Asking WHY?: A Conversation with Jackie Malton for The Real Prime Suspect
CBS Reality’s new original true crime series; “The Real Prime Suspect“, hits screens on September 3.
The show is fronted by the INCREDIBLE Jackie Malton, a former Met Police Officer, one of the first female members of the Met Police’s Flying Squad and the inspiration for the character of DCI Jane Tennison, played by Helen Mirren, in the multi-award-winning drama “Prime Suspect” by Lynda La Plante.
Jackie Malton has publicly spoken about her experiences as an openly gay female police detective in a very male-dominated work environment, particularly in the 80’s.
As well as all this, since retiring she now supports convicted felons with addiction problems following her own former alcohol dependency.
In her 10-part true crime series, Malton guides audiences through famous cases, providing insight into each step of the investigation based on her own expertise and experiences.
In our in depth interview, Jackie tells The Fan Carpet’s Marc Jason Ali about her experiences with the Met, why she trots a show like this and what the future may bring…
I’m just reading through the press kit they sent over to me. It’s extraordinary stuff, it’s like “where to begin?”. But I am going to begin just with a general one. What was your initial impetus for putting yourself on camera in this way?
(laughs) It wasn’t my decision, I can assure you it didn’t come from me… It came from my involvement with Monster Films in the production of called Dark Son with Professor David Wilson, criminologist, looking at some unsolved murders in the 1960s, like a cold case review and find potential crime suspects that had been living in the area of a man convicted of a double killing of two young girls. He had been released from prison and was living in the area where those murders had taken place, and we were looking at prime suspects.
So out of that, unbeknownst to me Monster Fims sent a clip to CBS, I wasn’t aware of any of it and then I got called to CBS and they said “would you like to do this job The Real Prime Suspects, with an ex-detective interviewing other detectives?” My initial reaction was that I was I’m far too old to be dong that, and I really mean that and sometimes there’s nothing worse than an ex-detective going to other police officers and kind of pouring through their cases, but I thought about it and decided I have got something to offer.
It was my biggest kind of thrill, interviewing people on the job and so it makes sense to be interviewing all these wonderful experts, so it’s been a real gift and a privilege to do so.
That feeds nicely into my next question which is; obviously over your career in the Met you’ve been involved in a lot of harrowing cases, ranging from rape to murder, I guess that it’s safe to say that you’ve seen a lot of messed up stuff. How do you separate yourself from that?
Oh right well I think that when I was in the job I didn’t do a very good job of separating myself from that to be perfectly honest, because I was what they call a “bit of an over-feeler” in the job because you aren’t meant to express your feelings in the job and stuff.
So I found it kind of hard in some ways… yeah in some ways kind of quite difficult because you can see the humanness of people stories, lives, peoples narratives of people’s lives, but the point is that you are by then you’re a boss and you’re going in and then you put on your competent hat on and your professional hat on and it doesn’t stop you feeling, of course, but you’re priority is not about you, it’s about getting justice for the people who have been killed or attacked or raped, it’s your job to put “you” aside and get on with it.
Yeah. It’s tough though I’m sure. Switching gears to Prime Suspect, having Helen Mirren’s character modelled after you, how does it feel to be immortalised in such a way and by Helen Mirren no less?
I think the first thing that comes up really Marc is the fact is it’s imposter syndrome. So imposter syndrome is me feeling a kind of complete and utter fraud , that’s how I felt.
It took me… I’ll tell you one thing, it took me about 20 years before I could internalise that process of Prime Suspect, 20 years before I could actually own it and that whole point is about, you know, talking to Lynda La Plante and then saying “that was my kind of authentic story or feeling that you (portrayed?) the organisation itself, the story can be told, there was that incongruence again of feeling “that’s my story, what will other people think of me?” etc. Now that it’s on TV she seemed a better cop than I ever was (laughs) and that’s why it feels like imposter syndrome.
I really was kind of… I was quite proud of it and it’s almost like having two beasts on your shoulder, one shoulder you’ve got this driver which is definitely you’re our innate part of me and then there was another shoulder that had a nemesis sitting there on it and that was sometimes a kind of nemesis that would be more dominant and other times it might be the former. Does that make sense to you?
Yeah it makes sense. Okay so, back to your show The Real Prime Suspects. Episode 1 deals with the Black Panther of Staffordshire, no idea if that’s what he was referred to, but those are the notes. Whilst the case was particularly grisly and was ultimately solved, without going into details, as I’m sure there are certain sensitive cases that you can’t talk about, are there any things that you where investigating that remain unsolved?
Well the one that does remain kind of unsolved is a little boy named Vishal Mehrotra went missing on Royal Wedding Day in 1981. He was taken off the streets in Putney, he was only 8 years of age and he was found dead in Sussex some six months later that remains unsolved.
I was involved in that one. But obviously, that little boy, his father was a solicitor working in the offices in the city, the family had been to see the Royal Wedding and then the nanny took Vishal and his sister home and they went to a sweet shop and the boy suddenly didn’t want any so (she saw him across the road?) she only had 300 yards to go to his own home and he was (whipped or whisked?) off the street and found dead 6 months later.
I find that little boy was an innocent, that innocence and, again in these programmes, to see the innocence of the human condition going about their every day life and then they’re murdered and the impact of that has on the family. You know, people talk about getting closure and in my experiences nobody ever gets closure.
Yeah. Wow. That’s a lot. The first series is a ten episode run with a couple of featurettes, with the fascinating nature of the cases, do you have plans for a second season or series?
Oh I’ve got no idea (laughs) I don’t know the answer to that. it’s been amazing Marc, it’s been a really really amazing. It’s a bit like being back in the job, you know, the 13 hour days, we’ve been all round the UK and we’ve been to America and I’m still kind of not quite over it yet. So the thought of a second series has not entered my head.
Right okay. So obviously you do a lot of work in the community as a whole, do you find that with your experiences makes you uniquely qualified to help in the manner that you do?
Well, are you talking about addiction?
Yeah and the other things that you do, like with bringing light to these things and the things you find yourself uniquely qualified to in that respect.
Well, I don’t know, I wouldn’t say I’m uniquely qualified. What it is is a combination of being…..I am in recovery myself from alcoholism since 1992. I went to university and studied, got a master of sciences in addiction psychology and I probably do understand, you know, I’ve worked with men all my life, I have a good understanding because I do understand criminals.
So part of that is in the sense how can I best serve and give back so I been to a prison, for 13 years and I’m in an addiction group and then I also when men would say to me “I really need to look at some deeper stuff would you do a one t one” then that’s what I do, really explore their backgrounds, thoughts, behaviours, emotions, because addiction has nothing to do with the substance itself per-se, whether it’s drink or drugs that’s just the kind of attempt to self-impare using alcohol or drug.
All the addicts that I’ve ever spoken to and I’ve spoken to hundreds and hundreds and I would say “what’s the issue, it’s what’s underneath that, that are the driving forces for addiction”. Most of it is about fear actually and most of it is about feeling not enough, self esteem or lack of self esteem and all sorts of things, and would be about how they are responding to their emotions in a Childlike way as opposed to an adult.
So there’s all sorts of issues that are underneath addiction and concentrate with them, the substance is irrelevant to be perfectly honest so I try and help them to rewire their cogitative processes.
That’s what I enjoy the most. So to go back and (laughs) answer your question they quite like it, they think it’s important for some reason to them that I am a detective, it’s a comfort for them that I’m in recovery myself and can hear them, I hear them and listen to their stories without that, kind of, judgement and I will challenge their thought processes because it’s no good sitting there going “there there there”.
The best recovery, the only recovery is to look itself, so I help them mirror back to themselves their own thoughts, behaviours and emotions. The only person that can change is them and they have to be willing to change,. Often people get frightened and have a mask or a cloak for years and years and years and they’re too frightened to let it go because it’s part of who they are. We then help them let that go and then they find their authentic self.
Okay. Generally speaking, why do you think people don’t come forward when heinous acts like rape and gaslighting happen to them?
What do you mean? Individuals?
Yeah just generally speaking
Part of it, you know, is lots about shame, lots about “what people will think of me?” etc. etc., it could be the exposure although they are protected. That process, that internalisation process and punishing themselves etc., they do actually blame themselves for a lot of things, unnecessarily, of course.
It’s all sorts of issues about the individual, I think it takes enormous courage supporting victims who come forward, you know, tell their stories. So with all a myriad of stuff that goes on for them, we’d have to ask each individual what it was but often it’s kind of blaming themselves kind of process and self deprecation etc.
Yeah. Okay, so just before I let you go. True crime seems to be ever popular these days, we recently had The Ted Bundy Tapes and the dramatisation of Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile from the same film-maker. Why do you think these stories are still so popular?
Well I think the thing about it is that each one of us is made up of light and dark. We all have a shadow side to ourselves, most people of the population would go to work, they never experience any of the darkness of human nature because it’s not part of their lives etc. So the other thing it’s that fascination about why people do the things that they do and understanding why they do, they’ll always be a fascination, like a fascination about why people drive down a motorway and slow down to look at a crash at the side of a road.
It’s not part of who they are in the sense that they don’t act out on any of those things like Ted Bundy, what makes a man so attractive as Ted Bundy in his charisma, the stories that he gave, and why? We all want to know “why?”. Why would there be two mass shootings in America yesterday? Why would a little boy be pushed off the Tate Modern? Why Why Why? And that’s the question that made me a detective; why would someone want to do that? And then we have to explore the “whys?” in order to, you know, look at society.
For example, the American systems’ much better than ours, where they interview serial killers in jail to find out what other issues are running through, what are the similarities, learning about personality disorders, learning about adverse childhood experiences, all sorts of issues.
We need to benefit and learn from these people in order to do something, if we can, if we can, you know, to prevent these things happening again.
Yeah absolutely. A case that still seems to be unresolved in this country is the whole thing with Madeline McCann, that’s still going on and that’s still very much in the public eye. But yeah. Right well, I’m sure you’ve got many more of these to do today so I’m going to let you go for the time being, but thank you for taking the time to speak to me today. This has been incredible and every enlightening.
“The Real Prime Suspect” is on Tuesdays at 22:00 on CBS Reality (Freeview 66 / Freesat 135 / Sky Channel 146 / Virgin 148)