David James Smith is the author of six acclaimed non-fiction books and is an award-wining journalist for The Sunday Times Magazine of London. Read More

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Fools’ Gold

The Sunday Times Magazine Feb 04, 2024

The discovery of the Herefordshire Hoard should have made two Welsh treasure-hunters a fortune. So what went wrong?

“After digging up the treasure they could have made history — and themselves millionaires — but unaccountably they did the wrong thing. Not once, but over and over again, drawing others into their deceit and turning this sorry Norse saga into a modern morality tale.”

The search for Muriel McKay 

The Independent Jan 25, 2024

 Catching The Kingpins 


BBC podcast January 2024

Encrochat: The great phone hack 

The Independent Jan 08, 2024

Stories Of Our Times podcast

The Boy Who Killed James Bulger


Dec 15, 2023

Jon Venables’ parole

The Independent Dec 13, 2023

Logroll: The NonFiction Podcast

with Andrew Hankinson

David James Smith: The Sleep Of Reason

Dec 08, 2023

Madeleine McCann: the prime suspect

The Independent Nov 03, 2023

Captain Tom’s family troubles 

The Independent Oct 21, 2023

James Bulger: The Trial

Contributor Channel 5 documentary

September 2023


The Sunday Times Magazine

Captain Tom’s charity walk raised £38.9 million for the NHS. Now the foundation set up by his family is being investigated over its handling of his legacy.They speak to David James Smith

And then the personal hate starts for her too. “I was called devious, a shrew, all those words we use because we are still suspicious of successful women. Words used to demonise.” She doubts she would have received such abuse if she were a son of Tom. “I was [accused of] making him do it, I was cattle-prodding him, I was treating him abysmally and forcing him into it.”

July 17, 2022


The Sunday Times Magazine

Sir Richard Sutton, one of Britain’s wealthiest men, was stabbed to death by his partner’s son last year. Tom, an aspiring artist, knifed his mother too. What drove him? David James Smith explores his troubled family past.

“The judge was understandably damning of Tom’s actions, which were he said ‘grotesquely disproportionate’ to the offending remark made by his mother. It could not be a clearer case of guilt. So I was surprised to discover, during and after the trial, that Tom has retained the compassion and support of many people who have known his family for years, in some cases since long before he was born. They believe the seeds of his actions were sown deep in the past.”

January 16, 2022



available for the first time as an audiobook on Audible

 also in a new paperback edition in bookshops and on Amazon


a true story of deception and murder

David’s new book about the Maids Moreton murder case and the uniquely wicked behaviour of the perpetrator Ben Field. An Audible Original exclusive.

The Bambers: Murder at the Farm

Contributor to four-part documentary series on Sky

September, 2021

Deceit on Channel 4 

“A drama exposes the psychological profiling that led to a tragic mistake in the search for Rachel Nickell’s killer in 1992, says David James Smith”

Article  in The Sunday Times Culture August 8, 2021

You’ve Got Jail!

The Sunday Times Magazine

April 11, 2021


SPECIAL REPORT: The EncroChat bust: how police hacked the secret gangster messaging network. It was the ‘uncrackable’ encrypted phone system that enabled criminals to plot with impunity — or so they thought. David James Smith reports on one of the biggest organised crime busts in history

The Sleep Of Reason

Listen to the new audio edition, only on Audible

“The most harrowing, heartbreaking and defining account of the murder, its aftermath and legacy” – David Peace

The Virus of the Mind

The Sunday Times Magazine

December 6, 2020

“Another nurse was holding that patient’s hand as they slipped away and when Taylor turned to look she saw the monitor was off, indicating death. This meant the filter the deceased patient had been using was now available and Taylor took it for her severely sick patient, in the hope of keeping them alive; but at 7.55pm, five minutes before her shift ended, that patient died too.”

Locked Up in Lockdown

The Sunday Times Magazine

November 8, 2020

“I was the first journalist allowed inside a prison since lockdown.. I walked through wings and along landings, spoke with prisoners in their cells and learnt first-hand their fears and frustrations, hearing many moving stories of resilience and struggle.”

The Murderer and the Parole Board

The Sunday Times Magazine

May 24, 2020

“All eyes were on the Prisoner. I noted that his daughter’s name was tattooed on his arm and couldn’t help wondering if he’d had it done before or after he murdered her mother.”

A Stabbing Tragedy in Manchester

The Sunday Times Magazine 

October 6, 2019

“They were two sides of the same terrible event, divided by what had happened and yet inextricably bound together. They have never spoken to each other. They all grieved and broke down during our meetings. I felt deeply sorry for every one of them. The case has laid bare the agonising trauma of teenagers with knives. Lives lost and lives changed for ever. It involves three families, three sets of parents who did not know that knives had become part of their children’s world.”

Inside Feltham

The Sunday Times Magazine

June 09, 2019

“Meet Daniel — as I did recently — in Feltham. He is a young man with a history of violence. Pull up a chair, sit close, no need to be alarmed. He has served five years of a nine-year sentence — with six years of licence still to come on account of his past dangerousness. No, really, you’ll be fine.

‘What did you do?’ I ask.

‘Kidnapping, GBH [grievous bodily harm], false imprisonment’.”

Jill Dando – The 20 Year Mystery ITV film

news coverage 


April 25, 2019

Who Killed Jill Dando? 20 Years On…

The Sunday Times Magazine

April 14, 2019

“The only sound was a scream, heard by a neighbour — not a worrying scream, perhaps a scream of surprise, someone playing a joke. That was it, at the moment of her death on April 26, 1999. That was all.”

The Murder of Jill Dando BBC film

BBC iPlayer


April 2, 2019

James Bulger – Anniversary of a Tragedy

The Sunday Times Magazine

January 21, 2018

“I have never quite left Liverpool, however, and have always returned. There was, of course, an unanswered question — why? Why did they do it? No one really knows the answer, even now. Probably not even the “boys” themselves.”

The Sleep Of Reason – The James Bulger Case

“The most harrowing, heartbreaking and defining account of the murder, its aftermath and legacy” – David Peace.

Buy the book and read the latest customer reviews at Amazon UK

The Sleep of Reason by David James Smith

James Bulger – The New Revelations documentary

Consultant and contributor

November 2018


Commissioner at the Criminal Cases Review Commission

www.ccrc.gov.uk     @ccrcupdate


Job Centres in Prisons

The Sunday Times Magazine

March 25, 2018

“If there was a single transforming moment for Riz, it was that meeting with Claire Nicol in the jobcentre — not on a high street, but inside a prison, HMP Norwich, where he was in the final months of a long sentence for serious violent crimes. The centre is part of a new Gateway to Employment scheme, which aims to get ex-prisoners into work.”

Feature Writer of the Year
British Press Awards 2012

David James Smith accepts his award for Feature Writer of the Year at the British Press, 2012Awarding David the title for the second consecutive year, the judges said: “His pieces have an unrivalled scope and ambition. He gets to the heart of difficult subjects and consistently provides a definitive account…”

2012 Orwell Prize

Shortlisted in the 2012 Orwell Prize for Journalism.


Feature Writer of the Year
British Press Awards 2011

“Thoroughly researched and stylishly written like an un-putdownable novel. “The Fallen”, his article on the forgotten ‘jumpers’ of 9/11, was a haunting and original piece of journalism that went viral in pirated form despite the restrictions of News International’s paywall”

Full list of awards

Foreign Press Association award

The Sunday Times Magazine writer David James Smith has won the prestigious Foreign Press Association award for Best Feature (print/web) for his cover story on the people who jumped from the Twin Towers on 9/11. His article was commended by the judges as “an exceptionally moving and compelling piece of reporting which offered a very different and fascinating take on 9/11”. The award category attracted a record number of entrants — among them the Sunday Times Moscow correspondent, Mark Franchetti, who was commended for his magazine feature revealing the diary of a Russian special forces killer in Chechnya

The Sleep Of Reason reissued

Book jacket for The Sleep of Reason by David james Smith reissueBuy from Amazon

Friday, February 12 1993. Two outwardly unremarkable ten-year-old boys, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables, began their day playing truant and ended it running an errand for a local video shop. In between they abducted and killed the toddler James Bulger. The Sleep of Reason is the harrowing, sensitive, definitive account of this terrible crime and its consequences.

In a new Preface (which considers the re-arrest of Jon Venables in February 2010) David James Smith writes: ‘It is as true now as it was then that the murder has never really been explained and the motive for the crime remains a mystery. This book, the result of considerable research and a painstaking, sometimes distressing assembly of the facts, was my attempt to offer some insight and understanding.’

‘Surprisingly evocative, even moving … immensely valuable.’ The Times

‘Dramatic and disturbing.’ Anita Brookner, Observer

‘Compelling and compassionate.’ Times Educational Supplement

Young Mandela released in paperback in the UK

Young Mandela UK paperback cover

Buy from Amazon

‘From the beginning, I was encouraged by those around Mandela to write about him as a human being. Don’t write about the icon, came the plea, he knows he is not a saint, he has flaws and weaknesses just like everyone else.’

Nelson Mandela is the world’s greatest idol, universally recognised as a leader who symbolises moral authority. He has been mythologised as a flawless hero of the liberation struggle. But how exactly did his early personal and political life shape the triumphs to come? Read more

Young Mandela: The Revolutionary Years

The US book jacket for Young Mandela - The Revolutionary Years

The US launch of the controversial human story behind the makings of the icon.

Available  from:
Barnes and Noble

Pre-Publication US Reviews…

What sets this biography apart is its author’s emphasis on Mandela’s character and associations in the development of his political career, from boyhood through the Rivonia Trial of 1963–1964; as well as the impact of politics on his personal life, from first wife Evelyn Mase–heretofore neglected in the historical record–to the “woman of his dreams,” Winnie Madikizela. No hagiography, Smith’s measured study qualifies, lends nuance to, and even contradicts the mythology around Mandela’s background and formative influences.

A biography shepherded by the Nelson Mandela Foundation and written by an English journalist attains distance from and clarity on the life of the near-sainted South African leader…In this readable, well-calibrated account of Mandela’s early life, Smith attempts to get at the making of the revolutionary and leader, from an impoverished young law student to his rise through the ANC ranks, military training and authoring of “How to Be a Good Communist”…Smith vivifies the personalities and marshals the revolutionary events without overwhelming the reader.


Latest News

  • The Sleep Of Reason – The James Bulger Case by David James Smith:
    Faber Finds edition with new preface, available September 15th, 2011.

  • Young Mandela the movie – in development.

    From The Guardian
    Read the article

    In the Diary column of The Independent, April 13th, 2011

    More on my previously unsubstantiated claim that the writer-director Peter Kosminsky, creator of The Promise, is working on a drama about Nelson Mandela. I’ve now learnt that the project is a feature film, in development with Film 4, about the young Mandela. Kosminsky is currently at work on the script and, given the complaints about the anti-Jewish bias of The Promise, it is unlikely to be a standard bland portrait of the former South African president.

Latest Review

    New York Times – J. M. Ledgard
  • Nelson Mandela was circumcised as a 16-year-old boy alongside a flowing river in the Eastern Cape. The ceremony was similar to those of other Bantu peoples. An elder moved through the line making ring-like cuts, and foreskins fell away. The boys could not so much as blink; it was a rite of passage that took you beyond pain. read full review

See David James Smith…

Jon Venables: What Went Wrong
BBC 1, 10.35
Thursday, April 21st, 2011