Ever since Making a Murderer, true crime exposes on Netflix seem to attract a lot of buzz. Tiger King anyone?
Many shed light on tales we have already heard about, but present them in such a way that they become episodic mysteries. It’s easy to sit back on the couch as someone trawls through facts, police records, photos and videos and teases with a cliffhanger.
Even better if the filmmakers uncover new evidence and reignite a real world investigation.
The latest is the 4 part series Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich.
This surrounds a name we’ve heard a lot about in recent years, especially given his famous friends & acquaintances including Prince Andrew, Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein and Bill Clinton.
Produced by Joe Berlinger (Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes), and directed by Lisa Bryant, the subject matter does not sit easily for the viewer: grooming. Billionaire Epstein was convicted of procuring an underage girl for prostitution and of soliciting a prostitute in 2005 in Florida. At the time of his apparent suicide in 2019 he was facing further charges for the sex trafficking of minors in Florida and New York.
This documentary includes survivors who detail how Epstein groomed them, as well as police who describe their investigations and neighbour, famed author James Patterson.
Amongst them is Annie Farmer who was 16 years old when Epstein crawled into bed with her in his Zorro Ranch in New Mexico. She didn’t tell anybody what happened that night until years later.
Her sister Maria also describes how she “escaped my body” when an incident took place at an Ohio mansion.
Much of the crimes detailed take place in Palm Beach, Florida.
Survivor Michelle Lacata is one of many who was paid to give him a massage, in what is revealed to be a chain of teen recruitment.
“I felt so used. I was like this dirty person. before Epstein I was something else… a flower opening up. Afterwards it was like somebody picked up the flower, plucked it from its roots, stomped on it and smashed it,” she recalls.
Shawna Rivera (pictured) was just 14 years old, living in the poor neighbourhood of West Palm, when she was recruited. Haley Robson, who rejected his advances, explains how at just 16 she was paid to bring other girls to his mansion, in a “sexual pyramid scheme.”
There are also accounts of how Epstein used his wealth and power to exert influence, including killing a Vanity Fair expose by journalist Vicky Ward.
But Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich needs to stand as more than a cautionary talk or history lesson. Given the extent of his crimes there is still a question of enablers.
Former associate Ghislane Maxwell denies all allegations, and has faced several civil suits. The series also plays police audio of interviews with former employees. Just how many knew of his crimes across the years?
As previous docos have shown, expect more scrutiny around Epstein’s former circle.
Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich starts today on Netflix.