Psychic TV called 'exploitainment'

Last updated 09:37 06/09/2008

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A Kiwi sceptic has labelled shows such as Sensing Murder "exploitainment" that takes advantage of grieving families while bolstering the income of so-called psychics.

As part of the show that screens on Tuesday, police investigating the suspected murder of retired Wellington woman Kaye Stewart, 62, turned to television psychics Deb Webber and Kelvin Cruickshank to uncover new leads.

Though they identified the area where Mrs Stewart was believed to have disappeared in the Rimutaka Forest Park in 2005 and unearthed the name of someone known to the inquiry, Detective Senior Sergeant Ross Levy said it had not resulted in any fresh leads.

Since both mediums had previous involvement with the Stewart family, Skeptics Society head Vicki Hyde said there was no way they could claim the information came from the dead.

Ms Hyde said Sensing Murder – which attracts more than 600,000 viewers – and its overseas variants had never led to a murder being solved.

"It exploits grieving and vulnerable families and adds to the psychic's marketing potential. It's ethically distasteful," she said.

Police were normally suspicious of psychic powers but welcomed the raised public awareness that the show offered.

Ms Hyde said the reconstructions in the show may jog witnesses' memories but the ends did not justify the means.

Sensing Murder associate producer Cinna Smith denied the show was exploitative and said it had received no complaints from victims' families. Its policy was to feature cases only where a family had contacted the show.

Up to 60 more families were wanting their case highlighted.

"Some families want to know that their loved ones live on but most just want to get the information out there. We're not promising the world."

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