In April 2011, neighbours in a quiet part of Nottingham are horrified when a house fire kills a mother of two (Jackie Bartlem). Her sons and the family dog have escaped, thanks to the eldest son (Daniel). Given the programme’s title JO FROST ON BRITAIN'S KILLER KIDS, you know that this is not just a simple accident.
Presented by Jo Frost, this series investigates what turns children into killers. Jo talks to experts in crime and psychology, as well as witnesses and family members to try and understand the motives behind the murders.
Daniel Bartlem was 9 years old when his life changed forever. He was happy in a private school, he had the undivided love and attention of his parents. Then he was presented with a baby brother, and his parents divorced. Due to reduced finances his mother took him out of school and made him attend a comprehensive, where he was almost definitely bullied.
Jackie then found a new partner, Simon, and they talked about moving in together. A tumultuous time. Yet hundreds, thousands, of youngsters go through such changes, and they don’t turn to matricide.
The programme reveals that Daniel began to show signs of disturbing behaviour from the time of the divorce. He developed a taste for violent horror films when he was 12. He became reclusive and socially isolated. Simon stated that Daniel was selfish and lazy. He was also intelligent, making videos, uploading them onto YouTube and mending friends’ computers.
You may say that this sounds no different from normal teenage behaviour. Yet there were other signs, which with the benefit of hindsight were all bright red warning flags. None were picked up on, or acted upon. Amongst these were his writing of violent stories and drawing of equally gruesome pictures.
Other signs were only discovered when Jackie and the boys moved house. Simon helped to clear Daniel’s bedroom. He found plastic tubs of stale urine and a laptop bag full of his mother’s underwear. Still nothing was said. Jackie didn’t want to make a fuss. She just wanted a quiet life. Her quiet life ended when Daniel was 14. He hit his mother around the head and face with a claw hammer, then set her body alight.
When questioned by police, he claimed that he had disturbed a masked intruder, who threw a hammer at him then escaped. It was only when the police, whilst searching Daniel’s computer, found a script about a boy killing his mother, setting her body on fire, then blaming an intruder that the true picture came to light. The evidence was damning. So why did Daniel kill his mother? Was it nature or nurture? The only person who knows the true answer is Daniel himself.
This is an intriguing start to a series that will appeal to those who love true crime stories, as well as those with a taste for the psychologically macabre. I’ll certainly watch it again.
- Aired on Crime & Investigation, October 8 2017 at 22:00.