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What's trending in true crime in January

We’re barely into a new year and already, there’s a new batch of true crime docu-series, TV dramas and podcasts to catch up on, not to mention the cases currently being discussed online. To help you keep up-to-date, here are a few of the most talked-about cases this month. 

Luka Magnotta

The Canadian serial killer has been brought back into the public’s attention recently, thanks to the docu-series Don’t F***k With Cats. Magnotta began posting videos of him abusing animals online in 2010, inspiring an international manhunt to track him down. In 2012, he posted a video entitled ‘1 Lunatic 1 ice Pick’, in which he was seen murdering student Jun Lin, whom he had met on a dating site. Magnotta repeatedly stabbed him with a screwdriver, then dismembered him, before sending parts of Lin’s body to schools and political parties’ offices. Clips of his videos appear in the series. 

The Cyprus rape case

Earlier this month, a 19-year-old British woman was found guilty of lying about being gang-raped and given a suspended sentence after she told police she had been attacked. The case has proved highly controversial, with the conviction sparking protests by women’s groups and international criticism. The woman told police she had been raped by a group of 10 male tourists in a hotel room in July last year. After an eight-hour interrogation, though (during which, her lawyers say, she was threatened with arrest, without them present), she retracted her statement and eventually signed a confession so they would let her leave. Instead, she was charged. A forensic pathologist at her trial even testified she had injuries consistent with being raped, but a judge refused to hear evidence about the assault. Her legal team are planning to appeal the conviction.

The murder of Robbie Middleton

One of the top posts on Reddit’s true crime sub this month is a discussion of the case of Robbie Middleton. In 1998, on his eighth birthday, Middleton was tied to a tree in his native Texas, covered in petrol and set alight. He suffered from horrific third-degree burns to 99% of his body (which led to 150 operations) but survived the attack for another 12 years. In 2011, he died from a skin cancer connected to his burns, but not before he named his attacker: Donald Collins. Collins was 13 at the time of the attack. Middleton said that Collins had raped him two weeks before and that the attack was to cover up the crime. Collins was found guilty of murder.

Kenneka Jenkins

In 2017, 19-year-old Kenneka Jenkins disappeared from a birthday party at a hotel, hours after going on Facebook Live. Her body was discovered the next day, locked in one of the hotel’s freezers. What happened to her? Her case is one of the subjects of the true crime series, True Life Crime.

White House Farm Murders

In 1985, police were called to White House Farm in Essex by Jeremy Bamber. His parents, Nevill and June, their daughter Sheila and her twin sons were all dead: they had been shot. Jeremy claimed his sister (who was being treated for schizophrenia) had committed the crime during a psychotic episode, telling police his dad had called him and told him that Sheila had gone ‘berserk’ with his gun. But police focused on Jeremy and he was later found guilty. He’s currently serving a life sentence, although he has always professed his innocence. The case is the focus of a new drama.

Dennis Nilsen

Also the feature of a new series, Dennis Nilsen—otherwise known as the Muswell Hill Murderer—will be played by David Tennant in a three-part drama later this year. The Scottish serial killer and necrophile was behind the deaths of at least 12 men (though he confessed to 15 at one point) in the late 70s and early 80s. His victims’ bodies were found buried in his garden. Many of their families didn’t realise they were dead until years after their murder, when Nilsen’s crimes had been uncovered. He died in prison last year. The series has already proved controversial, though, with some of the victims’ families speaking out against it and calling it ‘hurtful’

Jonestown

The Jonestown massacre, which saw the deaths of over 900 people in 1978, is examined on the BBC’s documentary, Jonestown, Terror in the Jungle. The two-part series chronicles the rise of the cult’s leader, Jim Jones, to the mass suicide/murder that became the cult’s horrifying climax.

Curtis Flowers

The case a subject of podcast In the Dark’s second season, Curtis Flowers has been tried six times for the same crime: a murder that he swears he didn’t commit, but for which he has spent 23 years in prison and been sentenced to the death penalty twice. This despite the fact that all his trials ended in mistrial, or saw his conviction overturned in appeal. In December, he was released on bail and now, the prosecutor behind all six trials is finally stepping down from the case, after been accused of racial discrimination.

JonBenet Ramsey

As the anniversary or JonBenet Ramsey’s murder came on Boxing Day, it’s no surprise posts discussing her case have been appearing on subreddits and forums in the last few weeks. The case is also the subject of a new podcast— the Killing of JonBenet: the Final Suspects

Richard Cottingham

Otherwise known as the Torso Killer, Richard Cottingham was imprisoned in the 1980s for the murders of six people (although it’s believed the real number of his victims is closer to 100). He was known for dismembering his victims, leaving only their torsos. Earlier this month, the news broke that Cottingham had made a jailhouse confession to three murders, solving cold cases from the 1960s. 13-year-old Jackie Harp (strangled with her own high school’s banner), 15-year-old Denise Falasca and 18-year-old Irene Blase have been identified as Cottingham’s victims. He is serving 200 years in prison for his crimes.