Leila McKinnon makes no excuses for the disturbing terrain Inside Story will cover.The first episode of Nine’s new current affairs show Inside Story dealt with some heinous cases of domestic violence, such as the murder of six-year-old Kiesha Weippeart by her mother Kristi Abrahams, who initially presented herself as the victim rather than the perpetrator of her daughter’s death. The show’s presenter Leila McKinnon (pictured) makes no excuses for the disturbing terrain Inside Story will cover.
Was the episode ”Crocodile Tears” typical of the content we will see on Inside Story?
Yes. They’re all crimes we haven’t been able to forget and they have that mixture of fascination and disgust and horror. ”Crocodile Tears” concentrates more on the killers who were trying to get away with it and are ultimately caught. The others are to do with adults caught up in murder.
Is there a common thread?
The thing that strikes me about a lot of the stories is they’re about ordinary people living ordinary lives and then, out of nowhere, a husband tries to kill his wife. You just think, ‘what happens in that person’s life to make them go down that path?’
One of the stories, ”Lethal Lovers”, is about wives who suddenly decide to have their husbands murdered. I interviewed a farmer in Parkes in northern NSW. After recovering in hospital and finding out his wife had tried to kill him, he went home and said he missed her. He couldn’t reconcile she was the person who had done this to him.
Why is true crime compelling?
These are ordinary people who go through extraordinary circumstances and do despicable things and we want to know why and how. It’s the fascination of knowing how they turned into the sort of person who would have their husband stabbed or shot.
Did you ever fear the topics would be too ghoulish?
No, I think true crime is always going to have an audience. Crime is one of the genres that women in Australia read the most, whether it’s mystery and crime fiction or true crime non-fiction. I think there’s a lot of interest in it.
Current affairs on commercial TV is often about celebrities and inspirational human-interest stories, not murder.
There’s a lot of projects coming out of Nine’s news and current affairs department because they want to make better use of those resources. It’s premium current affairs and the topics are dealt with in a responsible and truthful way.
Is it difficult to talk to those left in the wake of a horrific crime?
I feel very fortunate to have spoken to the people I have. Most of us have not had any tragedy like that in our lives, and to see the people who have been through it is a real honour. In no way would we go into it lightly. Kiesha’s grandmother has spoken for the first time and in some ways it brings it back to its core. The capture of her mother was a fascinating story, but to see the family left behind … I’m very grateful to them.
The media often has a lot to answer for in stereotyping perpetrators and victims.
I agree. I think in all the cases where the public was wrongly suspicious, the media did play a part, particularly with Joanne Lees. I remember thinking it was very unfair. None of us knows how we might react, how proud you might be, how private you might be, how reluctant you might be to let go in front of the world. We do need to be responsible about how we depict victims of crime … (they) often don’t break down in tears every five minutes. That’s one of the reasons true crime is so fascinating. Not only do you have the reactions of friends and family and victims, should they survive, but the speculation about people and the way the courts deal with them. We have that now with Amanda Knox. It’s human nature for everyone to wonder ”did she do it or not”.
Inside Story, Nine, Wednesday, 8.40pm