On 3 December 2006, Mark Blanco, 30, fell from the balcony of a flat in east London. The flat was known to police as a crack den frequented by the then-vastly famous rock star Pete Doherty, who on CCTV was seen, like others, stepping over a body to dash from the scene.
Blanco’s death remains unexplained, even after the Metropolitan Police was ordered to make good a baffling failure to investigate it properly. Seventeen years on, Pete Doherty, Who Killed My Son? (Channel 4) soberly revisited a cold case that, last pored over by Newsnight in 2012, feels stuck in a loop. In policing terms, nothing has changed.
This film began with footage of Blanco rehearsing Dario Fo’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist, which he was eager for Doherty to see. No one mentioned the chilling coincidence that the play is about an innocent man’s death by defenestration, and the police’s grotesque efforts to cover it up.
What made this latest retelling different is technology. Advances in so-called reverse projection enabled a less speculative reading of the grainy video evidence. In silent footage, CCTV caught the moment Blanco’s body tumbled like Bruegel’s unnoticed Icarus in the corner of the picture.
It’s deeply shocking to watch. His implacable mother, Sheila, views it as seldom as possible. That she did so again, and even forced herself to revisit the flat, is all part of a campaign to persuade the police to reopen the case. Ben Cheetham’s meticulous reconstruction built up to a drumroll conclusion: that, according to a new study by America’s leading forensic CCTV analyst, Blanco was already unconscious when he fell and that someone dropped him off the balcony.
Those present in the flat must surely know more. While Doherty insisted on his innocence in his memoir (as have others who were there), here old footage hinted at callous indifference, barely mitigated by the carefully vacant statement he gave to the programme: “I am sorry for Mrs Blanco’s loss and I welcome any assistance people can give her to come to terms with what happened.” Over to you, Plod.