You’ve binge-watched all of Making A Murderer, you’ve already listened to all the episodes of Serial so far, yet you’re still craving that true crime fix. Never fear – there’s a worrying number of documentaries about horrific crimes, heartless psychopaths and wrongful convictions out there, many of them also on Netflix. Here are nine of the most unsettling.
1. Kids For Cash
This was a racket run by former Luzerne County judge Mark Ciavarella, who imposed harsh rulings on 3000 juveniles and sent them to a for-profit detention facility in exchange for what amounted to $2.6m in cash bribes. Their crimes included mocking their teachers on Myspace and trespassing. This is the story of how he got away with it for so long.
2. The Jinx
New York real estate heir Robert Durst is a rich man who’s been investigated by police for three separate murders – his wife, Kathie Durst, in 1982; his friend, Susan Berman, in 2000; and his neighbour, Morris Black, in 2001. This HBO documentary series examines how he managed to avoid conviction.
Residents of Staten Island lived in fear of a mythical child-snatcher named Cropsey who lived in an abandoned mental institution. This action-ified 2010 documentary streaming on Netflix focused on the real person behind the crimes.
4. Into The Abyss
A Werner Herzog, Sundance-selected documentary film from 2011, this one is about Michael Perry, a man jailed for murder and suspected of a further two killings in Texas ten years previously, as he awaited execution. As it turns into a wider reflection on capital punishment, it becomes pretty bleak.
5. Dear Zachary
Andrew Bagby, a Californian doctor, was murdered by an ex-lover and medical student named Shirley Turner. She was pregnant with his child at the time, and gave birth to Zachary Turner Bagby while hiding out in Canada, later awaiting extradition there for the murder. His close friend Kurt Kuenne travelled to California to make a cinematic scrapbook about Andrew for Zachary – but then something happened that would change everything, turning the scrapbook into a true crime doc.
6. The Imposter
In June 1994, Nicholas Barclay disappeared from Texas. Three years later he was found in Spain. His family were overjoyed and welcomed him back with open arms. But it wasn’t him. Who was this boy, and why did he pretend to be their long-lost son?
7. Aileen: Life & Death Of A Serial Killer
The subject matter for Hilary Swank film Monster, Aileen Wuornos killed seven men in Florida from 1989-1990. She claimed they had raped her or tried to rape her while she was working as a prostitute, and that the murders were committed in self-defence. She was convicted and sentenced to death by lethal injection in 2002 – this tells her life story, focusing on her troubled childhood and her mental health problems to explore the ethics of capital punishment in her case.
8. The Central Park Five
In 1989, a sexual assault on a New York jogger left her in a coma. The attack took place in Central Park – described as one of this documentary’s contributors as ‘holy’ – and it became ‘the crime of the century’. Five black teens were arrested, separated, and questioned until they confessed to a crime they didn’t commit. This documentary examines the racism and injustice – and the media’s mania on the story – that wrongfully landed them in jail.
9. West Of Memphis
In 1993, three 8-year-old children were murdered in West Memphis, Arkansas. Three young men were sentenced to life imprisonment after the prosecution accused them of performing a Satanic ritual, and 18 years later DNA evidence suggested that none of them had anything to do with the murders. This film focuses on Terry Hobbs, the stepfather of one of the murdered children, as a possible suspect.