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How police covered up one of Australia’s most notorious serial killers

VSConsidering the number of involved in law enforcement corruption, actual crime stories suggest that without accountability, cops cannot be trusted to behave properly by obtaining confessions, accusing individuals, or blaming individuals. admitting their mistakes regarding unjust convictions. The night caller is both a sprawling serial killer mystery and a legal exemption saga. Yet by its conclusion it turns out first and foremost to be yet another infuriating non-fiction portrayal of police misdeeds and – even worse – of the refusal to acknowledge and correct their own wrongdoing.

Writer / director Thomas Meadmore’s four-part documentary Sundance Now (premiering January 19) is set in the western suburbs of Perth, Australia, an affluent enclave that in the 1950s and 1960s offered residents a comfortable, carefree and safe life. in which they were free to leave their doors and windows unlocked and sleep on their verandas during the hot months. Those good times came to an abrupt end, however, in 1959, with the brutal murder of single mother Pnina Berkman in her bedroom. When her boyfriend Fotis Fountas quickly fled the country to his native Greece, authorities assumed he was the culprit. Nine months later, however, another similar murder took place in Perth: that of chocolate empire heiress Jillian Brewer, 22, was brutally killed in her bed with a tomahawk and a pair of scissors. .

Cops quickly pinned the latest crime on Darryl Beamish, 18, a deaf-mute local signed a confession and was sentenced to life in prison. With the apparent culprit in prison, the citizens of Perth once again relaxed. As The night caller reveals that this reverie was shattered again four years later when, on January 26, 1963, Australia Day, five individuals were shot, two of them fatally, by a mysterious gunman. As these victims were apparently chosen at random and attacked in their cars and homes, terror swept through the community, amplified by the inability of detectives to infer was responsible (their only evidence, a single cartridge of rifle, did not get them anywhere.). Then, two weeks later, on February 9, 1963, teenager Rosemary Anderson was killed in a getaway accident – although in this case the cops came to the conclusion that her 19-year-old boyfriend, John Button , was behind the wheel, based largely on his car showing damage to the bumper and fenders as well as traces of blood.

The night caller details this series of crimes through interviews with locals – many of whom are intimately involved in some of the murders – as well as Button himself, despite maintaining his innocence, signed a confession and was therefore convicted of homicide involuntarily guilty. Especially in its early days, the series also relies quite heavily on dramatic recreations that fail to generate discomfort or give any idea of ​​the logistical execution of crimes. Meadmore’s use of these superfluous staged footage is all the more frustrating as he otherwise uses archival footage from Perth to convey a powerful sense of the atmosphere in which his story took place and the how these scattered atrocities helped transform the local culture. This only intensified when, six months after the Australia Day massacre, Shirley McLeod was gunned down while babysitting, and a fingerprint left at the scene led to a massive operation. fingerprint which resulted in no lead.

It turned out that he was also guilty of many other offenses.

Police finally got lucky when the rifle used to end McLeod’s life was discovered under a bush in the front yard of a residential house, and after staking the area, the gun owner is come back to get it back. That man, Eric Edgar Cooke, was a husband and father of seven with a long record of petty theft and voyeuristic charges, and a rifle cartridge discovered in his vehicle confirmed he was McLeod’s killer. Cooke confessed his guilt to his wife Sally, who, in a new interview, remembers her husband’s fateful confession. It turned out that he was also guilty of many other offenses. Soon he was taking cops to various crime scenes to detail his heinous actions – and wouldn’t you know, two of the murders he claimed to have committed were the Jillian Brewer murder and the Rosemary Anderson -and-run. . .

At the moment, The night caller turns from puzzling thriller status to a case study of police misconduct. Armed with Beamish and Button’s signed confessions to the Brewer and Anderson homicides, respectively, law enforcement refused to accept Cooke’s statements. More shamefully, they buried his confession to many other crimes – shootings, and run – because they knew that if this information were to come out, it would be clear that they knew they had a predator in. series in the hands. , and therefore that their lawsuits against Beamish and Button were unfounded. Thanks to the tireless efforts of journalist Estelle Blackburn, Button, since her parole, has appealed to have her name legally cleared. And when it worked, Blackburn turned his attention to Beamish, with equally triumphant results.

What The night caller eventually becomes a scathing evisceration of Perth Police and their star detective Owen Leitch, who on the basis of Beamish’s capture and conviction was promoted to commissioner. Through interviews with Button, Beamish, Blackburn, retired Detective Sergeant Max Baker, and many other men and women linked to the Cooke murders, Meadmore’s documentary series takes direct aim at systemic injustices perpetrated by cops who knew that what they were doing was shameful, and then after being publicly confronted with their wrongdoing, doubled their positions rather than correcting their mistakes. Even today, Baker won’t admit that Button was innocent, and it’s this insolence – born of prioritizing personal and organizational reputations over the rights of ordinary citizens – is arguably the most irritating aspect of this whole thing.

Imbued with stories of the dead, their grieving families and the wrongly persecuted, The night caller offers a multifaceted view of the often unavoidable scars left by trauma. However, in a closing passage about Sally Cooke’s persistence in the of her husband’s monstrosity, embodied in her son Tony’s famous career as a crusading politician, it is also a reminder that even the most horrific trials can sometimes be overcome.

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