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Storyville: Death on the Staircase – the Last Chance

Mon Feb 4, 10pm-midnight, BBC4

Isabelle Razavet

Almost ten years after being convicted of murdering his wife, US novelist Michael Peterson’s hearing for a retrial (he maintains she fell down the stairs) is interrupted by a bomb threat. In any other situation, this would be extraordinary but, given the circumstances of Peterson’s original trial, it’s almost run of the mill. A warring family. A penchant for military-themed gay porn. The oddly similar death of his adopted daughters’ natural mother. Wood and trees seemed almost inseparable and the verdict undoubtedly contentious.

Jean-Xavier de Lestrade’s gripping 2005 documentary mini-series ‘Death on the Staircase’ turned Peterson’s situation into a real-life thriller; this recaps the case and traces the aftermath, as the prosecution’s case starts to crack in near-comical circumstances when their blood-spatter expert is exposed as a bit of a chancer. An astounding story: truth really can be stranger than fiction.