True crime – the genre that holds a fascination for so many – has enjoyed an explosion in recent years, thanks to the sheer number of platforms now dedicated to it. Whereas before, true crime fans could only get their fix from the pages of a well-researched tome, nowadays there are podcasts, dedicated TV channels, endless Reddit threads and numerous documentaries available to stream.
The latest addition to the genre is Netflix's docuseries Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer, which has been winning acclaim for its focus on the police investigation into the capture of Richard Ramirez, aka the Night Stalker.
From tales of conmen to stories of clemency, via the investigations that brought famous serial killers to justice, here are five true crime shows available on streaming platforms this month.
‘Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer’, Netflix
The latest true crime series to hit the streaming platform is is a four-part documentary about the investigation into the "Night Stalker" murders, perpetuated by serial killer and rapist Richard Ramirez in Los Angeles and San Francisco between June 1984 and August 1985.
The docuseries follows homicide detectives Gil Carrillo and Frank Salerno of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, who were two of the key figures responsible for bringing Ramirez, nicknamed the “Night Stalker” by the media, to justice.
Critics have praised the show for not sensationalising Ramirez’s heinous crimes nor attempting to psychoanalyse him. Rather, the focus remains on the police investigation, including interviews with journalists, news anchors and law enforcement officials.
‘Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult’, Starz
This four-part miniseries focuses on what happened to the women inside Keith Raniere’s NXIVM cult, with one of its most famous recruits, India Oxenberg, sharing her story in detail for the first time.
Put together by two female filmmakers, Cecilia Peck – also a NXIVM recruit – and Inbal B Lessner, the series features many first-hand accounts, along with expert testimony, about the cult that enslaved and branded the vulnerable women lured into it.
“They wanted it to be a women’s production focused on women’s stories that was raw, real and vulnerable, and showed the complexity of indoctrination and coercion in high-controlled groups,” says Oxenberg of the acclaimed show.
‘Conman: The Life and Crimes of Mark Acklom’, YouTube
Mark Acklom, an English conman who appeared on Britain's National Crime Agency's list of 10 most-wanted fugitives before his capture, is the subject of this 50-minute-long Sky documentary on YouTube.
Acklom began his crime spree by stealing his father’s American Express card and posing as a stockbroker to commit a £1 million ($1.4m) fraud for which he was sentenced to four years in a young offender’s institute, and his parents were forced to sell their house to pay off. He would go on to pose as both a Swiss banker and an MI6 agent to con a woman out of £850,000, which he has never repaid, all of which earned him a mere five years and eight months in prison.
‘Murder to Mercy: The Cyntoia Brown Story’, Netflix
On August 6, 2004, sex-trafficking victim Cyntoia Brown, aged 16, shot and killed Johnny Allen, 43, a man who had paid her $150 to spend the night with him. Although Brown said she acted in self-defence, she was sentenced to life in prison, making her eligible for parole at the age of 67.
This documentary, while focused on Brown’s journey to clemency after serving 15 years, also puts the spotlight on the US justice system; how the courts define and deal with victims, and how cases are viewed differently with the passing of time. As the voiceover says: "In 2004 she was considered a prostitute, now she would be considered the victim of sexual predators."
‘Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer’, Amazon Prime Video
This documentary gives voice to Bundy's longtime girlfriend, Elizabeth Kendall, and her daughter, Molly, who speak about their experiences for the first time in almost 40 years.
This five-part docuseries chronicles her relationship with one of America’s most famous serial killers, during the time period from 1974 to 1978 when he was at his most active.
The pair share new details about their lives with the murderer, as well as previously unseen photos of a man they had no suspicions about.
“They portray what feels and looks like an authentic love, which adds a layer of mystery to the theories I wasn’t anticipating,” reveals director Trish Wood. “You can’t look at those and not think that maybe he really did love her.”