While South Africans have, to a degree, grown accustomed to the escalating crime rate, they aren’t immune to the deadly footprints left by the callous perpetrators. Crimes Uncovered SA revisits several prominent real-life murders that not only made headlines, but rocked our nation to its core. Series producer Kelly Daykin sheds light on M-Net’s emotionally gripping – not to mention tear- jerking and hard-hitting – docu-drama crime series becoming the voice of the victims, writes Debashine Thangevelo

 

DEATH is definitely harder to accept when it is untimely – even more so when a loved one is murdered.

And while the perpetrators try to avoid capture, forensic science and sterling detective work have kept them from washing the blood from their hands.

M-Net’s 13-part series, Crimes Uncovered SA, looks at a string of senseless deaths that made headlines for months and left South Africans reeling in horror until the murderer/s were arrested and prosecuted.

These high-profile cases include those of Brett Goldin and Richard Bloom, Leigh Matthews, Taliep Petersen, Sheldean Human, baby Jordan-Leigh Norton, Riaz Kadwa, Fanwell Khumalo, The Sugar Cane serial killer, Father Lionel Sham and Lucky Dube.

Series producer Kelly Daykin, of Clive Morris Productions, says the idea germinated with creator Clive Morris.

“He did a similar series 12 years ago. It was called Criminal Minds and was hosted by Malcolm Gooding. Clive wanted to bring it to the screen again. But we had to change the name because there is a crime series with that title on air.”

Director Sharon Black says: “The entire series was selected on a baseline of criteria: the type of crime, the investigation that took place and ended with a successful arrest, the trial and effective conviction.

“In addition, the story had to be something people would have remembered reading about.”

Daykin says it was a painstaking two-year process to put this series together.

“We had about 25 stories on the table. We had to look at whether we had all the relevant details, the judgment, access to interviews with the family members, the relevant investigating officers, the criminologist, etc. Without those interviews, our show would have been superficial. And, legally, everything had to be cross- referenced and very factual. Once we had done that, we narrowed it down to different types of crime: we have paedophiles, murderers, serial killers – and these were from different areas: Joburg, Pretoria, KwaZulu-Natal…” she said.

Anyone who is familiar with the Crime & Investigation Network will concur that the re-enactment aspects are adroitly handled, as is the casting. Even from a visual perspective, there is no overlooking the top-notch production value of Crimes Uncovered SA, which unfailingly leaves viewers choked with emotion.

Daykin elaborates: “We tried to get a cast similar to the victims and perpetrators. We put them through quite gruelling scenes. Fortunately, we have the most amazing director of photography, Daniel Black, everything was very stylised. We wanted to make sure the shots were beautiful and he really went out of his way to make the re-enactments as accurate as possible. We would go to actual locations or somewhere similar and would work off the info in the police dockets.

“The attention to detail is painstaking.”

For the entire cast and crew, this series was a labour of love.

“Each and every episode was difficult. Whether it was interviewing the families or our working conditions – we were working in places that were unsafe at time. In fact, during one of our reccies, we were held up at knife-point.

“I have two episodes that pull at my heart: the Brett Goldin and Richard Bloom episode and Father Lionel Sham’s story. I don’t know if it was because of the families whom I connected with so deeply, or because I have watched it like a million times and get tearful every time,” Daykin explains.

Having read about these crimes and watched broadcasts on the news, viewers now get to witness a comprehensive sequence of events, with re-enactments and heartbreaking accounts from family members and friends.

“It is a hard-hitting series. As Anne Davis (the director) puts it, this is disturbing TV. These stories are real. They are going to touch people. It also makes us realise life is very short. You never know when it is going to be your last day.

“I hope by the end of it, people will appreciate what the police service does. We’ve met so many passionate and committed people – from those who investigate to those who work in fingerprints and ballistics, during this series.

“We watch CSI and it isn’t real. Now we meet people who actually do this for a living.”

Aside from the insight of the prosecutors and the investigators, there are also various specialists who help to shed light on the killers and their mindsets.

Expanding on the Matthews and the Sugar Cane Killer episodes being split into two parts, Daykin says: “It isn’t easy fitting everything into a 44-minute programme. For Leigh Matthews, we decided to split it and focus on her going missing and them then finding the guy (Donovan Moodley) responsible. If you remember, during the trial, he lied about so many things. In part two, we go into that. We talk to specialist who prove he was lying – like with the frostbite being discovered, which proved the body was kept in a cool place. We also touch base on Donovan’s retrial.

“For the Sugar Cane Killer, it was because there were 13 women’s bodies found. We couldn’t speak about all of them so we chose about five or six stories. In part two, we reveal how it all led back to him with cellphone technology and face identification.”

The ripple effect of death on the lives of family, friends and the community is incalculable.

With any hope, Crimes Uncovered SA will make criminals think twice about taking an innocent life. And while justice is served, it is a bittersweet ending for those who have to live with the inconsolable emptiness for the rest of their lives – and that’s the real tragedy of it all!

 

• Crimes Uncovered SA airs on M-Net (DStv channel 101) on Wednesdays at 9.30pm.