Psychopath With Piers Morgan review – this was more about Morgan than the murderer

<span>Photograph: ITV/Rex/Shutterstock</span>
Photograph: ITV/Rex/Shutterstock

It is hardly the first time the question of what exactly the viewer is supposed to be getting out of a programme has presented itself, but with Psychopath With Piers Morgan (ITV), it does feel slightly more pressing than usual. There are very few possible answers, after all, that would seem to justify the existence of an hour of airtime being given to a remorseless 25-year-old murderer (who killed his sister 12 years ago when he was 13 and she was four) to seemingly rehearse gambits for the parole board when he becomes eligible for release in eight years’ time.

Morgan had secured an interview with Paris Bennett, who, in 2007, persuaded the babysitter to go home early and then beat, choked and stabbed his little sister Ella to death. It was a well thought-out plan and it went off without a hitch.

“For years,” he explains to Morgan, “there was this hot, flaming ball of wrath in the pit of my stomach directed at my mother. And one of the reasons why I chose to kill my sister and not someone else is because I knew that, by doing that, I could hurt my mother in the worst possible way … I found a way to take away both her children in one fell swoop.”

Once we are beyond proving Bennett’s utter affectlessness to ourselves – and it is mesmerising, that absent look in the eyes, the unhurried pause he takes after each question before rolling out an answer in perfectly measured paragraphs, the bare bones of human interaction uninformed by any urge to please, soften or ingratiate – it is difficult to justify watching on. As with the recent Netflix documentary Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, it simply fed base appetites and added to the wretched mystique that somehow continues to attend terrible crimes and criminals without adding any benefit by way of insight or analysis.

We know there are monsters out there. We have always known. They are the wolves in the woods, the 13th guest at the christening, the blood on the counterpane in fairy stories and folk tales. They are elemental and we only need to know they exist. We do not need to know them individually.

Like Morgan’s previous outings, Confessions of a Serial Killer With Piers Morgan and Killer Women With Piers Morgan, the programme evidently exists in large part to showcase the talents – to stretch the word to the very limits of its natural elasticity – and feed the ego of Morgan. Bennett, he slaveringly assures us at the top of the hour, is considered so dangerous: “They’ve insisted I interview him behind toughened glass!” So it is maybe to prove the great, dangling cojones of Morgan, too, for all those who were not convinced of their size and weight by his courageous stand against the feminisation of culture after a picture of Daniel Craig carrying his infant son in a baby sling like a giant nancy boy (I paraphrase Morgan’s take on the situation, but not by much) appeared in the papers.

If there is a story here, it is that of Bennett’s astute, dignified mother who, although unsentimental and clear-eyed about what he has done, what he is and what danger he will pose to her when he gets out, has forgiven him. “I don’t know how to stop loving my children,” she says. Bennett’s mother’s name is Charity.

“Do you think you know what love is?” Morgan asks Paris at one point. “I can’t just point to something and say: ‘That’s it’,” he replies. Charity is listening in on the interview through headphones in another room and hearing this brings her as close to tears – she seems to be beyond them now, scoured out by grief – as she comes. “He should be able to point to the fact that I’m still here.”

Although she won’t – she can’t – be for ever. She has had a son since Paris was imprisoned and, in order to protect him, there will come a time when she has to cut ties and move somewhere where the son who killed her daughter cannot find him. In a moment almost more crashingly insensitive than anything that had gone before, Morgan finishes up by telling her with piggish peremptoriness: “I don’t envy you at all.” It is the only moment she appears lost for words.

So, well done to everyone involved. A wholly unedifying hour that can have helped no one except, perhaps, Morgan and a psychopath. What larks. What cojones. What are we doing?