It was the early 90s and a South African serial killer was on the loose. On a rampage of rape and murder, he sent a Johannesburg suburb of women running for cover. In a deadly game of cat and mouse, investigative journalist Janine Lazarus was used by the police as a decoy to trap ‘The Norwood serial killer’.
If we’re to believe that journalists should shape the news – not make it – Lazarus broke just about every rule in newsroom ethics as she became increasingly obsessed with Kobus Geldenhuys.
‘To Catch a Serial Killer’ is the official companion podcast series to the true crime memoir by Lazarus: 'BAIT To Catch a Killer'.
This five-part series is an original JacPod production - featuring Lazarus; Jacaranda FM news editor Marius van der Walt, and various guest contributors - and it explores central themes in the book.
Face-to-face with a serial killer
Coming face-to-face with a serial killer is the stuff of nightmares for most, but for former crime reporter Janine Lazarus it was the interview of a lifetime. Our fifth and final episode is a Q&A with 'BAIT To Catch a Killer' author Janine Lazarus, with news editor Marius van der Walt asking some of the questions we all want to know of someone who’s had this experience.
The first time Lazarus locked eyes with Norwood serial killer Kobus Geldenhuys was just after he was sentenced to death 27 years ago.
Twelve years later, and long after Lazarus had left the newsroom, he applied for his first parole. Janine wrote a story for The Star: ‘God help us if he gets parole.’
The Criminal Minds series on MNet around 1997 was her third link to him. “We filmed one of his re-enacted rape and murder scenes in my flat in Norwood.”
Geldenhuys has recently applied for his fourth parole. A TV series on Janine’s story is in pre-production and development.
Madness in the air: a serial killer and a country in transition
'Madness in the air!' That's how then political reporter and current Deputy Editor of The Citizen Brendan Seery describes journalism and reporting in the early 1990s in South Africa. Brendan was mentor to Janine Lazarus back then. In episode 4, Marius van der Walt facilitates a discussion about serial killer Kobus Geldenhuys, the politics of the day and a country in transition.
My Dance with the Dark
In episode 3 of 'To Catch a Serial Killer', author Janine Lazarus and news editor Marius van der Walt speak to respected clinical psychologist Leonard Carr about the Norwood serial killer and about what drives someone to commit the most fundamental taboo – murder.
Carr was the clinical psychologist Janine quotes at length in her book, 'BAIT To Catch a Killer'. He made his name doing expert commentary during the Oscar Pistorius trial. Importantly, Carr was the person Janine turned to when her crime reporting became too much.
In this episode we will also explore questions such as:
• Is there such a thing as someone who is pure evil?
• How does a psychopath think?
• Why do so many women have a fascination for the true crime genre and with the dark side of things?
• What drove Janine to break so many rules as a journalist in the manhunt for Kobus Geldenhuys?
The state of news journalism since the 90s: for better or worse?
Has news reporting become better or worse? When Janine Lazarus worked in news in the early 1990s, there was no Internet, no access to mobile phones, no social media. It was boots to the ground kind of stuff.
While traditional reporting relies on hard facts, gonzo journalism takes readers or listeners a step inside the mind and feelings of the reporter as the story unfolds. It’s written without objectivity, often including a reporter as part of the story using a first-person narrative. In Janine's case, the police used her flat as a surveillance point at the height of Geldenhuys’ reign of terror. They also used her to try to lure the killer.
And that breaks every rule in the traditional journalism guidebook to stay out of the story.
In episode two, Janine and Marius are joined by Anton Harber, the Caxton Professor of Journalism (Adjunct) at the University of the Witwatersrand. Harber has a 35-year career in journalism, media management and training.
In a wide-ranging discussion, the three look at how sourcing news/news coverage has changed since the early 90s. Have new communication technologies revitalised the public sphere? Or have they become the commercial tool for an increasingly un-public, undemocratic news media?
Serial Killers - The nature versus nurture debate
In episode 1, author Janine Lazarus, Dr Gerard Labuschagne - former head of the police’s psychiatric unit and Jacaranda FM news editor Marius van der Walt discuss and explore the characteristics of serial killers that cut across almost all of them.
They are very often family men with sinister secrets. They take care of abused animals; can be a community’s much-loved babysitter; open support groups for drug addiction, etc. Are people born serial killers, or is it their upbringing that makes them into what they become?
To Catch a Serial Killer (Promo)
To Catch a Serial Killer launches Monday 13 September. Subscribe here.