He is the crime correspondent for Sky News covering all of Europe, including Portugal, (and not just the McCann case). He has a remarkable insight into many famous cases and the interaction between the police and the media.
Martin has been ‘connected’ with the press since his teenage years. He recalls going to Ely Station to meet the 6.40 a.m. train from London Liverpool Street. He collected around 3,000 newspapers, in string-tied bundles, still, quite literally, hot off the press. He was one of thirty or so young paper boys, on bone-shaker bikes. His dreams of becoming a journalist may well have started then.
What began with a job on local papers soon led Martin to positions with the national press, eventually as chief reporter at the Sunday Mirror. This book will take you on a journey of the massive changes that took place between then and now. There were no laptops, mobile phones, or any other technology. To file your story, you had to call into the publication and dictate your story to a ‘copy-taker’. At that time the printed press ruled the world of news. If you want the latest news today, you look on your smartphone, tablet or even your watch. The evolution of news delivery has changed beyond recognition.
I was reminded of this as I watched the major tragedy in Nottingham, live as it happened on Sky. Not so long ago I would have to wait for tomorrow’s newspapers to find out what happened. News delivery has changed dramatically since the 40’s and early 50’s.
The police and the press need each other
What also has changed, just as dramatically, is the relationship between the police and the press. Martin has been a crime correspondent, over the past 20 years. He has been witness to the changing relationship between the police and the press and knows that they both need each other. It’s also clear from his book that the relationship became a bit ‘cosy’. Martin reveals how crime reporters and police detectives met frequently in local pubs.
Who benefited most from these meetings over a beer or two, who knows, it can be seen in several ways. Lord Leveson didn’t take the view that this was helpful or desirable. He published a report in 2012 into the culture, practices and ethics of the press and dramatically changed the relationship between police and the media.
The murky world of crime
Martins’ insight into the murky world of crime is fascinating. A police press officer once told a rival reporter: "Ask Martin Brunt, he knows everything before we do." Quite a compliment but clearly well founded. He has delivered a series of exclusive reports while covering the Cromwell Street killings, the murder of TV presenter Jill Dando, the trial of terrorist Carlos the Jackal, the London 7/7 bombings, the disappearance of Madeleine McCann and the Hatton Garden diamond heist. Strangely, the case he writes least about is the Madeleine McCann case. Despite that, make no mistake, he knows a lot about this case. He could, and perhaps will, write a book on this case that still fascinates people throughout the world.
Martin joined Sky News as a reporter for its launch in 1989, covering the Gulf and Balkan wars. Martin has tracked down several fugitives abroad.
They wouldn’t get a job at Sainsbury’s
The behaviour of the UK police is in the news almost every day. Little of the coverage is favourable. Sir Paul Condon, (Chief Constable of Kent in 1988 and Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police in 1993) said he had 250 corrupt officers he couldn’t sack because of an inadequate disciplinary system. It wasn’t just the Met. Condon’s contemporary, West Midlands Chief Constable Ted Crew, complained that he, too, couldn’t get rid of officers ‘who wouldn’t be employed by Sainsbury’s’.
The pro-fox-hunting demonstration led to the book's title
A pro-fox hunting demonstration outside the UK parliament in 2004 led to clashes between the police and the demonstrators. Although it started peacefully, it got angry with the police drawing batons. This led to an investigation into the police behaviour, by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. It was alleged that there had been police brutality. The commissioner was asked why his officers had lashed out. He paused before answering: ‘No one got cracked over the head for no reason.’ This comment made a great title for this book.
A fascinating book for anyone interested in crime reporting
The reality is that most of us have a ‘morbid’ interest in the crime stories that hit headlines on an almost daily basis. The daring raids on underground safe deposits to frauds that reap the criminals with multi-millions. Macabre cases such as Fred West and his wife Rose who murdered nine young female victims. If you are curious about these cases, this book will answer many of your questions.
There are still people who believe, despite advances in science and technology, that they can kill, kidnap, rape, rob, steal or deceive without getting found out. Investigative crime reporters (as opposed to crime reporters) still play a part in solving crime. It’s not always appreciated by the police, but the media can sometimes go where the police don’t have the time, funds or manpower to go. They both play an important part, though these days, at a distance.
Resident in Portugal for 50 years, publishing and writing about Portugal since 1977. Privileged to have seen, firsthand, Portugal progress from a dictatorship (1974) into a stable democracy.