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Journalist Donal MacIntyre on his new true-crime series



A ten-part original true-crime series, Released to Kill, is set to be released on CBS Justice (DStv channel 170) this February. In anticipation of its release, The South African spoke to Irish journalist and TV presenter Donal MacIntyre on how the criminals in this series, once released from prison, went on to kill innocent people – some in a matter of days.

Donal MacIntyre on Released to Kill

“In the UK we had a couple of pretty disturbing cases of criminals who were released,” explains Donal.

“When under investigation it was proved that these offenders should’ve never been released. Most of the offenders [in this series] had gone through the justice system. Some of them were convicted of murder. We wanted to ask why they killed innocent people and whether or not they could have been stopped.”

Examining terrifying murder cases

Donal says that the series explores some of these criminals in-depth and why they went on to kill after their release from prison.

“People who have killed before are supposed to be under day-to-day monitoring, intensive probation, and drug or alcohol tests. But, when one of these systems fail, you’ve got an offender who is either disturbed or is a psychopath. They will find a way to manipulate the systems and persuade the experts that they are safe. In most cases, they are not safe. In some cases they go on to kill three times.”

In each of the ten episodes, Donal and an expert panel examine the evidence and how much of a threat they believe the killer posed to society on the day they were released. They also take a look at how these factors were potentially overlooked to allow these murderous impulses to come to fruition.

“We talk to the families, witnesses, änd build a picture of the events. We also talk to psychiatrists, probation officers as we try to see if there were any red flags. The ultimate question is if a life could have been saved or not.”

donal macintyre's released to kill
TV presenter Donal MacIntyre. Image: Supplied

Joanna Dennehy and The Peterborough Ditch Murders

From looking at the story of Theodore Johnson in episode one to Ian Birley in episode four, the series will grip the true-crime series audience. Donal’s favourite episode is perhaps episode three which tells the story of Britain’s most notorious female serial killer, Joanna Dennehy.

“Dennehy killed three people in ten days after being released from prison,” Donal says of Dennehy who is currently serving a life term in prison. “As a female, she presents an interesting case. While most murders are usually by men against women, Dennehy murdered three men. She was very intelligent and comes from a military family. She had a very stable childhood, which makes this case even more unusual. We expect dangerous people to come from dysfunctional backgrounds.”

Tapping into the true-crime genre

Ever since the beginning of the pandemic, true-crime series has gripped audiences worldwide on television, in novels, and on podcasts.

Donal says that true-crime is a very expanding genre.

“It has always been a very fascinating genre. I am curious about the actions outside of the norm. I couldn’t imagine stabbing anybody, for instance, while for some people, it comes easy. It is a constant curiousity. People, in general, are very curious about people who do this. It is such a taboo that some people want to understand why.”

He believes that true-crime got more sophisticated over the years, with viewers becoming much more knowledgeable about the genre and some of the cases themselves.

“Your average true-crime viewer is much more knowledgable about forensics, the psychology, and the background of offenders,” says Donal.

“This particular series elevates the fact that not all killers are bad – but it is a little more sophisticated as some of the killers in this series have acute mental health issues- and should never have been allowed to be released from prison in the first place.”

Released to Kill premieres on CBS Justice (DStv 170) on Sunday, 13 February at 19:00.

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