"Everyone you talk to will always tell you that they didn’t do it"
Bronagh Munro is the person you call when you want answers. As an investigative journalist for the BBC, she’s interviewed killers, helped uncover paedophiles and tracked down missing persons – all in the name of justice. Her latest project, Unsolved: The Man With No Alibi, is a gripping true crime story serialised in six bitesize episodes. It tells the story of Omar Benguit, a man convicted of the murder of a young Korean woman, Jong-Ok Shin, known as Oki, in Bournemouth in 2005. But for the last 16 years in prison, he’s always maintained his innocence. “I’d rather die in jail and be carried out in a box saying I didn’t do it, than say I did do it and go home today,” Omar told Bronagh in one highly-charged phone call.
However, Omar had previous. By his early twenties he’d racked up 60 convictions – which included stabbing a man in the chest and threatening another with a syringe. By Bronagh’s own admission, Omar was a dangerous man. But was he capable of cold-blooded murder? Throughout her investigation, Bronagh uncovered new evidence for both sides and by the time it was over she found herself examining three intertwined killings and a serial killer. Itching to know what happens? Well you’ll just have to watch and find out.
We caught up with Bronagh to find out what it’s like talking to hardened criminals for a living.
What emotions were you feeling when you first spoke to Omar?
“I spend a lot of time talking to people like Omar. It’s more intimidating to talk to someone like you than a paedophile or a murderer. I spend most of my time actively trying to find these people and trying to get them to talk to me.”
You weren’t intimidated?
“I’m not afraid. I was more anxious because I could not meet him. I needed to look this man in the face, see his body language and judge him for myself. I’m always conscious that everyone you talk to will always tell you that they didn’t do it. So I wanted to tell Omar what I thought of him – that he wasn’t a good guy – before I dedicated so much of my time to investigating his case. I didn’t want to waste my time on somebody that has done serious things to hurt people.”
It takes a lot of confidence to tell a convicted murderer to their face that you don’t believe them…
“Yeah, I can tell you now, the anxiety I felt going to Omar’s family was absolutely real. I built a trusting relationship with them after nearly a year of filming so I genuinely care about his family. They’ve gone through so much to help him that I was more anxious about telling them that I thought he could have done it than I was about telling him. I’m never afraid to ask the right questions, but his family, that was the toughest thing in the film for me.”
There’s a moment in the series where Omar’s mother breaks down – how did you react?
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“None of the scenarios are rehearsed. There are no scripted lines. You go in and you deal with it on camera. That’s what makes good television. That day she was genuinely heartbroken. In those situations there’s genuinely nothing you can do except give them a hug.”
Are you given any training on how to deal with those situations?
“I’ve worked in crime for a long time. Every day is spent dealing with these people. But you have your colleagues and sometimes you need to take time out to rationalise why you are doing this. My last case was about a paedophile which was particularly hard. I’m very driven and very motivated to help people, especially the victims. But yes, you do need to step back sometimes and take a look at yourself.”
Do you give emotional support after?
“When a contributor breaks down like that, we finish filming, turn the camera off and just spend time with them to make sure they’re okay. I can’t tell you how emotionally exhausting it is for the family when we get involved. I ask more questions than they will probably be asked in all their lives.”
Unsolved: The Man with No Alibi, is out now on BBC Three via iPlayer