Something doesn’t add up here.
Since the release of the game-changer that was Serial, a podcast that had people all over the world discussing whether Adnan Syed was rightfully convicted for the violent death of his high-school sweetheart, our interest in injustice and the inconclusive has turned into somewhat of a cultural phenomenon.
The public’s fascination with murder mysteries has always been clear in a way that souvenir carts in London sell Jack the Ripper merchandise beside the Queen Elizabeth mugs, but today, we see our obsession with true crime in our media consumption; the series we stream, the programs we watch and the podcasts we subscribe to.
From Netflix’s Making a Murderer, the story of murder convictions against innocent-pleading Steven Avery and his family, that reached over 19 million viewers worldwide, to HBO’s critically-acclaimed, award-winning, The Jinx, a documentary following a wealthy man suspected in an unsolved disappearance of his wife and neighbours – it’s clear that we want be entertained and informed through a guilty vs. not guilty narrative, and media companies are more than happy to accommodate this espial.
While journalists and filmmakers continue to thrillingly tear off the lids of forgotten cold cases and introduce us to unheard of individuals like Sister Cathy Cesnick (Netflix's The Keepers), even the most high-profile and known trial outcome of unsolved murder cases, like FX’s American Crime Story: The People v. OJ Simpson (2016) still manage to get an audience of above 7 million.
Australian media has also entered into this market, and with our dreadful history of racist, homophobic, and even sexist, police-culture, we are sadly not short of unsolved homicides with corresponding mishandled investigations for producers to make gripping content out of. True crime podcasting has become a worldwide hit and Australia has been responsible for some of the most compelling series’ available.
The successful 2016 Bowraville podcast by The Australian about the unsolved killings upon three Aboriginal children in NSW, drew in over half a million downloads. Following this herald of Australian media achievement came, Phoebe’s Fall (The Age), Out of Sight: The Untold Story of Adelaide’s Gay-hate Murders (SBS), Searching for Rachel Antonio (Courier Mail) and Ballarat’s Children (The Australian). Australian true crime does not only tell the stories of real-life victims in our own backyard, but those from some of the most vulnerable communities.
Journalist, Allan Clarke, revisits a story he covered a few years ago and now, Cold Justice, further explores the death of Aboriginal teenager Mark Haines, whose homicide still remains a mystery almost three decades after.
In 1988, the Gomeroi teenager’s body was found on railroad tracks outside his hometown of Tamworth, regional north-west NSW. 29 years later, Mark’s family continue to fight for justice of the loss of their loved-one, who they are adamant was murdered, despite police pursuing the theory that Mark died from injury after deliberately lying down on the train tracks.
Much like its true crime predecessors, Cold Justice is much more than a ‘whodunit’ story. The mini-series explores the murky underbelly operating in regional Australia in the 1980s and exposes a significantly botched investigation by authorities. It uncovers a story of racism in the justice system, one so alarming it causes you to shout at the TV when its revealed that the local police “lost” critical evidence or that the investigation of Mark’s death was during height of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in custody and at a time when Aboriginal people were systematically mistreated by state authorities.
It uncovers a story of racism in the justice system, one so alarming it causes you to shout at the TV when its revealed that the local police “lost” critical evidence...
Between the politics and the plight, the series also importantly introduces you to a heartbroken family. One that is not only desperate to find justice for their young family member after a long and exhausting number of years, but who continues to live in a community which has failed them.
Making entertainment from the deaths of innocent people arguably makes the genre of true crime walk a fine line between violence voyeurism and highlighting a problem, but what makes this kind of programming remarkable (and walk on the latter) is the affirmative action it has on many of its subjects.
It’s widely known that the public interest and media attention of these cases, has seen positive action taken against the many legal errors and injustices found by journalists and filmmakers during its media presentation. Since the ‘success’ of their stories, Serial’s Adnan Syed has been granted retrial over the murder in which he is convicted for, the key suspect in the Bowraville murders faces court and Making a Murderer’s Brendan Dassey homicide conviction was overturned (but was then blocked after the US Department of Justice lodged an appeal earlier this year) – so, what’s in store for the Haines-Craigie family pending the release of this promising true crime mini-series?
A happy, carefree 17-year-old boy went exploring on train tracks 7km outside of town, in early morning darkness, in the pouring rain and managed to get no mud on his shoes or the bottom of his trousers? Something doesn’t add up here.
Get ready to get behind the Haines-Craigie family in their fight for justice and beg the question they’ve been asking for 29 years - #WhatHappenedToMark
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Cold Justice returns tonight at 9.00pm on NITV Ch. 34.