Real Crime (ITV1); Bosom Pals (BBC1); LOVE You To Death, in the Real Crime series, was billed as the first documentary to tell the story of "the case that mystified the nation" - the disappearance of Oxford University student Rachel McLean in 1991.

The story was related by police, press and friends. Rachel went missing just before she was due to sit exams and seemed to have vanished from the face of the earth.

The most fascinating aspect was the methods used by police to trap the prime suspect, her boyfriend John Tanner, a student at Nottingham University.

The pair were mad for each other, and spent every weekend together. But Tanner felt increasingly threatened by her second life in Oxford, and she found his obsessiveness increasingly claustrophobic.

It was his jealousy that tipped off police that he might be lying. He claimed to have left Rachel at the train station with a man who'd offered her a lift. This seemed out of character for someone so possessive of his girlfriend.

This is where the police adopted unusual methods. The plan was simple: to give him enough rope to hang himself. Two officers were assigned to become his mates, to make him feel above suspicion.

Police took advantage of media interest, which had hinted that Tanner might be involved in the disappearance. They played a game of good cop, bad journalist and used media attention to put pressure on him.

Police got him to give a press conference, appealing for Rachel to get in touch. They briefed reporters to ask the questions they couldn't, like "did you kill Rachel?" Of course he denied it, but his expression - a smirk before answering - and lack of emotion boosted the police's belief that he wasn't telling the truth.

They asked him to take part in a reconstruction of the station farewell. This was the start of his downfall. A witness came forward and said she'd seen him writing a letter that he'd claimed to have written on a train.

Police were convinced Rachel was dead, but had no corpse. Plans of the house where she lived revealed an air space under the floor, and Rachel's body was found there.

Although he confessed in a police interview, Tanner pleaded not guilty at his trial. He didn't deny strangling her, only the circumstances surrounding her death. Found guilty on a majority verdict, he was given a life sentence. He's now been released and is living in his native New Zealand.

The investigation was fascinating, although dramatic reconstructions of scenes between Rachel and Tanner made you wonder how much was fact and how much speculation.

Bosom Pals is an animated series inspired by Beryl Cook's paintings. The story of seven ladies who "have the odd tipple or five" in a Plymouth pub have been expanded with a starry voice cast including Dawn French and Alison Steadman.

The drinking, smoking and randy woman provide much good unclean fun - and I loved the dog who mistook a handbag for a mate.

Published: 27/01/2004