As true crime storytelling goes, Exposed: The Case of Keli Lane is a fascinating yarn that sucks you in from the get-go.
Cameras are on hand as investigative journalists Caro Meldrum-Hanna and Elise Worthington take a 6 minute call from prisoner Keli Lane currently serving an 18 year prison sentence.
In 2011 she was convicted of the murder of her baby daughter Tegan, who disappeared after 21 year old Lane quietly gave birth to her, having amazingly kept it secret from family and friends (more on that later). But Lee claims she gave the baby to the father, a man who has never been found, and protested her innocence throughout.
As this 3 part investigative doco gets underway, Meldrum-Hanna has a vast array of jigsaw pieces: who was this champion water polo player at the age of 21; how did she keep her pregnancy secret; why did her parents not suspect anything wrong; what happened to the baby; and can she be trusted when she has been a “pathological liar?”
Meldrum-Hanna’s own journey across this trail of clues becomes the through-line here, including raw interviews with Lane’s parents -the mother Sandy Lane becomes a captivating character- to her sports coaches, friends, ex-boyfriends, former social services, police, coroner, prosecutor and judge. In cinéma vérité style, we are a fly on the wall to Meldrum-Hanna’s own reactions, doubts and surprises as she uncovers pieces of information.
The first episode paints a picture of an attractive 21 year old who drifted from relationship to relationship, with demanding parents and a pack-mentality of competitive blonde water polo players in Manly (most of whom refuse to speak). In a short spate of time there were 5 pregnancies, including 2 terminations, and births that were kept quiet and adopted out.
But when social service worker John Borovnik discovered her truth, including the unexplained disappearance of baby Tegan, it led to Lane’s downfall.
Socially, this story is full of tragedy. What drives a 21 year old pregnant young woman to feel so isolated that she cannot seek help from friends and family? It’s a question that coldly lingers for many of the interviewees filled with regret they did not speak up when their suspicions were raised.
Of course the real tragedy was entirely baby Tegan’s. But with no evidence of a body, no evidence of a homicide, no witnesses and no confession, such doubts make this ripe for documentary storytelling. Caro Meldrum-Hanna will uncover new information, new witnesses, and new confessions. That not only makes it compelling viewing, but it puts this on track for Walkley Award-contention.
Cameras are present at an extraordinarily early juncture in this investigation, which was a big leap of faith by the filmmakers. My only unanswered question is: why now, why this case? Surely there are hundreds of prisoners wanting an ABC investigation into their truth….
Nevertheless, the narrative is cleverly engrossing. If you loved Making a Murderer and The Jinx, this will have you hooked.
As mum Sandra Lane says, “Life is stranger than fiction.”
Exposed: The Case of Keli Lane 8:30pm Tuesday on ABC.