Yesterday, English woman Karen Matthews was jailed for eight years for faking the abduction of her nine year old daughter Shannon. Matthews had arranged for a relative to kidnap and hold the little girl prisoner, drugged and bound, so that later the relative could “find” the little girl and claim the £50,000 ($68,000) reward money they would both share. What a scumbag. And well deserved jail sentences for both of them.
But she wasn’t the only scumbag involved in this case. Enter so called psychic Joe Power (pictured right, with the mother), who gave a psychic reading to the mother and who now is claiming accuracy in his psychic predictions. The Paranormal Review is typical of the credulous reporting:
When psychic Joe Power gave a reading to the mother and stepfather of English schoolgirl Shannon Matthews, he made three statements that have since proved to be accurate.
Before I start to deconstruct in detail these so-called predictions, I should point out that the “psychic” missed what was without doubt the most important factor in this case, namely that the child’s abductor was sitting right in front of him! How anyone can report that this psychic was accurate or that he helped the police in any way, when he apparently couldn’t tell that the criminal responsible was sitting right opposite him, just beggars belief. In my view that should be enough for any rational person to ignore anything else this bozo has to say, ever, but apparently it’s not. In fact, Power is actually using this case as evidence that his psychic readings are genuine and that the police should consult him in future cases. Seriously. Here’s what he is now saying he got right:
Reporting the safe return of Shannon, The People (16 March) said he came up with vital clues “which could have led to her discovery”. It confirmed he had told the newspaper:
Shannon knew her abductor, who was a relative possibly named Michael or Paul.
She had sat on this man’s knee at a family funeral.
These are mostly generic playing the odds guesses. She “knew her abductor” is a reasonable statistical possibility. Even the names Michael or Paul are not that impressive – fairly common names. But from this report, we know that Power didn’t just give these names, he got them using a standard cold reading technique – ie he asked questions:
“I said to Karen, ‘Do you know a Mick or Michael?’
Paging John Edward to the house courtesy phone - an “M” name wants to talk to you. Of course, we don’t know how many other names Power guessed that were wrong. Or even if he really said “Mick or Michael”, or if he just guessed a series of letters and the mother or the stepfather jumped in to supply the missing name. Without this information the “Mick or Michael” would be useless even if these weren’t common names. In any case, we know this is just standard cold reading.
The next bit is my favorite. Or alternatively the sleaziest bit of rewriting history. You decide. It’s this:
An area named Batley is involved in her disappearance.
The child was eventually found in a flat in the town of Batley, and so this would look like a hit. The Batley connection was reported in numerous places, for example read this, dated March 16, 2008 - after the child was found. However, if you check reports such as this one dated March 9, 2008 – ie before the child was found, the story is less impressive:
[Joe Power] later identified the region as the Ossett and Batley area in West Yorks. "Shannon was taken there," he added. [My bold.]
See the map below (from Google maps) of the area. The family is reported to be from Dewsbury. I have marked Dewsbury on the map as well as both Ossett and Batley.
Clearly “the Ossett and Batley area” would include most of this section of map – approximately 3 to 4 miles square. So guessing this area is not especially impressive, and certainly of no use to the police (as Power claimed it would have been) who were already searching this area anyway. But apart from the obvious guessing the nearest towns gambit, notice how the “Ossett and Batley area” guess before the child was found, became “Batley” after the child was found in Batley. Nice. And if she had been found in Ossett, it would presumably have become "Ossett." Anywhere else on the map, and it would still have been a hit. But I'm sure Power didn't have access to Google so he must have obtained this information psychically. How else could he have done it?
There were numerous other guesses that Power wants you to forget about too. For example, this lot:
Joe Power claimed the spirit world told him that the girl got into a car near her school.
And he told Karen, 32: "The car had a baby seat and a brown cushion in the back, and a religious card hanging from the rear-view mirror."
He said it stopped near a church Shannon knew - and the driver used a Texaco garage.
Power, who has appeared on Living TV's Psychic Investigators and worked with police on the Sally Anne Bowman murder case, told Karen: "I can see a lay-by near farmland."
None of which was true, as far as I can tell. (Or is completely unverifiable anyway – eg “the driver used a Texaco garage.”) The abductor’s car is described as a “silver Peugeot” – no mention of a baby seat, which would have been unlikely for this man who lived alone with no children.
What we have here is a so called psychic sleazing his way into this unfortunate situation, applying his well honed cold reading techniques to an unsophisticated family, and making the usual vague guesses that can later be finessed and honed to agree with the actual circumstances. Vague “Ossett and Batley area” guesses become “Batley.” Wrong guesses are discarded, and are forgotten by the credulous media. Apparently no one cares the psychic missed the mother as the perp. The psychic uses the free publicity provided by a gullible press to further his own dishonest career. And we know this isn’t the first time that Joe Power has used free publicity in this way. He claimed to have contacted John Lennon's dead spirit. He claimed to have helped solve the Lynsey Quy Murder case, although clearly he did no such thing, as the police Detective Superintendent involved in the case made clear:
I wish to state, categorically, that as the Senior Investigating Officer on the Lyndsey Quy murder, I made a policy decision not to use psychics on the investigation. Joe Power has allegedly made claims that he assisted the enquiry but this is not the case."
It should go without saying that the little girl was found not from psychic impressions or profiles, but as a result of routine police work – a neighbor told police that a child’s footsteps had been heard in the flat of Shannon's captor, a man who lived alone with no children.
I'll say again, Joe Power had no idea the child's mother, to whom he gave a reading, was also the child's abductor. He had no idea. Joe Power is not psychic.