The story of SA’s first crime profiler is brought to compelling light in ‘Catch Me A Killer’

Charlotte Hope as Micki Pistorius in ‘Catch Me A Killer’. Picture: Supplied

Charlotte Hope as Micki Pistorius in ‘Catch Me A Killer’. Picture: Supplied

Published Mar 11, 2024


Several years ago, I was given a copy of Dr Micki Pistorius’s book, “Catch Me A Killer”, for review. It was a fascinating account of the high-profile serial killer cases she worked on.

When Showmax announced that Pistorius’s true-life story was coming to the streaming platform, I was curious to see why they chose to turn it into a crime drama instead of going the documentary route à la “Devilsdorp”, “Rosemary’s Hitlist”, “Boetie Boer”, “Stella Murders” and “The Last Blue Ride: The Hannah Cornelius Story”.

Having watched five episodes available, I now understand the decision for the nuanced storytelling.

Based on Pistorius’s autobiography, the series brings the protagonist to life, magnifying her brilliance as SA’s first serial killer profiler while exploring her vulnerability.

Charlotte Hope as Micki Pistorius with Donna Cormack-Thomson as Erika Bothes in ‘Catch Me A Killer’. Picture: Supplied

The series, which is a co-production with Germany’s Night Train Media, boasts the Midas touch of Saftas-winners Amy Jephta as the lead writer and Rene van Rooyen, who shares the director’s seat with Tracey Larcombe and Brett Michael Innes.

In the kick-off episode, the viewer meets Pistorius (Charlotte Hope) as a lecturer.

Not long after, the forensic psychologist’s skill in profiling places her career on a life-changing path when she is asked to join the SAPS to assist with a disturbing case in Cape Town.

Jephta said: “The series opens in the place that I come from, Mitchell’s Plain. I was in Grade 1 at the time of the Station Strangler killer and my mother was a police officer at the same station that Micki was assigned to in 1994.

“I was in and out of that police station. So, I remember the fear in that community and what it felt like to be a kid at a time when these boys were being abducted. So, I could draw a lot on my first-hand feeling.”

In the episode, set in 1994, the police are at their wits’ end trying to solve the disappearances of 22 boys from Parow, Cape Town, and, with the community pressure building, they were desperate for a break in the case.

Pistorius isn’t welcomed with open arms, though. Applying psychology to crime-solving was an unheard-of concept.

And she faced much ridicule and toxic masculinity on the job, which she takes in her stride.

But she earns the respect of her peers when she helps them track down Norman Afzal Simons, also known as The Station Strangler.

The episodes flit from one high-profile case to the next, like the ABC Killer, the Cape Town Prostitute Killer, the Phoenix Strangler, the Saloon Killer and, not forgetting the murders in Cleveland and Donnybrook.

After the success of her first case, Pistorius’s contribution makes her a sought-after expert. So much so, that she gets an assistant, Erika Bothes (Donna Cormack-Thomson).

Each case is different. Aside from bureaucratic frustrations, Pistorius sometimes encounters lead detectives, who are dismissive of her input. Their impatience throws a curve ball at her attempts to build a credible profile.

No matter how gruesome the killers are, Pistorius approaches the perpetrators with an empathetic mindset, explaining that they aren’t born that way.

She gains their trust by attempting to understand them and their back-story.

The directors have done a wonderful job of balancing the unsettling work of Pistorius with her personal life. Fresh off a divorce, she’s trying to heal while keeping a clear head.

Her sister, in many ways, helps keep her balanced.

The script is beautifully written. The cases, while hard-hitting, are handled with sensitivity. The characters are relatable with their fallibility.

The painstaking detail in taking the viewer back to the ’90s is unmistakable. Everything from the wardrobe and hairstyles to the set and cars, transports the viewer to the period.

Hope was a smart choice to depict Pistorius. The British actress delivers a seamless performance, wavering between being an intelligent woman, who exudes quiet confidence, and adaptability.

Despite often encountering sexist behaviour on the job, her insight into killers and how they react and think is unparalleled.

Executive producer Simon Howley summed her up beautifully when he told “Variety”: “You don’t just have a profiler coming in and solving the case. It’s about the effects on her life and her world, it consumed her for six years, where she was doing nothing else than joining police investigations, leading a very peripatetic life across South Africa and getting to grips with some horrific crimes.”

“Catch Me A Killer” is a compelling true-life story that is empowering and insightful despite its unsettling subject matter.