Dead in the Water, review: the 1970s murder that was finally solved via Facebook

Contributions from Chris Farmer's mother will remain in your thoughts
Contributions from Chris Farmer's mother will remain in your thoughts - Amazon Prime Video

Netflix true crime documentaries have conditioned us to expect a big twist. There’s an absolute jaw-dropper of a series on there at the moment called American Nightmare, which has to be seen to be believed. By contrast, Dead in the Water (Amazon Prime Video) is a straightforward retelling, but that doesn’t make it any less gripping.

Perhaps you are old enough to remember the case. A young British couple, Chris Farmer and Peta Frampton, went missing in Belize in 1978. He was a newly-qualified doctor and she was a lawyer; in a spirit of Seventies adventure, they had taken off around the world, ending up in Central America.

In a bar, they met an American named Duane Boston, who offered to sail them down the coast of Belize on the boat he shared with his two sons, aged 11 and 13. Soon after that, Chris and Peta stopped sending letters home. Their bodies were later found in the waters off Guatemala. They had drowned, and there were signs of torture.

This is a three-part series. We discover the truth of what happened in episode two from Vince Boston, one of Duane’s children, who witnessed the murders. One of the strands running through the documentary is the mistakes made by the British police. When he reached adulthood, Vince tried to do the right thing and tell the authorities what he had seen.

In an awful coincidence, Peta shared her name with the famous musician Peter Frampton, so the Scotland Yard call handler dismissed Vince as a hoaxer when he attempted to report it. More damningly, the Greater Manchester Police force which had originally handled the case had lost the records, meaning that there was no trace of Chris or Peta on file. Thank heavens for a detective who, decades later, dug out copies he had stored in his garden shed.

Episode three details how the killer was eventually caught via Facebook – a 1970s crime that could finally be solved in the internet age. But while the investigation is compelling, it is Chris’s mother, Audrey Farmer, who will remain in your thoughts. Now in her 90s, she speaks of her son with such dignity and clarity.

She hadn’t wanted him to go to Central America: “I don’t think many parents would. But you can’t clip a kid’s wings; you’ve got to let them fly.” At the end, she reminisces about a moment they shared when he was a boy, and it is the most beautiful thing.