As much as I love true crime shows, In the Footsteps of Killers is the kind of cold case show that would normally drive me up a wall. I tend to prefer solved cases, because I want answers. I want to know. So, while I was excited at the opportunity to review this new cold case series, I was also bracing myself to be frustrated. And, to be fair, I was frustrated by the lack of resolution. But the same aspects of the show that will leave viewers screaming this crime should be solved is the very thing that makes it the perfect show for armchair detectives.
What’s It About?
In the Footsteps of Killers stars Emilia Fox, who is best known as the lead of long-running series Silent Witness. Teaming up with a renowned criminologist, the pair tackle cold cases in an attempt to formulate new theories and inspire new witnesses to come forward. The framing of the series is a little different from typical true crime fare. There are no voiceovers, no dramatization, and no “talking heads” espousing their theories of the case. Rather, the series follows the current investigation, showing the pair as they interview surviving family members, witnesses, journalists, experts, and (occasionally) the investigating officers; review case evidence; and conduct their own inquiries.
The first season covers three cases:
- The Disappearance of the Milk Carton Kids – A look at the disappearance of the first missing children ever featured on the side of milk cartons in the UK.
- The Disappearance of Suzy Lamplugh – Arguably the center of the biggest missing person in Britain’s history, Suzy Lamplugh went missing in 1986, and detectives were unable to gather sufficient evidence to charge their prime suspect.
- The Murder of Rita Ellis – This cold case from 1967 centers around a servicewoman who went missing on her way to babysit for her Wing Commander.
Why Is It Worth Watching?
If you’ve watched enough true crime shows, the typical approach – complete with dramatic narration and re-enactment – can make them all seem a little formulaic. Its departure from the norm gives In the Footsteps of Killers a different feel. One that seems to focus more on the solvability of the crimes in question, rather than the drama of the enduring mystery. And these crimes are solvable. Or, at least, it feels like they should be.
Of course, for those like me, who want to know, there remains the aggravation inherent in all cold cases. This is exacerbated when there aren’t really good reasons why the crimes remain unsolved. As frustrating as it is when detectives have (seemingly) turned over every stone and simply failed to gather the evidence necessary to convict, well…that isn’t always the case. All crimes are – inexplicably – not treated the same, but the neglect that led to their cold case status leaves open the intriguing possibility that the answers are out there. The truth still can be found. And while nothing can bring back the victims, there is the potential for closure for the loved ones they left behind.
This makes In the Footsteps of Killers the perfect show for armchair detectives, who love nothing more than to put pieces of a mystery together to try to solve the crime. The series lays out all the evidence on hand. The investigators conduct their own interviews with the relevant parties (when they are able to do so), so viewers can get first person accounts, rather than relying solely on newspaper articles and crime reports. The viewers get to follow the path of the investigation, to hear about clues as they’re uncovered and “walk the crime scene” – or whatever remains of it – to see it through the investigators’ eyes.
It’s aggravating to feel like these are crimes that could be solved but remain open for whatever reason. But the fact they can be solved makes the series even more important. The series is filmed through the lens that increased focus on these crimes can lead to new theories and new evidence. And I, at least, hope that it succeeds in its purpose and the surviving families are given the answers they have been denied for far too long.
In the Footsteps of Killers will be available on BritBox on July 6.