5 true-crime stories you won’t believe really happened

These documentaries on Showmax prove that sometimes, when it comes to murder, truth really is stranger than fiction

10 November 2017 - 10:00

It’s been a week of high drama in South Africa’s courtrooms as three of the most hashtagged, high-profile murder cases we’ve ever followed were in the spotlight. While you wait for the verdicts from the Van Breda trial, the Rohde trial and the state’s appeal to have Oscar Pistorius’s jail term lengthened, check out these bizarre, unbelievable true-crime stories, all available on Showmax.

1. 204: Getting Away with Murder

What’s the story behind the murder of business mogul Brett Kebble? This documentary exposes the criminal underworld of South Africa with first-hand accounts from Kebble’s killers about the web of crime that connected them to some of the most influential men in the South African government. “204” means being absolved of any crime as long as you provide truthful testimony, which is the bargain that Kebble’s three self-confessed killers made with the cops.

Through interviews with these men and with Kebble’s close family members; the late convicted fraudster Jackie Selebi; convicted criminal Glenn Agliotti; and top cop Piet Byleveld, this documentary will reveal a conspiracy so intricate that it beggars belief. Watch now »

The multimillionaire property heir Robert Durst literally got away with murder in 2003, even after he admitted to shooting dead and then dismembering his neighbour Morris Black in 2001. As if that’s not weird enough, the murder occurred at a time when Durst was in disguise as a mute woman. Still can’t believe this all really happened? Wait for it – Durst was also a prime suspect in the execution-style killing of his best friend Susan Berman in her Beverly Hills home on Christmas Eve in 2000, and Durst’s wife, Kathie, disappeared without a trace in 1982.

The finale of this gob-smacking documentary series aired in the US in 2015. On the same day, Durst was arrested on the charge of murdering Berman. Pre-trial hearings were concluded last month and the trial is set to start in a year’s time, as Durst’s health continues to decline. To get an insight into the twisted mind of a murderer, watch The Jinx, the documentary that essentially prevented Durst from getting away with murder a second time. Watch now »

3. HBO’s The Cheshire Murders

In a storybook-perfect town in New England, a doctor, his wife and his daughters lived through a nightmare when two men broke into their home in the middle of the night, tied them up, beat them, assaulted them, set them on fire and strangled them. The doctor escaped with severe injuries, but his wife and children died in the attack.

This documentary questions the motives of the attackers (they didn’t steal anything and had had no contact with the family before the crime); the police actions on the morning of the attack (the cops waited outside the house instead of going in and helping the family, whose screams they could clearly hear); and the concept of justice as the trial gets under way and the viability of the death penalty for the killers is debated. Watch now »

4. HBO's Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart

How does intense media coverage of a murder trial help or harm the defence and the prosecution’s case? Pamela Smart’s trial in 1991 for the first-degree murder of her husband became the most widely watched televised trial in the US, and the unprecedented media coverage painted her as an evil seductress known as “The Black Widow”.

Smart allegedly convinced her 15-year-old lover Billy Flynn and three of his friends to kill her husband, Greggory, though she denies culpability to this day. Flynn and his friends were set free on parole in 2015, while Smart will continue to serve life in prison.

In this documentary, she gives her side of the story and maintains that the media coverage of her 14-day trial unfairly influenced the jury against her. Watch now »

5. HBO’s Thought Crimes

Can you be held accountable for crimes that you fantasise about committing? Should you be? That’s what this documentary seeks to answer by presenting exclusive interviews with close friends and family members of the notorious Cannibal Cop, who wrote on a dark fetish website about his desires to kidnap and eat women. 

Though he never committed any crime in real life, Gilberto Valle was arrested for admitting to thinking about such crimes, and the psychologists and criminologists interviewed for this documentary provide incisive insight into why his arrest was – and perhaps wasn’t – justified. Watch now »

Watch these true-crime stories on Showmax »

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This article was paid for by Showmax.