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March 21, 2013

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I've no idea how well know this case may or may not be but found this intriguing, related, item on Montague Keen's website:

"A letter from Montague about the Jacqui Poole murder case published in The Skeptic, 16.1.

Chris French greatly exaggerates the amount of scholarship required for an impartial assessment of the Dorr-Lethe case, but I won’t press the point because all he has to do his explain away a much simpler case which I have been investigating with Guy Playfair: an Irishwoman is badgered by the voices of a recently murdered woman she’s never heard of. She provides the police with 125 specific statements about the deceased, the murder scene, and the personality, appearance, route taken, method of entry and name of the murderer. Apart from a few unverifiable statements, all but one proved correct.

We have examined all the original documentary evidence. Apart from a very few statements, all must have had a paranormal origin. The only issue is where the information came from — the dead woman or the minds of the policeman who discovered the body, the murderer himself and the woman’s family. The dead woman was Jacqui Poole, and the murderer, Pokie Ruark, was given a life sentence at the Old Bailey in August, 2001."

I'm pretty sure more detail is provided on another page, and I'll try and find it..

This summary from another site: "When Cristine approached the police with her story, they were skeptical until Detective Tony Batters, the first officer on the scene, was convinced by her accurate description of the victim’s position, clothing and injuries. Christine also gave personal information about the killer, including his age, height, tattoos, type of work, and criminal history. Out of the 130 facts provided by Christine, 120 proved to be accurate, right down to the killer’s nick name ‘Pokie’ (Anthony Ruark).

According to Guy Lyon Playfair and Montague Keen of the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, the Jacqui Poole murder case is the first ever of its kind to be proven beyond all reasonable doubt."

There was an inevitable skeptic attempt to dismantle the case which is far too long to paste here so here's the direct link: http://www.tonyyouens.com/ruislip_murder.htm

Keene replied (I assume its to the above and not an earlier version) as follows:

"A brave but doomed attempt by Tony Youens. His confessedly superficial examination contrasts with the detailed inquiries which Guy Playfair and I made when interviewing both detectives and the medium and examining the original records.

Christine Holohan lived well over two miles away, not ten minutes walk. Her sole inaccuracy was a reference to Saturday instead of Friday as the night of the murder. Whether the experience has ever been repeated is irrelevant to the issue of paranormality, but in fact, according to Batters as well as Holohan herself, it has been.

Ruark had already given the police a persuasive alibi. He was no longer a suspect when Holohan was interviewed. As for the supposed inability of the medium to provide a clue to what happened to the stolen jewels after the murder: in fact a written clue, considered meaningless at the time, was provided: details will have to await publication of our full report.

The idea that Holohan had received her information from someone not wishing to Iinform the police directly is another good idea blown away by the fact that she would have had to receive the information from five separate sources who were either unknown to one another or mutually hostile, and included the murderer himself! the police would hardly have been ignored of such an elaborate web had it existed.

The case was reopened in 2000 because another person, not Ruark, has been accused of the murder. Advances in DNA technology enabled Ruark’s discarded pullover, rescued by Detective Batters, 18 years earlier, to pin the crime. It was Holohan’s uniquely detailed evidence, plus a spontaneous psychometric “reading” which produced three strikingly accurate pieces of personal information about one of the detectives, that so impressed Batters and prompted him to ransack Ruark’s dustbin and retrieve the fatal garment. Without it the case would have collapsed.

Holohan produced a large number of statements, the accuracy and relevancy of which cannot be attributed to any normal function. Premature judgment based on inadequate first-hand knowledge and selective evidence is unwise."

Hi Lawrence, yes this case is interesting. I might have mentioned it, come to think of it.

There's a paper here which summarises Guy/Monty's paper in the SPR Journal.

http://www.aeces.info/Top40/Cases_51-75/case69_poole.pdf

She's also written a book, which I see if I can get hold of.

Thanks..I'll be fascinated to read that as I've only seen the basics as mentioned above.

This also seems like the ideal occasion to bring to a wider audience another extraordinary case which I emailed you about 2 years ago and which is little known outside of Italy as far as I can gather. As far as I know it's not appeared on this blog so others might be interested as, while not about a psychic detective per se, it certainly involves the use of the paranormal in trying to solve a crime. I'll simply copy and paste the main body of the email I sent you....


You'll no doubt know, or remember, the case of the kidnap and murder in the 1970s of the former Italian prime minister, and at the time president of the Christian Democrats, Aldo Moro at the hands of the Red Brigade. I stumbled on a reference to the following in a footnote on Wikipedia. The full story is in the Independent article linked below but here are the key facts:

During the 55 days he was held in captivity everyone in Italy desperately speculated where the kidnappers could possibly be keeping Aldo Moro. At one point something extraordinary happened. Romano Prodi, himself later prime minister and also president of the European Commission, went to the police with a remarkable tip off. He reported how he and a group of university academic friends had spent a Sunday afternoon attempting a seance with a Ouija board. They appeared to get responses from what was identified as the spirit of another, recently deceased, senior Christian Democrat called Giorgio La Pira. Having established this they asked what everyone wanted to know "where are they holding Aldo Moro?"

The Ouija spelled out in turn 3 place names.. Bolsena..Viterbo..Gradoli... The first two were instantly identified as known places, but Gradoli meant nothing to anyone. Until that is they located a village of that name in an Atlas, to their own apparently great surprise. This fact - that a place that existed but no one had heard of had turned up in response to their question - prompted Prodi to risk ridicule and inform the police. The village of Gradoli was duly raided and searched and...nothing. The lead seemed another dead end.

Except...
After Moro was murdered and his body disposed of it was determined that he had been kept during most of his captivity in an apartment in a street in Rome called.... Via Gradoli.

Cue twilight zone music.

The gist of the Independent article is that Prodi's political opponents, sceptics and the public at large take it virtually as read that he "obviously" made the whole seance "nonsense" up to cover up for someone..ie to pass on a tip about Moro's whereabouts without giving his informant away. But from the report I can't find any suggestion of evidence that this is the case ...it appears to be simply an assumption based primarily on the idea that such things are self-evidently impossible so must be untrue.

Prodi however has never (?) changed his story.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/the-seance-that-came-back-to-haunt-romano-prodi-517786.html

Concerning Wiseman, West and Stemman's study one wonders whether the psychics had actually claimed to be able to derive information from objects. One of the psychics was "Christopher Robinson" who cowrote Dream Detective (a book which I have not read). I note their study was published in Jan, 1996 both in the JSPR and in Skeptical Inquirer. Oddly in the former the authors forgot to mention that the research was carried out with support from the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.

I just read your JSE review of Cracknell's book. Tom Ruffles' was a bit more critical: http://www.spr.ac.uk/main/publication/lonely-sense-autobiography-psychic-detective

"I'm interested to see how script writers portray them in a general context"

Keith Harary wrote about this in "Spontaneous Psi, Depth Psychology and Parapsychology: Proceedings of an International Conference Held in Berkeley, California October 31-November" - according to George Hansen he concluded that psychics were "...often presented as odd or unusual; frequently there was a negative taint" (p. 182 in The Trickster and the Paranormal)

Thanks from one Larry to another and Robert, for bringing these cases up. The psychic detective work on the Poole murder is especially impressive, and that comes from somebody who prefers super-psi to survival as far as these things go!

I gotta admit as Playfair (or Keen) puts it, yeah the Poole case really is a tough one to account for by super-psi alone. One would have to bring in a collective unconscious that exists out of time so to speak in combination with super-psi to avoid the survival hypothesis. I admit it's not necessarily satisfactory, but then again what do we know and what do we really mean by a collective unconscious? William James himself, in order to downplay the survival idea, necessarily brought up the concept of a group mind/reservoir, super-psi alone is not adequate.

I think whatever the truth is, it is stranger than any of us can imagine and guess at.

Interesting post. Psychic detectives can be difficult subjects to research, given the often subjective nature of fitting the psychic statements to the events as they happened.

For example, I went back and looked through some newspaper archives (not for the Sunday People, which would've been most pertinent) and I read that on the day of Gaby Maerth's release Cracknell is quoted as saying the kidnappers would be caught in two weeks. As it turned out, the first one of the gang was caught after four weeks.

Now, is this a hit or not? I suspect that the way people answer that question depends on whether or not they already believe in psychic detectives. In other words, a “near miss” (if you can call it that) can reinforce the beliefs of people holding completely opposing views.

There are other aspects of Cracknell's claim which seem a little odd, but I don't want to get bogged down into a discussion about this case, given the lack of first-hand documentation.

This quote from the leader of the Como police squad caught my eye, though:

“We received a lot of reports: from psychics, seers, mystics, the desperate. We checked about five hundred homes. Someone reported that Gaby was in a village in the province of Asti, and so we raided the entire area.” (My translation. From La Stampa, 3 October, after Gaby was released)

Lastly, just a quick note to say that Wiseman isn't the only person to test psychic detectives and find them wanting. O'Keeffe and Klyver & Reiser have also looked into it with negative results.

The trouble with ‘psychic detection’ and the law is that solid evidence obtained by normal means is necessary for a conviction. Also, from the point of view of the police, if someone comes up to them and claims to have obtained knowledge about a case paranormally, then they will have to divert valuable resources towards following up information that, if proved to be a waste of time, could have career defining consequences (in a rather negative way) for the officer concerned. I’m sure that most people, therefore, would not blame the police for being a little impatient with psychic claimants.

That said, there do seem to be rare cases, such as the Poole example, that defy normal explanation (although no case will ever defy desperate explanation - a la Youens et al).

As far as remote viewing goes. I was told by a retired CIA operative (Colonel) in around 2006 that he was still getting input from a remote viewing unit as late as about 1999 – long after the program was supposed to have been cancelled. He told me that if there was no conclusive evidence as to the cause of a particular issue, but the remote viewers confirmed what was already suspected, then the process was regarded as being accurate enough under those circumstances to be given the casting vote – as a confirmatory tool under SOME circumstances. It was not regarded as being reliable enough to trust completely without other, ‘normal’ evidence.

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  • ‘These disturbing phenomena seem to deny all our usual scientific ideas. How we should like to discredit them! Unfortunately the statistical evidence, at least for telepathy, is overwhelming. It is very difficult to rearrange one’s ideas so as to fit these new facts in.’ Alan Turing, computer scientist.

  • ‘I have noticed that if a small group of intelligent people, not supposed to be impressed by psychic research, get together and such matters are mentioned, and all feel that they are in safe and sane company, usually from a third to a half of them begin to relate exceptions. That is to say, each opens a little residual closet and takes out some incident which happened to them or to some member of their family, or to some friend whom they trust and which they think odd and extremely puzzling.’ Walter Prince, psychic researcher.

  • When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong. Arthur C. Clarke

  • ‘Science seems to me to teach in the highest and strongest manner the great truth which is embodied in the Christian conception of entire surrender to the will of God. Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abysses nature leads, or you shall learn nothing.’ Thomas Henry Huxley

  • We can always immunize a theory against refutation. There are many such immunizing tactics; and if nothing better occurs to us, we can always deny the objectivity – or even the existence – of the refuting observation. Those intellectuals who are more interested in being right than in learning something interesting but unexpected are by no means rare exceptions. Karl Popper, on the defenders of materialism.

  • If we have learned one thing from the history of invention and discovery, it is that, in the long run - and often in the short one - the most daring prophecies seem laughably conservative. Arthur C. Clarke.

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