expertise in detecting body language - what I do have is a lot of experience interacting with the psychics. And based on my experience, I do not believe they cheat. They have no networks around them to help research; the psychics appearing on the programme have had or still have learning difficulties and in no way could be described as intellectuals. They are spontaneous, almost child-like people who die heartedly believe in what they are doing. I have filmed hours and hours of readings and have been astounded at what has occurred. We as programme makers insist that we totally control the conditions in which the psychics do their readings as far as is humanly possible. Yes, we made errors in continuity when it came to editing, but I categorically refute that the team cheated. The one thing I can't get my head around from your point of view is: if they do cheat - how do they get access to police files? Even we as hardened media professionals have not been able to gain access to police files.
Once again you say that you're not convinced that the psychics are doing what they believe they're doing and what your audience believes they're doing — talking to the spirits of dead people. You've had all this experience and exposure to the psychics and you still don't believe. Shouldn't we perhaps defer to your experience and also claim that psychics don't talk to dead people? Oh wait a minute, we do!I note that you failed to analyse the Insight programme in its entirety. Perhaps it is too painful for hardened sceptics to repeatedly listen to factual comments such as this from the head of Lower Hutt CIB, DSS Ross Levy, "the follow up enquiries that we are doing in connection with this homicide are a direct result of the Sensing Murder programme."
We didn't analyse the second half of the program simply because this wasn't related to Nigel Latta investigating 'Sensing Murder' in any way. Our purpose was to counter Nigel's claim that Deb's performance couldn't be explained rationally. It is not our intention to point out the flaws in every episode of 'Sensing Murder'. We have exposed two other episodes, if people can't learn from those then they will never see the light.Finally, you let your slip show in your penultimate para: "They are offered a photograph but most contact the spirit long before they ever look at it" Isn't this admission by you that spirit exits?
Surely you jest? Do you really think that we are believers in denial? Even you don't seem to be too convinced that spirits exist so why should we? To remove all confusion we have changed that sentence to read: 'They are offered a photograph but most claim to have contacted the spirit long before they ever look at it.'Kind Regards
Director & Associate Producer Sensing Murder
Thanks for your response Geoff, but I guess we're going to remain at odds over this. We feel that 'Sensing Murder' and the psychic stage acts that would have inspired it are pure entertainment, like magic shows. They're both performing tricks but only the magician is honest enough to admit it. You no doubt disagree, but you could easily prove skeptics wrong by consistently solving the murders you look into, but you elect to leave them all unsolved. Your psychics have a proven record of complete failure. This is nothing to be proud of. In other TV shows failure to perform normally means the cancellation of a future series, yet 'Sensing Murder' seems to thrive on failure.
Authors: John L. Ateo, Rachel C.
Last Updated Sep 2007