The best true-crime series to stream in South Africa
Plumbing the depths of true-crime programming across streaming platforms – and it really is a deep, dark well of depravity that leaves you with the urge to take a long hot shower – reveals tales of murder, kidnapping, sexual misconduct, horror and stories ripped from headlines around the world.
Truth is stranger than fiction, they say, and voracious television watchers might even recognise some of these real-life incidents, which have been adapted for series like Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Criminal Minds and the CSI franchise.
In a week-long binge – which eventually became overwhelming – I watched these shows and assumed the role of armchair judge, jury and executioner.
Here are my picks of the true-crime shows worth their salt that you can stream right now:
Abducted In Plain Sight (Netflix)
The story is about the Broberg family and how they were systematically groomed, manipulated and blackmailed for years by their close friend and neighbour, Robert Berchtold, who kidnapped their young daughter Jan – not once, but twice, in 1974 and 1976. It’s jaw-dropping to witness how different attitudes towards a missing child were then compared to now.
The Billion Dollar Bust (Prime Video)
Just because there’s no blood spatter doesn’t make it less of a crime. This one takes viewers inside the undercover sting to catch the world’s most wanted money launderer, Altaf Khanani. It may seem tame(r) on the surface, but this offence is linked to drug cartels, biker gangs and even terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda, so it’s still Not Good.
Making A Murderer (Netflix)
One of Netflix’s most watched – and most controversial – series, this is the story of Steven Avery (who could be considered a poster child for “white trash”) from Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, who served 18 years in prison for the wrongful conviction of sexual assault and attempted murder of Penny Beerntsen. The second season is about the aftermath of Brendan Dassey’s conviction as an accessory to the crime.
Making a Murderer won several awards, including four Primetime Emmy Awards in 2016.
Stranger Than Fiction: The Nanny Killers (Prime Video)
By the time we get here, it is perhaps redundant to say it’s a horrifying story. The torture and brutally violent murder of au pair Sophie Lionnet by her employers Sabrina Kouider and Ouissem Medouni will leave you gob-smacked. The “why” seems less important to the filmmakers than relating the gruesome details.
Conversations With A Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes (Netflix)
Serial killer Ted Bundy is back in the headlines, or, rather, Zac Efron’s portrayal of him is, which further illustrates our morbid fascination with the man who confessed to 30 homicides in seven states between 1974 and 1978. The title of the series doesn’t tell a lie; you will hear Bundy’s voice. But there is a whole lot more cobbled-together narratives, stock photography and so on than actual conversations. Disappointing, TBH.
Amanda Knox (Netflix)
The American woman spent nearly four years in an Italian prison following her conviction for the highly publicised 2007 murder of Meredith Kercher, a fellow exchange student who shared her apartment in Perugia. Knox was acquitted in 2015. Being wrongfully imprisoned for a crime you did not commit – particularly in a foreign country – is as terrifying as the killers who roam the streets.