Trial by Trickery

The infamous Blink Photo


A normal photo of Scott Watson, taken at Picton Police Station, 8 January 1998. No-one identified him as the mystery man from this image


The ‘blink photo’ chosen by the Police for identification purposes when other photos failed.

On the right is the false image the police used to trick the principal eyewitnesses into identifying Scott Watson as the killer. Now aware of the trick and of Watson's true appearance, all these eyewitnesses have retracted their"identifications".

For years Iíve sat in front of film editing benches while editors cut interviews into useful shape. Time and again Iíve watched the editors inch film backwards and forwards looking for a place to perform a perfect cut, and time and again Iíve watched the movement of the interviewees' eyes, open for a few seconds Ė or for a few hundred frames - and then for a frame half-closed, then closed, then half-closed again and then again open. Iíve seen literally thousands of blinks in slow motion. The photo of Watson was identical to the half closed stage in those hundreds of interviews. He was caught halfway through a blink. In fact Watson had 'hooded'-style eyes for two twenty-fifths of a second every few seconds, as do we all. When I discovered that the mystery man the police had sought was commonly described as having 'hooded eyes' the reason why the police chose the blink photo to insert into their identification montage became both clear and, in my mind, monstrous.

I later read an astonishing decision by the trial judge in which he had pronounced that it was 'a pose that (Watson) sometimes, from time to time, adopts'. With this extraordinarily ignorant, or prejudiced, pronouncement, he approved the police use of a photograph of a man blinking to identify him as a 'hooded-eyes' killer.