Compelling as it is, there’s not a lot new in After The Night, a four-part documentary series about Australia’s most notorious serial killer. But given it is more than 60 years since Eric Edgar Cooke embarked on his campaign of terror in Perth, and 57 since his arrest, it would be a shock if there were.
The facts are settled, but they’re also so far back that – for some of us – this will be their first airing. And for many who were there at the time, it’s likely their last chance to bear witness.
Those facts weren’t always so established, though. One of the key throughlines of the series is that two men were wrongly convicted of Cooke’s crimes, and police knew that was so and covered it up. As Oscar Wilde might have said, to bang up one wrong chap may be regarded as a misfortune; to do it twice looks like carelessness – or something far worse.
Writer-director Thomas Meadmore has built the vehicle in which we take this tour of a distant past in which people didn’t lock the door and often slept on the porch, or even in the garden, if it was hot enough. That was until the night in 1963 when Cooke shot five people, three of them fatally. But it is journalist Estelle Blackburn who steers the story, retracing the route taken in her 1998 book Broken Lives.