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An Interview with Detective Inspector Mike Nash (part one)

October 25, 2013

Award winning journalist Rosie Forbes interviews Detective Inspector Mike Nash, following the news that he has been awarded the Queen’s Police Medal. Here is the first part of that interview. We will be publishing the second segment in a few days’ time.

***

On Thursday last I travelled to the quaint market town of Helmsdale, in rural North Yorkshire. My mission was to interview Detective Inspector Michael Nash and find out how much of what has been written about him is accurate, and how much is fiction. I found Nash to be polite, quietly-spoken and articulate. With one or two notable exceptions, he was very cooperative. As the interview progressed, I also became aware of the charisma that, according to rumour, many women have found irresistible. On entering his office, I saw only two photographs on display. One was of York Minster, the other of a boy dressed in cricket whites and a striped blazer. I took this to be Nash’s son, who he cares for as a single parent.

 

Rosie. Good afternoon, Inspector Nash. Thank you for sparing the time to see me. I hope you don’t mind answering a few questions?

Nash. That’s usually my opening line, but by all means use it – and please, call me Mike.

Rosie. To begin with, would you please tell our readers about your upbringing?

Nash. I was born in Ilkley, West Yorkshire, educated in Harrogate, and when I left school I joined the police force in Leeds, before transferring to the Met.

Rosie. From what I’ve been told, you were highly thought of in London. What prompted you to return to Yorkshire?

Nash. The short answer would be homesickness, but it’s a little more complicated than that. There were a lot of factors involved in my decision.

Rosie. Rumour has it that you were deeply affected by the death of a female colleague who was killed as you attempted the arrest of a notorious killer. My source suggested that your relationship with your fellow officer was something more than a purely professional one, and that you were in fact lovers. Is that true?

— — Nash remained silent.

Rosie. Can I take it that you don’t wish to answer that question?

Nash. Correct.

Rosie. Moving on to the time you’ve been back here, what would you say were the main differences between working in a rural location and in London? There must be far less crime, surely?

Nash. Statistically, yes, but it depends on how you interpret the numbers. If you take the totals, of course the amount of crime is far less, but if you analyse it per head of population, the figures converge dramatically.

Rosie. Any other differences?

Nash. There is one, which is purely down to our location. If you cry for help in a city, there is a good chance you might get heard. In the countryside, that cry would be far less likely to carry to anyone listening.

Rosie. What do you believe to be the root causes of crimes committed in this area?

Nash. That is something that does remain constant, whether you’re in an inner city, in the suburbs, or out in the countryside. The reasons people turn to crime are principally poverty, greed, addiction and laziness. In many cases, the perpetrators are almost as much victims as the people they rob or hurt.

Rosie. Do you believe that all criminals are victims of society and the economic climate?

Nash. Certainly not, but the majority are. There are however others; those motivated purely by greed and the profit they can make from crime. I’m speaking now of professional criminals who will go to any lengths to achieve their goal and hold onto their empire. I see them as truly evil, far more so than those who are the victim of circumstance, or who cannot control their own actions because of an addiction to drugs, for example.

Rosie. Do you believe that the professional criminals involved in organized crime are the hardest for the police to detect and bring to justice?

Nash. On balance no, I think the most difficult by far is the psychopath, because there is no logic to his or her actions. Because we are unable to understand the fixation that drives them to commit their crimes, we cannot second-guess where they might strike next, or who their victim might be. Fortunately, this type of perpetrator is very rare, despite the many lurid works of fiction that have been written about them.

Rosie. Speaking of works of fiction, a considerable number of your cases have been made into crime novels. How accurate would you say the portrayal of you and those events is?

Nash. You’re speaking about Bill Kitson’s books? Let me say here and now that they are neither authorized biographies, nor are they word for word accounts of those cases. And to be fair, Mr Kitson doesn’t claim them to be. He simply uses the facts that are common knowledge and supplements them using his sometimes vivid imagination. As to accuracy, they are certainly no more inaccurate than many so-called true life accounts, and in some instances, far better.

Rosie. Does Kitson consult with you to check the accuracy of his facts?

Nash. Sometimes, but not always.

Rosie. Have you read the books? And, if you have, did you enjoy them?

Nash.  I have skim-read them, but I’m at a disadvantage, because I know before I start them who did it. However, it isn’t really important if I enjoy them or not. Readers seem to like them, so I guess that Mr Kitson has achieved what he set out to.

Rosie. The books seem to portray you as having a highly active social life, to put it politely. How accurate is Mr Kitson when it comes to depicting your relationships with women?

— — again, Nash remained silent.

Rosie. I take it this is another question you don’t wish to answer?

Nash. Correct.

Rosie. Let’s talk about another sort of relationship instead. In the books, Kitson suggests your work is divided between pure detection and team leadership. Is that a fair summary of the reality?

Nash. Now that is one part that Kitson does get right. I’ve seen cop shows on TV where the lead detective is a loner, or a loose cannon, or a maverick, sometimes even an alcoholic. That might make for good television drama, but it doesn’t work in real life. Catching criminals and gathering the evidence needed to bring them to justice is a team effort, and a highly-professional one at that, involving the individual skills of every member of that team, and it is the duty of the captain to get them all working together. It stretches beyond the detectives to the backup services provided by such as IT, pathology and forensics.

Rosie. The emphasis you place on having all your team working together, is that particularly important because of the danger implicit in your work?

Nash. It is certainly one consideration, but hardly a priority. I accept that there is a small element of danger, but it is far from being a significant factor. I can think of many far more dangerous jobs. Anything from fire-fighting to something as mundane as a steeplejack or a window cleaner, for instance.

Rosie. And yet you’ve been attacked more than once, haven’t you? On one occasion, if my facts are correct, you almost died after someone shot you.

Nash. Yes, but that was a long time ago, and it goes a fair way to proving my point. It was my own fault – because I was so intent on catching the perpetrator that I went into a dangerous situation without back-up.

Rosie. Aside from the danger element, if the books are to be believed, you must have had to deal with some fairly horrific sights during your investigations. How do you and your colleagues cope with those horrors?

Nash. Again, it’s a question of perspective. Yes, we do have to cope with the very grim aftermath of extreme violence sometimes, but that only happens occasionally. Of course it affects us, and I don’t think we’d be half as good at our jobs if it didn’t, but I think equally awful things are witnessed far more frequently by people such as firemen, paramedics and traffic policemen.

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