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

A true story on TV

Considering how many involve law enforcement corruption, true crime stories suggest that without accountability cops can’t be trusted to behave properly in obtaining confessions, charging individuals, or admitting to their mistakes regarding unjust convictions. The Night Caller is both a sprawling serial-killer mystery and a saga about legal exoneration. Yet by its conclusion, it primarily proves to be another infuriating non-fiction portrait of police malfeasance and—worse still—unwillingness to own up to, and correct, their own wrongdoing.

Writer/director Thomas Meadmore’s four-part Sundance Now docuseries (premiering Jan. 19) takes place in the Western Suburbs of Perth, Australia, an affluent enclave that, in the ‘50s and ‘60s, offered residents a comfortable, carefree and safe life in which they were free to leave their doors and windows unlocked and to sleep on their verandas during the hot summer months. Those good times came to a crashing halt, however, in 1959, with the brutal murder of single mother Pnina Berkman in her bedroom. When her boyfriend Fotis Fountas promptly fled the country for his native Greece, authorities assumed he was the culprit. Nine months later, though, another similar slaying took place in Perth: that of 22-year-old chocolate empire heiress Jillian Brewer, who was savagely slain in her bed with a tomahawk and a pair of scissors.

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Cops swiftly pinned the latter offense on 18-year-old Darryl Beamish, a deaf-mute local who signed a confession and was sentenced to life in prison. With the apparent culprit in prison, Perth’s citizens once more relaxed. As The Night Caller reveals, that reverie was again shattered four years later when, on Jan. 26, 1963—Australia Day—five individuals were shot, two of them fatally, by a mysterious gunman. Since those victims were seemingly chosen at random, and attacked in their cars and at their homes, terror swept through the community, amplified by detectives’ inability to deduce who was responsible for it (their only evidence, a single rifle cartridge, led them nowhere). Then, two weeks later on Feb. 9, 1963, teenager Rosemary Anderson was killed in a hit-and-run accident—although in this instance, cops came to the conclusion that her 19-year-old boyfriend John Button had been behind the wheel, based largely on the fact that his car boasted bumper and fender damage as well as traces of blood.

Read more: Yahoo