Crime on TV and real life

Today I bring you the story of one of the most horrendous crimes that took place in Portugal. I read in the newspaper that it happens 25 years ago on March 1st, 1987. The place where it all happened is not far from where I live, maybe 50 km. From time to time I can’t sleep at night and so I watch TV. I watched countless episodes of crime series like CSI, Criminal Minds, Law and order, Cold case, The Forgotten, The Mentalist, Bones, Profiler, Lie to me, Prime suspect… These programs deal with the ugly side of life, they depict so much evil. Yet, I watch it. I don’t even like some of these TV shows very much. I just watch it because it's available. My favorite is Dexter. Dexter hasn’t bored me yet! In fact, I think it’s exceptional.

Why is crime series so popular? Why do we tune in to shows containing so much violence? Usually, I am not impressed by it as I always keep in mind that what I am watching isn’t real. But some episodes of some of these series have stories that are really disturbing. More than the violence it's the abnormal deaths or a strange murderer personality that sometimes makes us think after turning off the TV. One may think that it’s only fiction. But once in a while, a violent crime happens in the world or in our country or in our neighborhood reminding us that we’re all exposed to violence in the real world and that violence is unpredictable and real.

The Massacre of the Whale Bone Beach is in our memory when we travel to the area of Marinha Grande city. Victor Jorge was 38 years old when he killed seven people in cold blood, including his wife and daughter. He worked in a bank and in his spare time he worked as a wedding and baptism photographer. Five of the persons that were shot on the beach had just attended a birthday party. He had a relationship with one of the ladies. After the beach killing, he turned to home and stabbed his wife and daughter. He spared his younger daughter who begged for her life.

He escaped but was arrested a few days later and confessed to the crimes. He was presented to a grand jury and convicted of 20 years in prison, which was the maximum sentence under the Portuguese Criminal Code. Some psychiatrist specialists defended he was insane but doctors that examined him ensured that nothing was detected in the direction of his incapacity. He was then imprisoned and become a model prisoner. He even helped with the Mass. He was freed after 14 years in prison benefiting from amnesties agreed upon during his captivity. Its release in October 2005 shocked the country again, this time by the alleged leniency of penal laws in Portugal. Vitor Jorge went abroad, to live with relatives in England, and has attempted suicide several times.

Last month another killing made the newspapers headlines. At Alentejo, a man killed his wife, his daughter, his granddaughter, and his pets with a big knife, a catana. He lived a normal life for a few days after the crime was committed. He lived in the company of the dead bodies that were hidden in the house. Then his daughter’s boyfriend started to make questions. He was caught and explained that he wanted to spare the family from misery as they were facing financial problems. The now-called Monster of Beja has committed suicide in prison. No one claimed the body yet and he may be buried as an indigent.

So we all get shocked reading about these facts in the newspaper or in this blog. But we still sit in front of the TV and watch crime series even when the bad guy escapes. The actual crime series is all about murders, rapes, kidnappings, and child abuse. It’s heavy content for the daily night TV menu. One TV show did surprise me with a different approach, it’s a White Collar. White-collar writers balance the seriousness of solving white-collar crimes with plenty of humor and sarcasm. It’s sleek and sophisticated. I like the easy plots and the characters, the acting, and the locations. The con-man-works-with-police-man thing isn’t new but this show is pretty enjoyable.

And, yes, we do have some crime series made in Portugal. But I haven’t watched the recent ones. Zé Gato (1979) and Duarte e Companhia, (1989) made history on Portuguese TV. The last one was very funny. Cidade Despida is from 2010. The leading actress is Catarina Furtado, a well-known TV show's Portuguese presenter. Check the trailer above.