Crime writers and readers are coming together in Newcastle for an in-depth insight into real-life investigation

A FESTIVAL for crime fiction writers and readers offers a unique insight into real-life criminal investigation. Crime Story 2016, which takes place at Northumbria University, Newcastle on June 11, brings together people from the two very different worlds of fact and fiction.

Detectives, forensic scientists, lawyers and pathologists will guide crime writers and readers through the investigative process as they attempt to solve a fictional crime, written exclusively for the festival by Paula Hawkins, the bestselling author of The Girl on the Train.

More than 20 crime experts are taking part in the festival, including a Home Office pathologist; a DCI specialising in homicide, kidnap and extortion; and a forensic mental health nurse who has worked with some of the most dangerous offenders in the UK. Other experts specialise in the examination of textile fibre evidence and the use of mobile phone data for assisting police enquiries.

In a series of panel events, delegates are guided through the practices of police and forensic investigations and the legal process. But Crime Story is not simply about setting the facts straight. Delegates can also choose from a range of in-depth discussions, including from Northumbria University academics, on victim behaviour, mentally disordered criminals, and the contemporary prison experience, all of which will inspire the ways characters are written and understood.

Crime Story also offers workshops with award-winning crime writers Andrew Hankinson and Mari Hannah, and an exclusive event with Paula Hawkins. Creative writing sessions are complemented by industry insight from Oli Munson, a literary agent with AM Heath, and Catherine Richards, an editor for Pan Macmillan, both of whom are also offering free one-to-one surgeries.

Crime Story is a biennial festival, presented in partnership by New Writing North and Northumbria University. The festival first took place in 2014, where Paula Hawkins was one of the delegates, before her phenomenal rise to success.

Paula Hawkins says: "I attended Crime Story in June 2014 on a whim: I thought the concept sounded interesting – a group of crime writers and readers get together to try to solve a fictional murder aided by a handful of experts – detectives, forensic specialists and legal experts. I expected to have an entertaining weekend, I didn’t expect to walk away with ten A4 pages crammed with detailed notes covering all aspects of police procedure, and a head brimming with new ideas.”

“Crime Story gives writers the kind of access to senior detectives, blood-spatter experts and forensic psychiatrists that most of us could only dream about. I found it fascinating and invaluable and have been looking forward to the next one ever since, so am absolutely thrilled to have been asked to come up with a murder scenario for this year’s event. "

Claire Malcolm, chief executive of New Writing North says: “Crime Story is made possible because of our creative and collaborative partnership with Northumbria University, which is just as innovative in its own way."

Lucy Winskell, pro vice-chancellor (Business and Engagement) of Northumbria University says: “Crime Story draws on the university’s teaching and research expertise across criminology, criminal law, forensic science and creative writing, to explore the facts behind the fiction. Paula has written a fascinating and compelling whodunnit for our experts and audience members to investigate.”

The full programme and tickets are now available at

9.30am: The Crime. Paula Hawkins, author of number one bestseller, The Girl on the Train, opens the festival by introducing her fictional crime scene, written exclusively for Crime Story 2016. Who killed Daniel May? We’ll work together to find out.

10.00am: The Police Investigation. In this panel, DCI Lisa Theaker, a senior investigating officer specialising in homicide, kidnap and extortion, DC Phil Holmes, forensic data examiner, and criminologist Professor Mike Rowe identify the key processes that take place in a homicide investigation.

11.15am:The Forensic Investigation. Evidence is everywhere. Alan Sayers, crime scene manager at Northumbria Police is often one of the first on the scene, at the heart of homicide investigations. Forensic scientist, Dr Kelly Sheridan, has worked on high profile cases of national concern including the Stephen Lawrence inquiry. Dr Jennifer Bolton, a Home Office pathologist, examines the evidence held by the corpse.

1.10pm: Break-Out sessions (choose one)

Understanding the Victim. Professor Peter Francis looks at the way victim narratives are understood in criminology.

In the Forensics Lab. Join Dr Kelly Sheridan, forensic scientist and textiles expert, for an interactive session.

Hidden Stories: the Prison Experience. Jenny Mooney, governor, and Katherine Brooke, chaplain, of HMP Holme House, and Jo Thurston, head of offender health for the North-East, explore the contemporary prison experience.

The Journey to Publication. Mari Hannah, award-winning crime writer and creator of the Kate Daniels series and her literary agent, Oli Munson of AM Heath, discuss Mari’s route to publication and her writing career.

True Crime: Creative Writing Workshop. Andrew Hankinson’s book You Could Do Something Amazing with Your Life [You Are Raoul Moat] covers the last days of the fugitive gunman Raoul Moat. Andrew uses press cuttings about true crimes in America to help participants write short creative non-fiction crime stories.

2.15pm Inside the Court. Trish Mytton, duty solicitor, barrister Gavin Doig, and Judge Penny Moreland offer an insight into the whole legal process.

3.15pm Break-Out Sessions (choose one)

Just Like a TV Show. Professor Mike Rowe, criminologist, explores the way real-life crimes are viewed as entertainment in literature and the media.

Historical Crime Fiction: Creative Writing Workshop. Charlotte Bilby, reader in criminology at Northumbria University, uncovers crime stories from the past using material from Tyne & Wear Archives. Michael Green, author and professor in English and creative writing at Northumbria University, leads writing exercises inspired by these historic crimes.

Forensic Psychiatry and Dangerous Offenders. Forensic mental health nurse, Barrie Green discusses the characteristics of the ‘mentally disordered offender'.

Editing Your Work: Creative Writing Workshop. Catherine Richards, Ann Cleeves’ editor at Pan Macmillan, guides you through the editing process. Bring a 500-word extract of your crime fiction to this creative writing session.

Digital Forensics: Exploring digital footprints.DCs Gary Tough and Phil Holmes discuss how digital footprints assist a criminal investigation. Bring your phones and find out what they say about you.

4.30pm Paula Hawkins: Exclusive event. Paula Hawkins reads the second part of her crime story, revealing who killed Daniel May – and why. In our closing event, Paula discusses her work, her career as a writer and her phenomenal rise to success in 2015. Afterwards, Paula will be signing copies of The Girl on the Train.

One-to-One Sessions

A limited number of 20-minute one-to-one surgeries are available with the following experts: Adam Jackson, senior lecturer, Northumbria Law School; Kelly Sheridan, forensic scientist; Natalie Wortley, barrister and principal lecturer, Northumbria Law School; Oli Munson, literary agent at AM Heath; Catherine Richards, editor at Pan Macmillan

  • See to find out how to apply for a one-to-one session