Joe Power, non-Psychic non-Detective: A Clarification


From time to time in the world of skepticism, something happens which you really don’t see coming – something totally unexpected. Often, these are positive things – like the media interest in our 10:23 Campaign, or the random discovery that comedy-legend Ed Byrne knows who you are. From time to time, they’re somewhat negative things – like discovering childhood-hero Johnny Ball thinks farting spiders are responsible for the high CO2 levels in the world. And then there are the things that are just utterly unpredictable, out of the left-field, and hard to wrap your head around.

On Friday of last week, I got a phone call. From Ormskirk police. The polite and friendly officer assured me there was nothing to worry about, but that he was looking into alleged threats of violence coming from people on Facebook. Specifically, within the group page of the Merseyside Skeptics Society. And aimed at non-psychic non-detective Joe ‘I’ll just pop to your toilet‘ Power.

This was news to me. It was also utterly untrue.

As I explained to the officer, we at the Merseyside Skeptics Society have never made threats to anyone, ever, and nor would we; further, we’d NEVER condone physical or personal threats made by anyone else. Aside from a complete and utter aversion to violence – which for one thing has been shown by many people in history to be a truly terrible way to get a point across – making personal threats would go completely against the whole point of what the MSS is about: examining the evidence, and pointing out where the claim (and subsequently the claimant) is lacking. In fact, when I met Joe over a year ago, I went to great lengths to remain calm and even-tempered while he continually insulted me in increasingly bizarre and surreal ways. Paedophile? OK Joe, go for it. Homosexual? Sure, if you like. Atheist? Absolutely (well one out of three isn’t bad, for the Man Who Talks To Dead People. Or at least 1/3rd of dead people, presumably).

Fortunately, having spoken to me for a good five minutes, the officer was able to assure me that he was quite confident no wrong-doing nor anything malicious had taken place. After I’d explained Joe’s full history with the MSS, our polite insistence that Joe at some point, some time, in some way – any way at all – shows some evidence that he can indeed contact the dead, and the fact that when I met Joe a year ago I ended the conversation by wishing him well – after I’d explained all of this, the officer concluded that I’ve almost certainly not gone beyond practising freedom of speech, which is true.

He also asked whether I’d mind clarifying my lack of violent or threatening intent to Joe – which I’m more than happy to do: I’ve never, in anyway, suggested or advocated anything threatening in the direction of Joe or his family.

You can probably imagine my surprise – and, indeed, deep disappointment – to now hear from Joe via the police, with tales of his wife being ‘unable to sleep’ due to worrying about threats made against him. It’s a shame, but not really that much of a surprise, that Joe decided to go direct to the police with these unfounded allegations of threats, rather than email me – I am, after all, easily reachable and more than amiable. I’m sure it’s nothing more than a simple misunderstanding, which I’m happy to clear up. Because, were it that Joe was creating spurious reports of threats in order to use the police to silence entirely reasonable criticism of the magical claims he makes, that would represent a serious waste of police time, which is in itself not a laughing matter. Still, Joe’s not one for wasting police time, really, so I’m sure it’s just a misunderstanding.

Wasting Police Time

In 2009, in an article in the Liverpool Echo, Joe Power claimed to be using his psychic powers to track the abductor of Madeleine McCann, who famously went missing from a family trip in Portugal in 2007. Joe said in 2009 that he had ‘seen the face of the person who abducted Madeleine and it is not dissimilar to the sketch which the detectives released‘. To this day, Madeleine has not been found, and Joe’s tips (happily shared with the newspaper) have proven fruitless. Joe’s book came out soon after the article made the papers, and his book signing was advertised at the foot of the article in which he talked about a child who had been abducted. Those are the facts. Here are some more.

In February 2008, 9-year old Shannon Matthews was kidnapped. Interested in lending his talents to the search, Joe took the Sunday People newspaper along to the house of Shannon’s mother, where he spent time giving her a reading in order to locate her missing child. Joe comfortingly predicted that her child was taken by a man driving a car with a baby seat and a brown cushion in the back, and a religious card hanging from the rear-view mirror. All of these predictions did not prove to be true. In March 2008, Shannon was found. In April 2008, Karen Matthews – Shannon’s mother, and the person Joe spent an afternoon having photos taken with – was charged with child neglect and perverting the course of justice. In December 2008, she was sentenced – along with her boyfriend – to eight years after being found guilty of kidnapping, false imprisonment and peverting the course of justice. If Joe Power was able to psychically tell at the time – as he now claims – that he knew of Karen’s involvement, he was strangely happy to pose for photographs with a child abductor and was bizarrely content to leave Shannon in her kidnappers clutches for a further six days. Fortunately, the police located Shannon safely, after a neighbour reported of hearing child’s footsteps in her abductor’s home. Joe Power’s website prominently features Shannon’s kidnapping, including a photo of Joe taken with her kidnapper.

In 2006, Joe spoke to the Daily Mirror about the murder of Sally Anne Bowman, explaining how he:

“told police the killer could have the surname White and first name Stephan or Stephen. He might live in a block of flats by railway lines and have been in a park before the murder. And Mr Power believes the killer, who he thinks is a delivery driver aged between 24 and 26, met part-time hairdresser Sally Anne through the friend of a friend.”

In March 2008, the police caught and arrested Sally’s killer – Mark Dixie, 34, a chef. DNA confirmed the match. To this day, Joe’s involvement in the Sally Anne Bowman case is put forward as proof of his talents. Mark Dixie was not called Stephan. Or Stephen.

In 1999, Joe claims to have provided ‘stunningly correct’ information to the police, in helping to locate the body of missing 22-year old Lynsey Quy. As Joe states on his website:

I took this information to police and still have the receipt for my statement. I was frustrated police did not follow up on my meticulous information, so I wrote a letter to the chief inspector Bob Marsden and took it to the police station in person. I never heard from him.  Five months later, Marsden was replaced with a new chief inspector named Jeff Sloane who never saw my information. Police eventually pressured Lynsey’s husband Mitchell into a confession and indeed they located her body parts at the fairground and near the railway tracks.

When contacted about Joe’s involvement, Det. Supt. Geoff Sloan, senior investigating officer, said:

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.

Joe’s website does not correctly spell the name of the senior investigating officer in a case Joe claims to have helped solve.

In 2005, Joe claimed to know the whereabouts of the remains of Helen McCourt – whose body had gone unfound for 17 years. He told multiple papers, including the Wigan Today, that “her body lies in Carr Lane, between her village and Prescot, possibly in or near an old fishing lodge.” Helen’s body has never been found.

In all of Joe’s involvements with the police, he has never produced anything which has demonstrably proven to be true. He has, however, featured his involvement in murder, kidnapping and missing persons cases in much of his publicity materials.

So, just to summarise: nobody involved with the Merseyside Skeptics Society – or anyone that I even know of – has ever made threats to Joe or his family, and we absolutely never will. However, we will continue to examine Joe’s work, to document where he might be using tragedy and bereavement for publicity gain, and will be delighted if he’s ever, at all, able to demonstrate even one of the fantastic claims he makes. Furthermore, given that these intellectual tussles with Joe have increased the popularity and presence of the Merseyside Skeptics Society no end – not to mention that Joe’s been responsible for providing more than 10,000 hits to this very website in the last 12 months, I’d actually like to take this opportunity to formally thank Joe for his outstanding contribution to skepticism in the Merseyside area. I look forward to his future endeavours, and the many Google hits they’ll gain us. Thank you Joe, and all the best!

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  1. #1 by bob dezon on June 22, 2010 - 10:23

    Excellent article, and thanks Joe.

  2. #2 by Marianne on June 22, 2010 - 10:36

    What a piece of work.
    Hope nothing comes of it, other than continuing the decline in his credibility (not that he should have had any in the first place but such is life)!!

  3. #3 by Helen on June 22, 2010 - 11:00

    Joe Power sounds like he’s a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic.

  4. #4 by JamesC on June 22, 2010 - 11:04

    Make sure you contact that officer again and have him put a copy of the URL to this post in the file they keep about him. Might save time in the future.

  5. #5 by 66steve on June 22, 2010 - 11:31

    Thanks Marsh, yet another great article on the charlatan.
    And thanks Joe for outstanding contributions to skepticism.

  6. #6 by R Somerset on June 22, 2010 - 12:20

    I take it this is the Joe who appeared on Derren Brown’s tv show?

  7. #7 by Jon McCulloch on June 22, 2010 - 12:22

    What I don’t understand is… why is his wife lying awak worrying about what might happen?

    Surely Joe “I know” Power “possesses the full array of psychic skills”, surely he’d be able to tell her exactly when she’s in danger and when she isn’t?

    And why didn’t he just keep quiet and lead the police to a dead-certain ambush of the, ahem, “aggressors”?

    Could it be Joe is talking out of his arse and making it all up?

    Shurely shome mishtake.

  8. #8 by Henry Henry Cruel on June 22, 2010 - 12:32

    Are you absolutely sure you are not threatening him psychically in some way? And if you are, is this a crime?

  9. #9 by Jake on June 22, 2010 - 12:41

    Outstanding! A superb article. I hope the police (and Power) have the fortune to read this. Power’s delusions seem to go beyond merely communication with the dead and onto just about everything else!

    Keep it up.

  10. #10 by karl on June 22, 2010 - 13:35

    A couple years or so ago, Amateur Scientist Brian Thompson had a “run in” with “hey kid, you’re psychic and I’ve got an advanced degree from a university I’ll not name ” guy Chip Coffey. You know Brian attempted to figure out where his claimed degree was from and asked him to apply for the Randi test. You know, basic fact checking stuff.

    Chip responded by claiming Brian was making personal threats and alerted security at Dragon*Con (an event they were both going to be attending).

    http://www.amateurscientist.org/2008/07/ocr-beginning.html

  11. #11 by Zeno on June 22, 2010 - 15:40

    I second that 66steve: it’s people like Joe who are the unsung heroes of scepticism. Without them, our job would be that little bit harder.

  12. #12 by Chris Morris on June 22, 2010 - 15:59

    Wonderfully written. Skeptics can seem a bit reductionist and dry sometimes… creating a boredom-barrier that discourages dialog with them… so I really like and admire your style here.

  13. #13 by Tony on June 22, 2010 - 17:20

    This is a nice response. I’d worried a bit that the police enquiries might have encouraged you to back off the non-psychic leech, (which a cynic could think was perhaps the aim of whoever made the allegations), so it’s good to see that you are going to continue to (legally and politely) point out that his claims, thus far, to psychic ability have no basis in reality.

    Joe Power, I assume that you are the sort of person who googles their own name, so if you read this, I hope that you feel very ashamed, and that you apologise to the Merseyside Skeptics as a Group, an Marsh as an individual, for what you have done here.

  14. #14 by karl on June 22, 2010 - 20:49

    Joe Power really, really needs to put his cop hotline down and ring up a good SEO specialist. If you google on his name, out of the first 12 links, 8 are skeptical take downs. One is his own web site. One is a neutral wiki entry. One is a review of his performance that is semi critical. One is a thread on Alex’s Skeptiko forum. Even on that credulous site people don’t seem very impressed with Power’s “powers”.

  15. #15 by Michael on June 22, 2010 - 20:54

    Joe ‘not psychic, not a detective’ should be prosecuted for wasting police time and using up oxygen of publicity to further his lies. The whole point of his action is to ‘Prove’ that the MSS will revert to violence “Just to Silence Me”. I bet he will throw this up if ever the MSS publicly tackle him again. Beware, he can’t take any stick as shown on the Darren Brown show. Joe will lie openly and verbally threaten others if he thinks his utter lies are being shown for what they are.

  16. #16 by Stephen on June 22, 2010 - 23:07

    I have recent personal experience that the police and CPS are only interested in securing a conviction, and not in the tiny matter of truth. Because of a compulsive liar, I ended up with a criminal record, simply because I didn’t get them to sign in triplicate all the good things they said before they flipped.

    The criminal justice system has very little protection for people who end up as the victims of sociopaths. I’m still waiting to find out if I’ve kept my job.

  17. #17 by Mr K Atkinson on June 23, 2010 - 01:17

    Excellent article.
    I would suggest Joe may suffer from a rare (thankfully!) mix of Schizotypal & Histrionic Personality Disorders with Paranoical features.
    Treatment: Atypical Antipsychotic at low (or V.low) dose ~ risperidone? Aripiprazole?
    SSRI or SNRI ~ fluoxetine+pindolol or venlafaxine+pindolol ~ average to higher doses?
    For Insomnia ~ zopiclone 7.5mg 10 tabs (prescription for this drug only repeated if “distress” appears severe (and genuine)). An alternative would be trazodone.

  18. #18 by Mr K Atkinson on June 23, 2010 - 01:28

    I only suggest this medical intervention because if he is “Wasting Police Time” the only alternative is judicial/forensic intervention, sadly…

  19. #19 by Nigel St. Whitehall on June 23, 2010 - 03:08

    What a bunch of nonsense. False reports are a crime on this side of the pond.

  20. #20 by Helen on June 23, 2010 - 10:58

    Nicely done, Marsh!
    Joe Power is such a gift to skepticism, isn’t he? Every time I read about his latest escapades he makes himself look more like a fool.

  21. #21 by Kelly on June 23, 2010 - 11:47

    I think Mr Power is more concerned with threats to his bank balance.

  22. #22 by Tim on June 23, 2010 - 12:41

    Being a psychic, you must of course consider that someone at the MSS may have thought ill of Mr Power, effecting the mentioned duress.

  23. #23 by Sophie on June 23, 2010 - 14:23

    He sounds like a character from a crime novel series. Except perhaps there aren’t really any happy endings or ‘solved’ crime cases.

  24. #24 by Rob on June 24, 2010 - 09:59

    “n December 2008, she was sentenced – along with her boyfriend – to eight years after being found guilty of kidnapping, false imprisonment and peverting the course of justice.”

    It wasn’t her boyfriend who was sentenced for eight years with her for aiding in the kidnap, it was her boyfriend’s uncle. Sorry, just being a horrible pedant.

  25. #25 by Marsh on June 24, 2010 - 10:47

    @Rob: No problem, we welcome pedants! Having re-checked my facts, I’m more than happy to make the correction as you suggested, and apologies for the confusion. M

  26. #26 by bicycleclips on June 24, 2010 - 14:22

    I’ve met lots of people who claim to be able to communicate with the dead. Some of them also have a genuine persecution complex/delusion and report their delusions to the authorities.

    All were receiving inpatient treatment at psychiatric hospitals. Is this ringing anyone elses bell?

  27. #27 by Mike Boyce on June 25, 2010 - 14:51

    I just got today’s edition of the Liverpool Echo, which features an article on poor, beleaguered Joe.

    (http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-life/liverpool-lifestyle/2010/06/25/psychic-joe-power-hits-back-after-claims-he-was-branded-a-fake-on-derren-brown-s-channel-4-show-100252-26721591/)

    It seems Mr Power is now railing against unfair treatment by Derren Brown and the production company. Quote:

    “A MERSEYSIDE psychic is considering legal action after claiming he was branded a “fake” in TV illusionist Derren Brown’s documentary.”

    Maybe I’m suffering from selective memory but did Darren actually “brand” him a fake, in so many words?

    Joe says of his experience when making the documentary:

    “But I was made to feel uncomfortable from the start. I felt like it was an interrogation.”

    Then, why didn’t he say so and discontinue it? Maybe because he actually felt it was going to get him good publicity?

    Anyway, I expect Marsh will add a post on this latest development.

  28. #28 by Sheree on June 26, 2010 - 02:25

    It’s people like Joe Power which make this type of organisation worthwhile – while cashing in on the dead is incredibly heinous, cashing in on a missing person is even more vile. It not only wastes the police’s time, but if there are some policemen/women out there who believe his drivel, it could actually result in leading an investigation away from vital evidence and witnesses. People like Joe Power should be ashamed of themselves (and I’m all for making a quick buck ;P).
    MSS has always makes a difference between those who are deluded, and those who are outright liars. I personally take Mr. Power’s aggression on the Derren Brown show to be indicative of the former. He knows what he is doing, and just wants to protect his bank account. If only people would stop paying for his services! How much more evidence to the contrary do they need?! :(

  29. #29 by bob dezon on June 26, 2010 - 13:06

    He is claiming death threats now? utter bollocks. It is the same old bullshit victimisation tactics that he always uses when it goes tits up. If death threats have been made, that is a matter for the police (who take that sort of thing very seriously). I have no doubt there will be no prosecutions for it, because it will be another manufactured claim by Joe et al.

  30. #30 by HGH on September 23, 2010 - 04:38

    @ Jim I know what your saying there . In todays economy its hard to find a job that pays good enough to live on and is stable . I have discovered that if you just work hard and are consistent you can succeed. Look at the poster of this page , they are oviously hard working and have just been consistent over time and are now enjoying at least what would appear as somewhat of a success. I would encourage everyone to just keep hustling and moving forward.

  31. #31 by UDH on July 19, 2011 - 20:18

    What a fraudster, not a very clever one too. To top it all of, he has no shame.

    I hope this website (and many others around the web) will warn the innocent, trusting and vulnerable bereaved against Joe Power. He clearly feels no guilt about what he is doing – lying and deceiving people in order to make money and get more fame.

    Simply disgusting.

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