THAT CHANCE MEET – REAL MANHUNTER

Fate and Freemasonry have always had a unique intertwine. Most of us at one time or another will have had repeated invitations to go to a meeting. Politely perhaps we would always decline. Then there will be a day where you’d think, ‘ah why not let’s give it a go’, and once you are there you come away with an immense sense of fulfilment having met people you would never have the chance to meet before.

This was certainly the case when two men, Colin Sutton and Tony Carne met by pure chance at a Hertfordshire Province Golf Day. This accidental clash of creative minds very nearly did not occur. Had it not been for that ‘ah why not moment’ by Colin, we would have been deprived of seeing one of the most insightful pieces of television which began airing this week, The Real Manhunter.

Colin, is a retired Detective Chief Inspector from Scotland Yard, and Tony is an award winning producer. Both are Hertfordshire Freemason’s and this week they provided an exclusive interview to the Provincial Communications Team as to how their collaboration came about.

Tony explained ‘Well, this was all a chance meet really, I ended up on a table next to Colin and we got chatting about all sorts’ Unbeknown to Tony, the fellow Brother and golfer he was chatting with happened to be someone whom for many years worked as the Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) on some of the most complex, high profile crimes of the generation. In fact, it wasn’t until somebody had mentioned to Tony who Colin was, it dawned on him, ‘I’m thinking there’s me telling Britain’s greatest detective about crime!’ From there however Tony as he proudly shared with us is a man never to miss an opportunity, and as the conversation continued big ideas started to form.

Colin by all accounts takes this all in his stride, ‘It’s completely random how these things happen’ he says, ‘I was a member of the golf club, and I left it about 25yrs before when I moved away from Hertfordshire’. He recalled that he’d always been encouraged by his Lodge to go every year, and then recently he thought, ‘you know what for old times sake, why not. If it had been any other course I wouldn’t have gone and Tony and I would never have met.’

Both realised there was real opportunity to share highlights of an incredible career in a way that was different to the usual style of a documentary TV series as Tony explains, ‘Usually these kind of programmes are narrator driven – but for this piece of work I really wanted us to see it from Colin’s perspective’  From Colin’s perspective he outlines, ‘For this project there were a number of stories I wanted to tell. Because, unless you lived in the street or knew the people involved, its quite sad nowadays that the ‘run of the mill’ murder is just not big news any more’. He felt, ‘This project has really given us the opportunity to demonstrate its not just the headline front page cases that get the full focus of a murder team. All cases of murder get the same level of treatment, and this really was an opportunity to allow those stories that are not so well known to be heard’. When asked how their concept came to fruition, it was Tony who took the proposition to Cannes where many broadcasters were keen to commission the work.

Sky was the selected broadcaster and The Real Manhunter work got underway to create the series. Filmed in the midst of lockdown Tony recalls the immense challenges they had technically due to the strict rules around Covid and of course distancing. The series airs on our screens from Monday 29 March 2021 for 8 weeks. Viewers are in for a unique insight with the show, and when asked what we can expect Colin shares ‘Without giving too much away one of them was a single act that led to 11 men being murdered in one go, and yet, as bad as that sounds most will have never heard of the case until now’. Tracking down suspects, and the painstaking gathering of evidence all go towards achieving a successful outcome at court, however Colin referenced a case where the suspect was not convicted of the murder he was charged for. ‘We had a mountain of circumstantial evidence against him, but crucially we never did manage to find the body. This was a guy who was charged with murder of his wife. I won’t spoil it, but during the investigation we’d uncovered that he’d approached a pet cemetary and offered money to hire their incinerator for the afternoon’. Although unable to secure a conviction in this instance Colin shares a huge sense of pride in this collaboration, as he sees this as a chance for him to show the less celebrated side of the work that the murder teams in London undertake.

As well as sharing a common interest in getting stories out to the wider audience, what is interesting is the similarity in which Tony and Colin’s approach their membership as Hertfordshire Freemasons, and how that associates with the careers they work within. Tony reflects, ‘I came into Freemasonry in 2000, and it was through my coaching kids rugby that one of the Dad’s there introduced me to it’. Tony’s life as a mason wasn’t common knowledge in the industry he works in, ‘When I first joined it was at the cusp where it was all quite silent’. He went onto acknowledge that with campaigns such as the ‘Enough is Enough’ by UGLE, this has somewhat challenged misconceptions and stigma around being a freemason.

Colin’s association to masonry went back further, and having joined as a 21yr old in 1982 he stayed with it for 5 years or so. After a break of around 16 years he found that his circumstances were right for him to re-join, ‘I’ve always had that association with it, my father is in my Lodge, and in actual fact this year he celebrates his 50th year in Freemasonry’ In terms of his relationship with masonry and being a Police Officer, Colin mentions ‘I didn’t make it well known, in fact I didn’t tell anyone at all. I was a PC at Tottenham at the time and I never announced where I was going on those Tuesday afternoons’. For him things kind of clicked in when he’d be sitting in the canteen and some of the older coppers were putting shifts in their little diaries, and he’d occasionally see the letters ‘LOI’, scribed within. It was from there he could put the pieces together and have an idea as to who was ‘on the square’. Freemasonry was always something personal to Colin, and he had rationalised that it had nothing to do with what he did at work. In terms of significant moments in his masonic career, he reflected on the time he was able to give the address to the Worshipful Master to his father at installation, and that when it was his turn to take the Chair, his Father returned the gesture, likewise delivering the same to him.

The first episode reveals how Colin and his team brought to an end a 17yr reign of terror delivered by a serial rapist dubbed the Night Stalker. Watch The Real Manhunter weekly from Monday 29 March on Sky at 9pm.