Modelling Reeva’s Fall Behind the Door

Here’s the proof! Reeva Steenkamp fell to her left as she was shot, and what it means changes everything…by Nick van der Leek

When an eye doctor asks you to look at a chart, it’s first with one eye covered, then the other eye covered.  This is to make sure your vision is 20/20 in both eyes. The danger in seeing with both eyes at the same time, is that one might fill in details that aren’t actually there, but you think they are.

That’s what happened in this case. The analogy for looking at the chart of letters with both eyes is the crime scene, with Reeva’s blood explicitly dripping all over the toilet.

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The message, in scarlet letters is simple and obvious: Reeva died while sitting on the toilet/Reeva was found dead lying slumped over the toilet.

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Reeva Steenkamp [Toni Garrn] after being shot inside the cubicle, as presented in the 2017 film Blade Runner Killer.

In the analysis below, I cover one “eye” of the narrative, and then the other “eye”, before revealing an extraordinary new truth, and one that changes everything.

MUCH ADO ABOUT FLAWED “TWO-EYED” RECONSTRUCTIONS

Channel 7 did the first fully-fledged reconstruction of the entire crime scene when their exclusive documentary premiered on Australian television on Sunday July 6th, 2014. I remember that day because it was the coldest night of the year in South Africa, and I was recording a radio interview on my research into the Pistorius case that Sunday evening with OFM’s Johrne van Huysteen.

But Channel 7’s was hardly the only reconstruction. The first reconstruction wasn’t done by Channel 7, who got it from The Evidence Room [hired by Team Pistorius in October 2013].

The first reconstruction was done by the police.

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Note the toilet  door has been pieced together with the blood evidence still in place. The window blinds are down and the slats closed in this in situ reconstruction. The toilet cubicle light didn’t work. The lazer scanner is positioned approximately hip height, right beside the entrance wall to the bathroom. From this perspective, with the door open, the angle of the bullet through the door is difficult to appreciate.

In hindsight, we may not think much of it, but if the cops didn’t salvage the door, the planks, the detritus and fragments, if they didn’t confiscate the door and reassemble it, we might never have found out what really happened to Reeva behind the door.

If the cops accepted Oscar’s tears and his bullshit story, if they didn’t suspect Oscar to begin with, [and let’s face it, he was a beloved South African celebrity at the time] the precise mathematics recorded when 4 bullets zipped through those fibres may have been lost forever.

Arguably, the official Dolus Eventualis verdict handed down by the Supreme Court of Appeal in December 2015 confirms that we’re still in the dark not only about what happened and why, but we’re still no closer to knowing how Reeva was shot.

ANIMATION THE “HOLY GRAIL”

Through various narratives and lines of inquiry I’ve followed, I’ve endeavoured to change that, and I’m satisfied I’ve made progress in terms of providing insight into the why and the what of this case.

For some time, however, I’ve maintained that the Holy Grail in this case was to animate the scene using the precise mathematics – the geometry of angles and trajectories – and matching these to the autopsy evidence, and allowing the science of gravity and falling bodies to colour in the rest.

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An authentic, high quality render would reveal the pace of the shots, and precisely how Reeva reacted to them and where she came to rest in the cubicle.

Intuitively I’ve always felt Reeva did not land with her head on the toilet, as per Oscar’s and Mangena’s versions.

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“Intuitively” may sound wishy washy, but it’s that same instinctive “gut-feel” that drove the cops to remove the door from its hinges, collect the planks and splinters, and test the evidence against Oscar’s version of events.  They could just as easily have taken Oscar’s word for it, just as Masipa did. So don’t be too quick to dismiss intuition.

Despite my intuitions, and despite sketching the scene, researching the trajectories, and making a few forays into hiring animators, I never finalised my research into this area.  I thought I would deal with it, finally, once Oscar’s sentence was finalised prompting the final narrative [Justice Eventualis]. And I guess that’s ultimately what’s happened.  I have tested these intuitions to completion within the context of the Justice Eventualis story. But I was offered, serendipitously, a new angle on these issues via a completely different trial playing out while the Pistorius case was coming to its end.

FRESH IMPETUS FROM THE VAN BREDA CASE

It was while sitting in on the Van Breda case in November 2017 that a fresh idea took root. I was watching the 23-year-old triple murder accused modelling his testimony in court, on a man the prosecutor claimed was about the same height as Henri’s phantom.

That’s when the thought occurred to me: why not do the same thing in the Pistorius case?  Why stop at the door and the trajectories when the most important part of the scene – Reeva – isn’t there. Everything about the Pistorius case is about trying to re-envision Reeva, so why not do so in the most critical part of the crime scene – the cubicle?  Why not have a real person, a model of similar height, stand in behind the door for the murdered model? Why not use the cosmos of angles and lines and see how they lined up not only with the impressions on the opposite wall of the cubicle, but the wounds as per the autopsy?

One may say that Mangena already did that. Yes he did, through description. I want to do that through a practical demonstration, much as Galloway did with Henri and her model. The difference is, Galloway wished to discredit Henri’s phantom, whereas I wish to turn Pistorius’ nameless and shapeless burglar back into 29-year-old Reeva Steenkamp. She was, after all, behind the door, and she died, not some burglar.

Besides lining up the trajectories with Reeva’s injuries as they appear in the autopsy photos, I want to probe an area that’s missing from Pistorius’ story, from the state’s case and from the SCA’s judgment. How did Reeva fall, behind the door? What was the kinetics of it? What did the motion look and feel like – to her?

Does it matter? My intuition tells me that Reeva needed to move in order for her wounds to be inflicted where they were. And so, what does that mean?  I’m not sure, but I suspect it means something. Will this exercise dislodge any new insights, will any new secrets stubbornly hidden in the murk be revealed? All I can do is try and see…

SETTING UP THE CRIME SCENE

Again, taking impetus out of the Van Breda case, I decided to set up the crime scene in my garage. I’d already compiled a scaled blueprint of the crime scene in order to figure out exactly where Oscar was standing. Using measurements provided by police ballistics expert Chris Mangena, and using the Mollett’s research as a reference, I bought a standard door, I traced the dimensions of the cubicle 1.4 metres x 1.3 metres] on the garage floor, and I measured out bullets A, B, C and D on the door.

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Wooden door with scaled printout of bullet holes attached.

In order to be as accurate as possible:

  1. I made a colour print out of the most verisimilar photograph of the door, and scaled it up to real size. When I placed this photo over the door, I placed a small piece of wood the size of a pencil through the cubicle size of the door and noted where it punctured on the bathroom side of the door. The holes already drilled into the wood as per crime scene measurements perfectly matched the holes in the image.1-IMG_6282
  2. The angle of the holes through the 4 centimetre wide door had to be accurate as well. These angles were verified using data from the laser scanner used by the state, Oscar height on his stumps while holding a gun and his arms outstretched, and linking the holes in the door to the appropriate muzzle height at a distance of approximately 220 centimetres.
  3. Throughout the setup crime scene images were referenced in order to follow the “spirit” of the crime scene. Beside the downward and obtuse angle of the trajectory, the door is also located at the precise dimensions as it did in the toilet cubicle.

In terms of the 4 bullet holes I used the following data sets.

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Precise measurements of ballistics through the toilet door. Image courtesy Calvin and Thomas Mollett, Oscar vs The Truth.

A is the lowest of the 4 shots, at 93.5 centimetres from the ground, and 34 cm to the right of the left edge of the door. A hit Reeva in her right hip. A is the only bullet of the 3 that struck Reeva to be completely absorbed by Reeva’s body.

B is the highest of the 4 shots, at 104.3cm from the ground, and 13 cm to the right of A, or 47 centimetres from the left edge of the door. B was the only bullet of the 4 to miss Reeva completely and smash into the tiled wall and ricochet into the opposite wall. The damage to the wall inflicted by bullet B is used as a background image for the cover of Justice Eventualis.

C is lower than B, at 99.4 centimetres from the ground, but slightly higher than A. C is spaced equidistant from B as B is from A [.i.e. 13 centimetres]. C struck Reeva on the front of her right forearm, slightly above the elbow area.

A fragment of C sliced clean through the right side of Reeva’s black shirt yet missed her torso underneath. 3 fragments – presumably from C – were all found in the area of the magazine rack, where the talons separated as they tore through Reeva’s arm.

Given the volcanic opening on the back side of Reeva’s right arm, one would expect an eruption of flesh, a spray of tissue and meat, to paint the rear wall of the cubicle behind her arm. Yet there is no blood spatter directly behind her indicative of this.

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Notice the absence of any blood spatter from the bullet wounds to the arm on the wall above the magazine rack [brown rectangle]. There are only three possibilities to account for this: either the splatter was wiped away, or the arm was in front of the body causing the blood spatter to land on the vest [but still allow the bullet fragment to pass through without penetrating the torso – unlikely, or a combination of both.

D appears to be a minor variation of C, since it is just 5 centimetres to the right [B is to the right of A, C to the right of B and D to the right of C]. D is 97.3 centimetres from the ground, and 16 centimentres from the right edge of the door frame.  Of the 3 bullets, D is the closest bullet in height to A, but still slightly higher. D sliced through Reeva’s left hand, near the index finger, and then penetrated and exited her skull.  A fragment of bullet D remained in Reeva’s skull while another smashed through the other side. No spray of brain fragments – of the volume one would expect – is evident on the ball behind D either.

In effect, after wounding Reeva at A, the lowest shot of the 4, all subsequent shots were higher, starting with B which was too high, and then “modifying” to the more accurate C, and D, which were also both higher than A and both lower than B.  C and D effectively were “averages” of A and B, which implies “modification” or aiming.

INTRODUCING THE MODEL

Reeva was short for a model at just 1.71 metres. Her gutsy determination got her into the door with Ice Models, a trait we tend to forget in the text of this crime, and the crime scene itself. Reeva not only had plucky resolve, she was physically fit and not afraid of opposition.

After my first-choice – a slim matriculant – cancelled at short notice, citing the death of her grandfather [no joke], I asked my sister to stand-in. She’s 1.74 metres, so 3 centimetres taller than Reeva, but close enough.

I had my sister look at the autopsy images herself and then draw bullet holes on her right thigh, right arm and left hand. I also showed her the idiosyncrasies of the right side of the magazine rack “tower” [facing away from the toilet], and matched it to a bruise with a tail in the autopsy images, evident on Reeva’s right buttock.

Note the idiosyncrasies of the original magazine rack were not precisely duplicated in the model provided in court, in the reconstructed cubicle. This proved to be a costly oversight.

I showed her how the nicks on Reeva’s spine were also inflicted by the flaring of the right side of the magazine rack tower as Reeva fell against the magazine rack.

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Image courtesy Calvin and Thomas Mollett, Oscar vs The Truth.

Reeva’s fall against the magazine rack was the “sound of wood moving” Oscar spoke so often about in court, the sound he claimed was “someone coming out to attack me.”

Since she’s an architecture graduate, my sister is pretty good with angles, measurements and three dimensions. But the head wound is tricky, so I applied a toothpick, which I attached with sellotape over her hair at the appropriate angle and on the top, right side of her head.

To make the hip wound explicit, I gave my sister a piece of double sided tape, with one side of the adhesive exposed while leaving the bright blue surface as a marker. She then attached the marker to the outside of the grey Nike shorts I gave her. She also wore a sleeveless black top, though more figure hugging than the one Reeva wore on the night she died. And like Reeva, she was barefoot.

LINING IT UP

Once in the demarcated cubicle behind the door, I placed two white buckets inside to represented the toilet. This quickly limited the already limited space, and without telling my sister, she sought to avoid standing or sitting on the upturned buckets. Reeva likely did the same in terms of the toilet.

I handed my sister my phone. When I inserted a rod through Bullet A, it lined up perfectly with the hip wound. I took a photo at this point, showing that Reeva stood no more than a foot from the toilet door.

This was also more than enough space for her to be close to the door while holding up her phone in her right hand.

Bullet B, the only bullet that missed, was a lot more difficult to illustrate than Bullet A.  Although it lined up with the opposite wall, the difficultly lay in freezing Reeva’s movement at the time B flew through the door and smashed into the wall behind her. This difficulty was because Reeva was off-balance when the bullet flew harmlessly over her right shoulder. If Reeva remained in the same position she was in when A hit her, B would have sliced through the mid right section of her abdomen.

In order to have my sister in the right position, I gave her a large, purple Pilates ball to sit on. She needed to move slightly to her right, and back, and sit down on the ball in order to avoid the rod completely.

To reiterate: If she remained in the same position as she was when A struck her, B would have struck her in the middle to right of her abdomen. It may seem a small point, but Reeva was not static after being hit by the first bullet. Besides her movement, bullet B also gives us some indication of a pause between bangs A and B. The rod for B was inserted to its full length until it “hit” the wall behind her, immediately ricocheting against the adjacent wall.

For Bullet C, I inserted a small black table from my own bathroom, situated opposite my toilet, in the reconstructed toilet. It’s approximately the same height, but obviously it doesn’t hold magazines, and unlike the original magazine rack, this small table allows one to sit on it. In order for C to line up with my sister’s arm, she needed to be in an almost-sitting position on the magazine rack.

Let me explain what I mean by “almost-sitting”. Firstly, she is low enough on the magazine rack to be “sitting” on it, thus dislodging it, but only half of her is actually sitting on it [based on the bruise-impression].

This also suggests that Reeva’s back and head are almost in line with the rear wall of the cubicle as well. This stands to reason – in order for her to be sitting anywhere on the magazine rack, she needed to have fallen all the way back to the rear wall of the cubicle.

This suggests that prior to firing the third bullet, Reeva had already stumbled against the magazine rack, perhaps kicking it with the heel of her left foot as she fell backward, or falling onto it and prompting the wood to screetch and/or judder against the floor, thus alerting Oscar – in the pause after B – to her position.

In addition, Reeva likely screamed in agony after bullet A, and ironically, the scream that saved her [or alerted others to her plight] might have also doomed her, as the shooter was able to track her movement behind the door to the right from just 2 metres away.

Oscar knew his own home just as we know ours. So any sound from the magazine rack would have told him, a practised sharp shooter, exactly where Reeva was.

A final point to note about Bullet C – in order for the bullet to pierce her arm and pierce her shirt yet miss her torso, Reeva had to have turned slightly to her left. In other words, away from the toilet. While my sister’s shirt was skin-tight, Reeva’s was more baggy, and Reeva’s torso also had the classic hourglass shape which allowed a fragment to penetrate the shirt and yet miss her midriff.

Reeva’s motion behind the door now emerges as a rapid downward and [in terms of Reeva behind the door] right to left motion. This motion is in keeping with the width between Bullet A and B, and also Reeva’s ability to “dodge” B.

You will recall the distance at the door from A to B is 13 centimetres, ditto from B to C, making a total of 26 centimentres or ¼ of a metre. Remember the width of the cubicle from toilet wall to the opposite wall is 1.4 metres. [We’ll ignore for the moment that because of the toilet inside, that distance – the distance Reeva had to move from right to her left is actually less than 1 metre].

So the fan-shape of four bullets penetrating the door is 1/5th the width of the cubicle, or ¼ the width Reeva had to move in [taking the toilet space out of the equation].  However on the other side of the door the distance between bullets A and D is greater, closer to half a metre.

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This is the view of the bullet trajectories from Reeva’s perspective – i.e. from behind the door. Notice the “fan” shape, indicating a very wide area of impact.

This means – effectively – that after Reeva was hit with the first bullet, she had to move from the point a foot away from the door where she sustained A in the hip, 1 metre backwards and half a metre to her left in order to be wounded on the right side of her head: Bullet D.

Reeva was struck by Bullet D as she was still falling. The impressions on Reeva’s spine are at a slightly off vertical angle, meaning the upper nick is almost in line with Reeva’s vertebra, while the lower nick is to Reeva’s right. If Reeva was falling down against the magazine rack, the lower nick would have inflicted first, followed by the higher. The crucial aspect here is that the higher wound is also slightly to the right, meaning as Reeva approached the ground, she was still moving towards her left [away from the toilet]. Let’s look at that image again, but more carefully and more closely this time.

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Image courtesy Calvin and Thomas Mollett, Oscar vs The Truth.

We can also see the height of the two wounds to her spine correspond to the height of the sharp flaring off the magazine rack, and the type of notches in the skin correspond to the beaked protrusion of the wood flaring.

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The Mollett’s were right that these injuries were made from wood, and not as the defense claimed, from bullet fragments bouncing off the wall. However, they weren’t made by the cricket bat but by the magazine rack.

In my experiment, even though my sister is 3 centimentres taller than Reeva, she was still some distance off the ground when Bullet D struck the skull. I had to place a rolled up yoga mat under her in order to achieve the right height. Again, Bullet D and Bullet C were undoubtedly fired AS REEVA STRUCK THE MAGAZINE RACK.

Further, there had to have been a pause after Bullet A in order to allow Reeva to fall backwards, approximately one metre, and for Bullet B [which was well to the right of Bullet A] to miss her.

Since Bullet C was the same distance to the right as Bullet B, the only reason it struck Reeva was because it [and D] was fired quicker after Reeva passed the “starting line” of B’s trajectory, compared to A.  How much quicker?

Gravitational acceleration is 9.80665 m/s.

Reeva’s height is 1.71 metres, and she was shot in the hip at a height of approximately 1 metre. Bullets C and D were fired at a height of roughly 1 metre as well, but with a 5 degree downward trajectory. So how long did it take for Reeva to fall from 1.71 metres in order for her head to align with a bullet below 1 metre?  How long did it take her to fall 800 mm [0.8 metres]?

If she was free-falling, Reeva would have achieved a speed of 3.96 metres per second, and taken 0.4 seconds to fall from a standing position until her buttocks hit the ground.  But she wasn’t freefalling. She fell backwards one metre, and sideways about half a metre, as well as down 0.8 metres.

Falling backwards to the right height would require a [not vertical] distance of 1.2 metres, and taken close to half a second. But if she fell straight down she’d still be out of the trajectory range for Bullet D. To get to D, she also has to fall half a metre to the right.

This suggests that there is something impeding the free fall, besides her left leg which still provides limited heft and mobility.   Obviously, the magazine rack also impeded Reeva’s fall, which is why the bruise appears on her right buttock, and the nicks against her spine.

This bruise was also noted in the autopsy summary sketch, it just wasn’t sketched very well.

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Notice the autopsy image sketch records the bulb of the bruise to the right buttock, but leaves out the tail to the right, left by the magazine rack.Image courtesy Calvin and Thomas Mollett, Oscar vs The Truth.

Since I’m not a genius in geometry, and since the algorithm has now becomes complex, what we can say is that Reeva’s fall from A to D is interrupted by landing on the magazine rack, which delays her fall but allows the shooter to track her [Bullet C].

Since there are effectively “two falls”, from the door onto the magazine rack, and from the magazine rack off it, we may assume 2 x 0.5 second drops. We’re still left with “only” a second. Except we’ve left out another equation: reaction time.

Reaction time is easy to leave out of the equation, simply because we know all the other metrics except the most important one: Reeva. What was this experience like for her? What would it be like for you? If a bullet struck you, out of the blue, would you immediately know what to do, or instantly move? It may stand to reason, but even the world’s most reactionary people – 100 metre track sprinters – even when primed to respond to a shot, take time to react.

The best Olympians in the world have a reaction time of 0.15 seconds. Since Reeva, I believe, was alarmed and thus “primed” for an emergency, we can assume the first shot triggered an immediate movement. Not just falling back, but to her left, away from Bullet A and B. This is why C and D needed to modify to track her, to the right.

The total time between Bullet A and D is estimated at around 1.5 to 2 seconds. That is an eternity when it comes to firing 4 bullets. It averages out to around two bullets per second, or 1 bullet every half second. But the four bullets weren’t fired in one burst, there was a pause at B, resulting in a miss. In that pause, I believe, lies Dolus Directus; the intent to shoot again after a moment’s reflection and recalibration.  Had the prosecution done the math, and had the judge had an appreciation for mathematics, the entire trial could have been reduced to a time-stamped algorithm.

This could also have been demonstrated via a real-time to-scale geometrically-verisimilar animation.

THE MISSING AUTOPSY TESTIMONY

None of the insights or reconstructions could have been achieved without the autopsy evidence, and obviously, that narrative is excised out of the trial testimony and for that matter, the media coverage.  It is this gaping hole, where one can join the dots through the door to Reeva’s wounds and to the ricochet off the rear wall, that allows one to really understand what it was like for Reeva behind the door.  No wonder Oscar smashed down the door the first chance he had. The door represents a vital link that allows us to reconstitute this crime in a way that few other high-profile crimes do.

In the Channel 7 reconstruction, ditto the Mollett’s, I noticed a plank was easily smashed out almost immediately. With one plank out it’s easy to unlock the door. So why did Oscar go on smashing until the entire door was smithereens?

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Well, because there were four bullet holes to get rid of. The holes could not only show where Reeva was standing, and moving as she was shot, but also where Oscar was standing.

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Oscar claimed the key was on the floor, this is why he had to smash the rest of the door down – so he could get to it.  But if you’ve dislodged a plank, what’s easier – to smash down a door or to reach in with the plank and move the key closer.

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Also, shouldn’t the key have fallen onto Reeva, if it fell, and if it did, if it was on the floor, wouldn’t it be covered in blood [it wasn’t].

WHAT IT MEANS

The main takeout from this experiment wasn’t to try to assess the period between A and D, although that remains a vital piece of data missing from this case.  No, the reconstruction was intended to test the intuition that if Reeva was moving to her left, away from the toilet, and landed on the wrong side of the magazine rack, on the ground, while falling to her left, how could she have changed direction and ended up with her arm and head over the toilet bowl?

Additionally, if she had landed with the centre of her body in line with the far side of the magazine rack, could she still have slumped over onto the toilet? The answer is unquestionably no.

Irrespective of which direction Reeva was falling in, any situation where she was sitting on the floor would have made “slumping” over the toilet impossible. You can try it at home. Sit next to your toilet, and try to press your right ear to the toilet seat, and then when you relax, come to rest in this position. The position only be achieved, temporarily, if one is around 15-20 centimentres from the toilet, with nothing in-between.  But the magazine rack was there!

According to the state Reeva lay over the magazine rack with her head on the toilet seat. Everyone seemed to make the same mistake, assuming the blood evidence on the seat was the finishing line, and thus, trying to get Reeva to that finishing line.

My experiment demonstrates that Reeva fell the other way, so that her head and torso faced towards the wall opposite the toilet [the wall towards which she fell from the commencement of Bullet A].

If Reeva fell to the left, where’s the blood? Why are there planks in this area? And why are there no large splodges of blood behind Reeva, against the wall, where the black talon made scarlet sprays of Reeva’s tissue, both from her head and her arm?

The answer is that some artefacts of this blood evidence do remain on the walls, on this side.

So – how did Reeva’s blood end up on and in the toilet bowl?

The only logical explanation, as I see it, is that when faced with the holocaust inside the cubicle, the accused immediately went to word minimising it.  He had to make it look less bad than it did, and that meant getting rid of red paint on the walls, and on the floor. If he was going to claim Reeva went to the toilet, then she also needed to lay over the toilet, not on the wrong side of it.

How would it look if Reeva’s shot dead, and found like this? It would imply [correctly], that she wasn’t using the toilet, and if she wasn’t using it, how could it be an accident?

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The state wrongly assumed that there was an innocent explanation for the light blood spatter on the magazine rack. This blood dripped from Reeva’s hair as she was hoisted over the bowl, and her blood from the wound on the right side of her head, and arm, allowed to drain directly into the bowl. There was also a flush to get rid of it, and perhaps to get rid of some pieces of wood too.

This is why there is barely one Coke can’s worth of blood in the cubicle and just outside of it.

If the idea of sanitising the crime scene seems extreme, consider that in no crime scene photos are there any clear foot or stump prints – in blood – leading to or away from the crime scene.  Why not?

Surely if Oscar beat down the door, picked Reeva up, was covered in her blood [so much so that he washed it off his hands and chest], surely he stepped in her blood at some stage? But he didn’t. Those prints should be there but they aren’t. 

There are no bloody stump prints in the passage of the carpet, in the bathroom, down the stairs, in the fabric of the carpet of Oscar’s bedroom, which he needed to navigate to go downstairs [while carrying Reeva].  So where are those bloody prints?

What happens when we put a real model behind the door?

Where is the remorse in someone who pretends someone is alive when they aren’t, and cleans up a crime scene moments after killing someone?

What happens when the real person re-emerges behind the door is that her murder is no longer trivialised. The opposite of minimising, or intentionally underestimating someone, is highlighting and emphasising who they were, and what happened to them.  Only when we do that is the true nature of the crime made manifest.

2016 was good to us

#Shakedown will continue working hard to unravel some of the highest-profile crimes in the world in 2017.

Nick and I started this venture into true crime writing in 2014 as two curious people on opposite ends of the planet trying to figure out who the other Oscar Pistorius was; not the one burbling in court, the other one.

In three years we’ve written thirteen books to that end, eight covering the trial as it unfolded, two covering the appeal [which we both attended] and three covering the sentencing [which Nick attended]. Did we succeed in exposing the Other Oscar?

In 2017 Nick will appear in a documentary that covers the unanswered questions that still linger in that case.  Unanswered questions are our specialty.  We believe with enough resolve, all can be brought to light.

What has surprised us as authors is just how much information is buried in plain sight, and further, how much more can be found when one scratches just below the surface.

We believe we’ve found a golden thread where many other narratives either simply rehash news stories or get lost in minutiae, or simply go off track following a tangent to its illogical conclusion.

“There is nothing worse for the lying soul, than the mirror of reality”..Steve Maraboli… The White Horse trilogy, (written with penetrating insight by Nick and Lisa) explodes into our consciousness revealing the reality of the tangled web of lies that remained after the trial of Oscar Pistorius … This tragedy is truly a mirror, blinding in its fractured and splintered reflections revealing the emptiness behind a mask… Brilliant!

In an incredibly short span of time, people from around the world have found value in our deep drilling interrogations.  Our aim has been to create authentic narratives, and to go further than the definitive accounts do in uncovering powerful insights and exposing the clear psychological patterns driving these cases.

Where others concede defeat, do we come up with brand new explanations that integrate all the data in a credible fashion?  Our readers have quickly become just as obsessed as we are with our thorough interrogations, and as a result, our work has been all consuming. It consumes our energies and our readers quickly become addicted to the “no holds barred” quality of it.


Our 20 highlights from 2016:

  1. #Shakedown published 18 books this year covering the cases of:  Steven Avery, OJ Simpson, Oscar Pistorius and JonBenét Ramsey.
  2. Nick added three more books to his popular series of mountain narratives with the release of Neverest II and III, as well as his narrative focusing on the tragedy at K I I.
  3. By March, our books regularly started making the bestsellers list.
  4. Juice, published on March 6, was a #1 bestseller consistently for more than 4 weeks straight.
  5. Ten of our books would go on to be #1 bestsellers by the end of 2016.
  6. On May 20, #Shakedown launched its website.
  7. On June 17, only one month later, we got 41,334 hits in a single day.   The story that inspired so many people to visit our site was the publishing of Reeva Steenkamp’s crime scene photos.  On June 16, Barry Steenkamp, Reeva’s father, pleaded with Judge Masipa to let the world see what Oscar had done to her.  He asked, we answered, and the world responded.
  8. Nick spent three days at the High Court in Pretoria for Oscar’s sentencing.  While there, Nick met privately with Gerrie Nel and Andrea Johnson to provide a tip. He also had a chance to briefly reunite with Barry and June.   From that experience, three additional Oscar narratives titled White Horse were conceived.
  9. Also in June, we collaborated with Beth Karas regarding Oscar’s manipulation of the crime scene.  That interview achieved over 1,000 views in just a few short days.
  10. Beth would join us again in the fall for a discussion about JonBenét Ramsey.
  11. Additional interviews and podcasts included discussions with Leonard Carr, Dr. Lillian Glass and the Mollett brothers.
  12. After months of research, on September 13, we published our first book on JonBenét titled The Craven Silence.
  13. Three weeks later, on October 5, the top news site in Australia interviewed us about our work on the JonBenét case.  Their article was then picked up by numerous other sites not only in Australia but also in New Zealand and parts of Europe.
  14. Since that time, we’ve published two complete trilogies on America’s most famous unsolved case – a total of six books with three more in the pipeline.   For both Nick and I, this case has been by far the most challenging, most emotionally draining, and rewarding thus far  In 2017, we’ll be visiting Boulder to bring you more on this story.
  15. Smack dab in the middle of our JonBenét work, Nick was approached by a producer he’d met in Pretoria back in June.  That producer will soon be completing a documentary about Oscar.
  16. Of the eighteen books published this year, two I haven’t mentioned yet are Nick’s solo works:  Hot Water, the story of Michael Phelps, and White Privilege, a fascinating and scathing interrogation of race in South Africa.
  17. To date, our most reviewed books are Deceit [67], Neverest [45], Audacity [44], Dark Matter [28], Fool’s Paradise [18] and The Craven Silence [18].  Recidivist Acts, which was an assemblage of both published and unpublished investigative magazine and newspaper articles covering Oscar Pistorius, has the highest average review rating of 4.8/5.
  18. On December 18th we reached a new milestone in Kindle pages read in a single day – 9964 pages read over a 24 hour period.
  19. Nick also signed an exclusive publishing contract for his Bloodline fantasy fiction in November 2016 with an American publisher.
  20. I’ll leave you with one more statistic.  I’m sure our loyal readers will appreciate this one.  The book that wins the award for most F-bombs goes to Juice.  Nick and I tore it up with a whopping 47!

We have a lot of really exciting stuff planned for you in 2017.  In addition to our continued narratives on JonBenét, Oscar and OJ, we’ll be tackling the upcoming murder trial of Robert Durst. robert-durst

Durst will be in court in Los Angeles early in the year, while CBS slugs it out in an epic $750 million lawsuit against Burke Ramsey.  The cases of Oscar Pistorius and Steven Avery are still ongoing.  And what is Jodi Arias up to?

If there are books you want to read that we haven’t written yet, leave a comment and perhaps we’ll bump some up or down the schedule based on your feedback.

A good year starts with a commitment from all of us to simply be better. Things change gradually and along a prescribed continuum.

Goodness –> Greatness –> Great Balls of Fire!

We hope our work continues to inspire you wherever you are on your road to greatness.

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New Releases

BLOOD & SEAWATER  Blood and Seawater

Available on Amazon

Why was Laci Peterson murdered?

When was Laci Peterson murdered?

How exactly did Scott Peterson dump her body without anyone seeing him?

Even after the landmark court case, the prosecution and the jury couldn’t say exactly what happened, when or how, so what did happen?

Scott Peterson was convicted of first-degree, premeditated double murder. Trawling through the extended backstory of this fifteen-year-old case, the author finds obscure pieces to a familiar puzzle and contextualizes all the available information: court records, interviews, media reports, police reports, evidence, court exhibits, weather and ocean patterns. 

Within this paradigm the author shines the sharpest spotlight yet on the man who sits on San Quentin’s death row, awaiting his fate. Van der Leek recontextualizes the case, repeating two simple questions throughout:

How could Laci be taken advantage of? 

What was there to take?

As investigative photojournalist Nick van der Leek builds his case, it leads inexorably to a much darker question:

When did Scott Peterson start to plan Laci’s, and her unborn son’s, murder and disposal? 

Blood & Seawater dredges the grotesque mosaic of forces, circumstances and conveyors that lured Scott Peterson to the Dark Side, and ultimately, to murder Laci Peterson.


JUSTICE EVENTUALIS  Screen Captures6

Available on Amazon

After five years it may seem all has been said and done on this case. Far from it. In his final narrative, true crime mastermind Nick van der Leek finally places the last pieces of the puzzle on the board. 

What precisely happened in the cubicle? Where was Reeva standing and how did she fall when she was shot? 

Van der Leek’s research potentially turns the entire case on its head – because his version, supported by forensic evidence and the autopsy photos, do not match the state’s version, the Mollett’s research, nor Oscar’s.

So – what does that mean?

Justice Eventualis is the 14th and last book, effectively the last word, on the Oscar Pistorius saga.

The author provides an in-depth review and analysis of the controversial Blade Runner Killer film. What did the film get right, what was wrong, and most unexpected of all, who was their source?

Besides digging into Oscar and Reeva’s backstories for the last time, the author provides the first extensively transcribed transcript – and commentary – of the defining SCA appeal of November 3rd, 2017. He discloses a few private, behind-the-scenes moments that transpired beyond the gaze of the television cameras. He also attended the final episode, the SCA verdict on December 3rd in person, one of a handful of journalists to do so. 

In his overview of South Africa’s highest profile criminal case, the author goes further than any other narrative, to find out what really happened that hot and humid Valentine’s night in Bushwillow Crescent.

How did Reeva Steenkamp die, and why?


DIABLO:  VAN BREDA  Fullscreen capture 20171103 105615 PM

Available on Amazon

What devilry hides in plain sight? 

What lies buried in the details, something not quite right?

True crime maestro Nick van der Leek sat in on Henri van Breda’s testimony-in-chief on Halloween 2017, as well as the state’s multi-day cross-examination. By sitting at arm’s length of the accused and the state prosecutor, Van der Leek absorbs a smorgasbord of direct, first-hand insights beyond the range of the live feed cameras.

Who is the strange young man at the centre of this trial, accused of murdering his own flesh and blood with an axe?

Van der Leek performs another meticulous analysis, this time casting an intuitive net over the accused’s marathon testimony. 

He deals with the young Van Breda recounting that terrible January night in 2015, distilling all the key micro expressions, idiosyncrasies and crucial body language the 23-year-old heir leaks while on the stand.

Van der Leek lays these out in scrupulous detail, showing where blocks of time don’t fit or are added, seemingly ex post facto. Besides a number of critical contradictions, the author also highlights a fascinating key “tell” in the accused’s court room poker game of poker.

Are there any instances of duping delight?

The author’s deep dive cross-references the police statement to the plea explanation to Van Breda’s testimony. It plumbs even greater detail than the state prosecutor, but ultimately reinforces many of Susan Galloway’s original arguments.

“A serious problem with Henri’s version of events, both in terms of the police statement and his – far more vague – plea explanation, is that the timeline doesn’t seem to add up.”

In the end, Van der Leek’s experience in the courtroom provides a chilling and at times, terrifying analysis.

“If Henri didn’t love his family then he hated and murdered them. And it’s Henri who gives us this most macabre detail of all, a detail he didn’t need to give, but gives us anyway: that whoever butchered his family, did so while laughing…”

And:

“If one entertains the worst case scenario in this terrible story, the question becomes: what primary driving force could there possibly be to hate one’s own flesh and blood, enough to want to dispatch each in turn with an axe, and then revel in their suffering afterwards?”

They say God is in the details, but what about the Devil?


INDEFENSIBLE: VAN BREDA    INDEFENSIBLE VAN BREDA Cover - CURRENT

Available on Amazon

Is he guilty? Did Henri van Breda butcher his family to death with an axe? Indefensible skirts around simple questions and obvious answers in search of deeper, darker secrets. Why? What is the operative psychology shadow-boxing in that subliminal, out of sight place?

What’s hidden in plain sight that no one can see?

How does one defend the indefensible? Who are those involved in defending the indefensible, and what are their motivations? Why defend the indefensible to begin with? 

Investigative photojournalist Nick van der Leek, fresh from a triumphant run dealing with the enormous JonBenét Ramsey and Madeleine McCann archives, now brings his true crime scalpel to bear on home soil. He brings prescient insight into the distortions of the infamous trial heard in Keerom Street, Cape Town, the latter described evocatively as a kind of “Diagon Alley” of courtroom intrigue.

As for Van Breda: 

Who is he? 
What motive could he possibly have? 
What riddle is revealed behind the emergency call “chuckle”, and what is the answer to the riddle?
What value is there in prognosticating on a case before the verdict?

Using techniques honed through countless true crime interrogations, Van der Leek meticulously transcribes the infamous emergency call for the first time, performing a second by second analysis. 

In each instance links are provided to actual material, including up-to-the-second audio clips, court documents, case-relevant images, police statements, media coverage, social media commentary and highlights of the actual testimony.

Beyond the analysis, filtering, timelines, cross-referencing, his synthesis of an integrated psychology, Van der Leek encountered a mysterious man in black in Court 1, and the plot thickened…


EXTRADITION:  Third Trial and Conviction  1-Fullscreen capture 20170826 123540 AM-002

Available on Amazon

Extradition, the sixth book in Shakedown’s ongoing series, exposes a new narrative in the Amanda Knox case, one that none have definitively dealt with in great detail: The Nencini appeal in Florence. At a time when Knox and Sollecito were both earning multiple millions for their stories, the stakes of the Nencini appeal could not have been higher for everyone.

On Valentine’s Day in 2013, the prosecution in Perugia, Italy challenged Amanda Knox’s acquittal in court. Two days later Knox announced her book deal to the world. On March 26th , 2013, the re-appeal was granted. The proceedings ran for eleven court days over three months: from the end of September 2013 to January 2014. During this period Knox played a cat and mouse game, first declaring herself committed and willing to see justice done, and to have her day in court. But as the trial approached, Knox admitted she was afraid of the Italian authorities who’d supposedly abused her previously. Raffaele Sollecito did the same, eventually appearing in court yet he was not willing to testify. The morning after the verdict was announced, Knox appeared on Good Morning America while Sollecito disappeared. When police found him he was 25 miles away from the border of Slovenia. They confiscated his passport and “reminded” him of the court’s instruction that he was to remain in Italy. When Knox was asked if she’d co-operate with extradition, she demurred.

Extradition covers the maze craft beyond the walls of Perugia, and the extradition treaties between the U.S. and Italy. It delves into never before, or seldom seen, transcripts of Knox’s first and original conversations with her parents. Many have been transcribed and analysed in their entirety by the authors for the first time. 

The value of this narrative is in exposing the extraordinary maze that surrounds this enormous case, as it penetrates walls, scales the colossal mountain of evidence files and breaks down mirrors that have confuddled so many others. What lies at the center of the maze? What key is needed to unlock the labyrinth? For the first time, terrifying truths, thus far hidden by smoke and mirrors, entirely untouched until now, are revealed in gruesome detail. 


FOXY KNOXY FIGHTS BACK:  Second Trial and Acquittal Foxy Knoxy book cover

Available on Amazon

The fifth Shakedown narrative addressing the Amanda Knox case examines what precisely caused Mignini to lose. Besides the prosecution dropping the ball, something was brewing in the ether that allowed the defense to successfully apply tremendous pressure.

What was it?

The Shakedown team exposes this “machinery”, and explains just how well coordinated and cleverly orchestrated Knox’s defense effort was, even down to the outfits Knox and Sollecito wore on each trial day in 2010 and 2011.

The Foxy Knoxy narrative deals once and for all with the myth that her avatar was an innocent artefact of childhood cynically picked up by the media, and distorted, rather than actively inhabited by Foxy Knoxy herself.

The narrative also offers legal analysis for how, in hindsight, the prosecutor could have won one of the most notorious cases ever to pass through Italy’s legal meat grinder.

Perhaps the most significant insight is a new prism the authors shift into place, which brings not only the lives of Knox and Sollecito into sharp focus, but touchingly, Meredith Kercher’s as well.


DESPICABLE:  First Trial and Conviction 1-Fullscreen capture 20170622 065623 PM (1)

Available on Amazon

Ten years after her cruel and excruciating exit out of this world, can anyone say what the motive was for the murder of Meredith Kercher?

In DECEIT, DARK MATTER and UNDER SUSPICION, van der Leek and Wilson examined the immediate aftermath, and year that followed, of the crime that appalled Perugia, and the world. Fast forward to 2009, and the Shakedown team has taken a front row seat in Perugia’s halls of justice for the most globally talked about trial in history.

The American media, and Knox-supporters, touted there’s no evidence, Knox and Sollecito will be set free. But 100 witnesses and an entire year later, all would gasp when the Judge said Colpevole. Guilty! Who sealed Knox’s and Sollecito’s fate and what exactly did they say?

Van der Leek doesn’t mince words when he analyzes the veracity of the witnesses or the legal strategies at play.

DESPICABLE masterfully wades through the weeds and delivers the most compelling motive to date. Had the prosecutions applied the same psychology, would Knox and Sollecito still be free today?


UELI: Deus Ex Machina NEW COVER - 20170802 041444 PM

Available on Amazon

It made shocking headlines around the world. Reinhold Messner called it “A tragic day!” Most who heard it couldn’t believe it. What really happened to the world’s greatest mountaineer, a two-time recipient of the prestigious Piolet d’Or [Golden Ice Axe] on Nuptse? 

April 30th, 2017 was a dazzling, icy morning in the Himalayas. Did Ueli Steck fall because of an elementary error? Had he simply underestimated the mountain, or slipped during a momentary lapse of focus?

Using the tools of true crime analysis and deep diving research, freelance photojournalist and amateur climber Nick van der Leek attempts to solve perhaps the greatest mystery in mountaineering today. In a meticulous, systematic approach, he pieces together a cogent narrative of the much vaunted and beloved “Swiss Machine”. Van der Leek made contact directly with the climber less than a year before his death and began developing the first English narrative covering Ueli Steck’s amazing exploits in the mountains.

“You have to be honest with yourself – you can only do this for a certain period of your life.” – Ueli Steck, 2012

In UELI, Van der Leek revisits the well-known aspects of Steck’s legend, including his blistering 2 hour 22-minute run up the iconic Eiger “Nordwand”, Steck’s incredible 28-hour assault on Annapurna, arguably the world’s deadliest mountain, and his assault of all 82 Summits of the Alps in a single summer. He also covers lesser known terrain, such as Steck’s first ascent of Mount Dickey. He provides links in the narrative to videos, photographs and interviews of Steck’s most pertinent moments on and off the mountains. Van der Leek also provides transcripts of his early discussions with Steck in 2016, including the soloist’s childhood memories, and his transition from Swiss carpenter to world class Alpinist, in Steck’s own words.

As he builds and assembles each piece of a surprisingly convoluted puzzle, Van der Leek stumbles across a troubling back story brewing in the background during the lead up to Steck’s tragic fall from Nuptse. 


THE OTHER DURRELLS  USER THIS COVER 20170719

Available on Amazon

An unauthorised biography…

“Do idylls like The Durrells do any harm?”

True crime maestro Nick van der Leek wields his scalpel towards the unlikeliest of targets: the Durrells and the literary heroes of his own childhood.

“Is the creation of a perfect world a perfect alibi? Are the idylls of the Durrells, and Enid Blyton, true idylls or are they idylls of penance, idylls perhaps anchored in suffering, idylls angling for redemption of some kind?”

Using his own diary, written during his first years in high school as reference material, Van der Leek plumbs the schisms between biographical fact and narrative fiction. By applying criminal psychology, he tests narrative authenticity and assiduously probes the narrators hidden behind them. 

“What risk is there in feeding children’s obsessive desire for escapism? Is there anything wrong with idylls, perfect worlds or preoccupations with what’s too-good-to-be-true?”

Is the business of escapism harmless or has a crime, even one against ourselves, been committed?

“…the irony of fairy tales is that they are born out of nightmares – and vice versa…”

A simple question opens a door to a creaking psychological crevasse. As usual, Van der Leek leads us bravely through a dangerous psychological ice fall, across a minefield of misdirection, through vales of tears and ultimately, deep inside the roaring core…


RESTLESS ANXIETY:  Society’s Misguided Attempt to Escape Distress in the Trump Era

Available on Amazon   USE THIS COVER - 003

It’s not just America that is feeling a heightened sense of anxiety. The whole world is shifting in discomfort. Has America lost its mind? Is it 1984? Who is orchestrating this chaotic, ongoing barrage, and why? What is true, coming out of the White House, and what is not? Why has information been distorted and weaponized of late to the extent it has? What’s happening?

Gaslighting is a psychological technique used to effect extreme anxiety and confusion. Gaslighting tricks its target audience into distrusting their own memory, perceptions or judgment by systematically withholding factual information. In effect, it is a kind of psychological hacking through a systematic breakdown of our psychological firewalls.

On a national scale, gaslighting is a mass psychological warfare that operates in a similar manner to brainwashing. When exposed for long enough, people – and nations – lose their sense of self. Unable to trust our own judgments, we can start to question the reality of everything in our lives. Who can you trust? Trump’s message within this clamoring cacophony is simple: you can only trust me.

What should we do? How do we protect ourselves from psychological hacking? We can install a psychological antivirus before it’s too late…

In his most important narrative to date, bestselling author and investigative writer Nick van der Leek explores the insecure mind’s susceptibility to anxiety, and influence. He regards it as yet another “network” that can be colonized with terrifying implications: the American and global landscape can be occupied and captured from within.


D O U B T 3: The Madeleine McCann Mystery

NEW doubt 3 madeleine mccann

Available on Amazon

DOUBT 3 is a grim reconnaissance of dirt and graveyards, a brutal interrogation of the gritty undercurrents of intention and motive.

In its mission to find Madeleine, or some substantive evidence of her, the third narrative in this bestselling true crime series burrows down through obvious stratum into the subterranean, stinking caverns underlying this case.

“If Madeleine is invisible then we must resume our search for her not in the visible but in the invisible world…”

As such DOUBT 3 interrogates:

-The Paraiso Restaurante CCTV footage of May 3rd
-Carol Tranmer’s Police Interview
-Goncalo Amaral’s coffin theory
-Possible dates remains were moved
-Madeleine’s final resting place

Through atoms and germs, odours and intuitions, sulphur and smoke, Van der Leek and Wilson attempt to find a thread, a few crumbs or a particle to piece together a long-forgotten form into someone we knew once upon a time.

“Make no mistake, on the other side of all the nonsense, outside of time, some other version of events floats through the ether. That is what we want to get to. Not via a court room, that ship has sailed. Is the true story out of reach or are we up to the task of recognizing and grasping its threads?”

The author suggests that besides Madeleine, something else – something that belongs to all of us – also vanished from the Algarve on that day in early May, 2007.

The author navigates seaside sewers, recent interviews and long dead history in an effort to rescue the one, if not the other…


D O U B T 2: The Madeleine McCann Mystery

NEW doubt 2 madeleine mccann

Available on Amazon

Buckets brimmed with glinting coins for all who came and played their part. Even so, Madeleine remained missing.

If DOUBT dealt a sweeping view over the vast Madeleine McCann case file, DOUBT 2 roosts over the main highlights of the case.

In DOUBT 2, Nick van der Leek once again boldly interrogates the haunting, not-quite-right, aftermath of Madeleine’s “abduction”.

•Time of death
•Had there been an autopsy, injuries sustained?
•Removal and disposal/s of Madeleine’s remains
•Three weeks after her death, what was used to transport Madeleine’s remains?
•Ultimate suppression of Amaral and others in court
•How the narrative was controlled
•How the pot of gold turned into a goldmine buried beneath the media mountain that sprouted, like a cinder cone volcano around this Missing Person’s Case

DOUBT 2, using a shoestring budget, attempts to go beyond the £11.1 million investigation that was shelved. It aims to go far beyond the £4 million Find Madeleine Fund that was drained dry during the course of an investigation into the disappearance of a little girl who some believed had never gone missing at all…


D O U B T: The Madeleine McCann Mystery

best version

Available on Amazon

Did the little girl at the centre of the most heavily reported missing-persons case in modern history ever go “missing” to begin with?

If Madeleine was never abducted, if she died on May 3rd, why was it reported as an abduction?

Despite the absence of a trial, what we have now is a fairly precise version of events from the McCanns themselves, a by-product of their relentless PR. We also know the original lead investigator, Goncalo Amaral’s, counter-narrative, now a legally defensible matter of public record.

The questions that arise from these opposing narratives are dead simple:

Which narrative is more credible?

Which narrator is more credible?

What was the motive behind all the publicity? Neither Madeleine nor her abductor ultimately benefited from the ongoing media barrage, so who did?

True crime maestro, Nick van der Leek, plumbs quagmires of confusion and a thicket of thorny inconsistencies to probe what lies beneath: the psychologies. What is the significance of “doctors” as suspects? Did it matter or mean anything that the McCanns and their cabal of friends in the Algarve were mostly doctors?

Peeling away the gossamer threads, over the course of just four days [April 29th – May 2nd], van der Leek intuits that very little was routine: not the weather, not where meals were eaten, not where or when they slept and not what they did as a family. But what were their routines when it came to other, murkier things, like sleeping patterns, cell phones and sedatives?

Drawing intangibles out of the darkness, van der Leek sews the vexing loose ends from several conflicting stories into a definite – if not definitive – end-result.


King of Freaks: The Saga of the West Memphis Three

King of Freaks cover

Available on Amazon

True crime’s rising stars Nick van der Leek and Lisa Wilson, fresh from the success of three trilogies dedicated to the unsolved JonBenét Ramsey case, have cast about for a new challenge.

In the West Memphis Three case, they find a heart of darkness to rival the webs of shadowy intrigue bedeviling Boulder Colorado in 1996.

“Having written about the unsolved Ramsey case,” writes van der Leek, “I was looking for a challenging case to rival and to sharpen the true crime saw even further. The West Memphis Three saga does precisely that.”

But where the Ramsey case was a murk of sophisticated smoke and mirrors and legions of chummy, high-powered lawyers working behind the scenes, as we’re about to see, this story is quite different. In Arkansas, at the heart of America’s crime infested capital, very little makes sense. Out of the woods a slew of unsophisticated folks emerge, each floundering in a self-made soup of blood, mud and twisted psychology.

“The irony, for me,” adds Wilson, “was how many supposedly sophisticated folks could be duped by the artless performances of the impoverished and the uneducated, and Echols’ especially.”

Getting stuck in the muddiness of our own sick minds, it turns out, is a fate common to rich and poor, genius and imbecile alike. King of Freaks navigates how and why this “getting stuck” happens, and the way through it when it does…


sequin star  2007-2012

1-fullscreen-capture-20161107-021024-pm


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Is the Ramsey case unsolvable? What kind of alchemy is required to dig up new revelations decades after the JonBenét Ramsey case went cold? 

In the second Sequin Star narrative, the authors seek to build a brand new psychological case from the ground up.  They burrow deep through the darkest vestiges of the criminal archive and hold the Ramsey Intruder Theory up against real cases involving real intruders, like the Karla Brown murder and sexual assault from 1978.

The authors also test a myriad of inconsistencies in the Ramseys’ ever-evolving narrative. Why do they exist? What are these irksome inconsistencies covering up so many years later?

In addition to timeline critical events spanning 2007 – 2012, the second Sequin Star also interrogates:

–              Lighting inside the Ramsey home on the night of the murder

–              The northern neighbor Scott Gibbons’ eyewitness testimony

–              The Broken Playroom door

–              The flight itinerary of N2059W, John Ramsey’s personal plane

–              John Douglas’ profile of the killer

–              The Ramseys’ attitude to the media during the maturing phase of their saga

The narrator, investigative photojournalist Nick van der Leek, examines the Ramsey case file through the fiery psychological shafts of grief.  He masterfully casts over endless evidentiary fluff, revealing tangibles buried deep within the 20-year-old Ramsey canon.

Lisa Wilson, an L.A. based true crime researcher, meticulously assimilates and filters all available information to synthesize, from the cloud, the most cogent counter narrative yet.

“The second narrative in this series is solid,” Wilson says. “It expands on the theory of the first in many ways we didn’t expect, and neither will the reader.”

By applying an arsenal of modern investigative techniques, the authors have crystallized the unspoken horror haunting the Ramsey case in the starkest terms to date.  So many words.  So many years.  So much time and life lost.  What can be salvaged from the ashes of one little girl’s life?


sequin star  2000-2006

1-fullscreen-capture-20161107-020707-pmAvailable on Amazon

The sequin star trilogy interrogates the sixteen years of ‘post-truth’ surrounding the unsolved JonBenét Ramsey case.

The first narrative spans nine lawsuits, two books, John Ramsey’s first political campaign and the circumstances surrounding Patsy’s death – all during the first six years after the Grand Jury trial was railroaded. It also interrogates the psychological fabric holding these “sequins” together.

Besides testing aspects from the original timeline, the sequin star narrative examines the arch account of the Ramsey case; that treatise of ‘post-truth’ penned by the prime suspects themselves, as well as the writer of the arch counter-narrative, detective Steve Thomas.

“In this narrative,” writes LA-based true crime researcher Lisa Wilson, “we will seek parallels between some of these historiological concepts and the criminological elements of this case. The Logos is the first ‘day’ of Christmas, when ‘word’ is made ‘flesh’, when a star is born, where God enters into the world he has made in the form of a baby.”

“How this literally translates to this case,” adds van der Leek, “is through lawsuits. These lawsuits were essentially a bickering contest over semantics.”

From 2000 onwards the Christmas spirit is inverted. Instead of peace, joy and love for all mankind, words are made cash. Whenever the Ramseys won their suits, millions flowed back to them.”

Investigative journalist Nick van der Leek plumbs the Justin Ross Harris case to seek insight and potential allegory into how a reckless and distracted parent may attempt to conceal this fact.

“The Harris case induces a real star in the death of a child. The son is killed by the power of the sun acting in the closed cubicle of Harris’ vehicle. The test is whether this is intentional or not? Does Harris have a shiny record as a parent or a heart of darkness? Are Harris’ claims plastic or authentic?”

Through their sequin star narratives van der Leek as narrator and Wilson as researcher go far further into the human story and deeper into human psychology than the veneers of other narratives anchored to this particular crime.

The sequin star series is an attempt to understand through the Ramseys in Boulder what our society was and is becoming, and who we are becoming. Is there a cosmic significance to the extinguishing of a single tiny star in the curtain of night above a small hamlet? Can today’s society stand as JonBenét did, perched under a gigantic but artificial star on the edge of a Continental divide, and know what it is to fall from those dizzying, glittering heights into an abyss?


THE DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS 3

1-fullscreen-capture-20160927-050306-pmAvailable on Amazon

The third book in The Day After Christmas is twice the length of the previous two. This epilogue examining the aftermath of JonBenet Ramsey’s murder is chock-full of new revelations. A handful include:

Why are there no fingerprints on the Ransom Note? What hidden charge is buried in the Grand Jury’s True Bill? What is the significance of JonBenet’s My Twinn Doll? How does a knife connect the murder weapon to the murderer? What impact does Lockheed Martin – and money – have on any of this?

The Day After Christmas restricts the laser focus of true crime’s rising stars Nick van der Leek and Lisa Wilson to the year 1999. In their methodical approach to this case, the authors systematically close in on the money train and its itinerant mechanisms. As usual, psychological patterns are distilled from the ether. But beyond the insights and the evidence, what new and secret serum is buried in those glinting mechanical fangs, oiling the coils that have suffocated justice in this case? What machine drives the entire case?

The final narrative in this bestselling series probes the following areas for insights:

-The relevance of Mind Hunter and John Douglas to the JonBenet Ramsey case
-The Lindbergh kidnapping – dubbed “the biggest story since the resurrection” and “the Crime of the Century”
– The impact of Pete Hofstrom
– Behind the scenes revelations into the “Atlanta Fat Cats”
– The significance of the mysterious photo # 17.7
– The likelihood that John Ramsey did not break the basement window, and neither did an intruder
-The powerful symbolism behind money and the Myth of the MegaMachine


THE DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS 2

1-fullscreen-capture-20160927-050943-pmAvailable on Amazon

Most of the legal action surrounding the unsolved JonBenét Ramsey case has nothing to do with prosecuting the case. The premise of the second book in The Day After Christmas trilogy surgically removes the peripheral noise.

“What do we see? We see a case that involves a trifecta typical to the true crime genre. Sex, money and prestige underpin the triumvirate of power, and somehow this crime is a manifestation of all three. Thus far we have dabbled in the prestige but we’ve virtually not touched on sex and money. In this narrative we will deal with sex. What impact did sex have on the murder and cover-up of JonBenét?”


THE DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS

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Available on Amazon

“…where does the urge to kill come from and how do we get it if we don’t have it?…”

The first narrative in The Day After Christmas Trilogy focuses on the events immediately following the discovery of JonBenét Ramsey’s small blonde six year old corpse.

In this narrative the bestselling authors of The Craven Silence Trilogy attempt to prove the seemingly impossible. Three prime errors in the JonBenét Ramsey canon are examined, interrogated and if these popular true crime maestros are to be believed, rectified. The implications of these amendments to the canon are profound, hence a second Trilogy.

“In our first book of The Day After Christmas series we will attempt to show why the murder weapon is significant, and why mistakes in this area have seriously undermined all investigations thus far into this case. The black baseball bat is not only not a baseball bat, what’s more, it belonged not to Burke Ramsey but to another member of the Ramsey household. The broken window was not broken months before the murder. In this narrative we attempt to show why that is, and why it wasn’t broken by John Ramsey. By the end of this narrative we address exactly where JonBenét was murdered.”


THE CRAVEN SILENCE 3

1-fullscreen-capture-20160903-033548-amAvailable on Amazon

Where civilization ends savagery begins…

In their third narrative investigating the unsolved murder of JonBenet Ramsey the two bestselling authors of The Craven Silence 2 have uncovered some startling new evidence.

Is another boy from the Boulder neighborhood involved in the Christmas 1996 incident besides Burke? Why was an aborted 911 call made from the Ramsey residence on December 23rd?

Was John Ramsey having an affair?

Van der Leek and Wilson unravel secret after secret to uncover what lies beneath The Craven Silence.


THE CRAVEN SILENCE 2

1-fullscreen-capture-20160903-033321-amAvailable on Amazon

Rumor has it Burke Ramsey killed his sister. Once again dark stormclouds have been milling in the media around the Ramsey family. If the rumors are true has the 20 year old mystery finally been solved?

Are we really any closer to understanding why the six year old beauty queen was murdered, precisely where in the Ramsey home and exactly how?

In this sequel to the bestselling THE CRAVEN SILENCE true crime maestros van der Leek and Wilson shine a light where none have dared before. The authors peel back layer upon layer of misdirection obscuring the raw eddies of child psychology. What do the foremost experts on human anthropology say about aggression in children?

This second narrative in a series of three exposes countless contradictions in the statements of those first suspected of the crime. Were those initial suspicions valid after all, and if so, what is left, where is left for this “unsolved” case to go?


THE CRAVEN SILENCE

best2Available on Amazon 

Nobody knows who killed JonBenét Ramsey.

Despite the efforts of Colorado’s legendary super sleuth Lou Smit, the JonBenét Ramsey case has – to the present date – defied demystification. Smit, who cracked over 200 cases and had a 90% success record, devoted the last years of his life to finding JonBenét’s killer. Smit died in 2010 having failed to solve this confounding case. 6 years later, despite massive media attention and widespread public scrutiny the most famous of cold cases remains unsolved.

Now two rising stars of the true crime genre have put their heads together for their toughest assignment yet.

“The caseload involved is colossal. It’s overwhelming. At times I’ve felt like I was drowning; literally dying while I was investigating this case. I haven’t felt anything as bad on any other case; that should indicate what we’re dealing with here.” – Nick van der Leek, Photojournalist

But The Craven Silence is more than just an investigation into the murder of a beautiful little girl, it’s an investigation into the very basements of the human condition. To genuinely probe the cold desecrations of our common humanity, the authors move through the veneers of winter and Christmas to deeper and darker places.

“I can understand how this case obsessed Smit but ultimately it defeated him and just about everyone else. We’re trying to avoid getting bogged down or lost inside this twenty year old story; we’re trying to find something no one else has and when we do, stay humble.” – Lisa Wilson, bestselling author and blogger

In The Craven Silence the authors have burrowed behind Boulder’s chummy bureaucracy in search of not one murderer, but several…


Welcome to #SHAKEDOWN

Welcome to #SHAKEDOWN

If you’re one of our loyal readers then you know that #SHAKEDOWN is made up of me, Lisa Wilson a.k.a Juror13, and my partner in true crime writing, Nick van der Leek.

Nick and I are storytellers.  We’re not mainstream media, we don’t work for a publication, writingand we’re not lawyers (although we’ve been accused of that in the past.)  We are prolific researchers with a mutual passion for psychology and criminology.  Crime is about victims, and justice for victims.  But we’re also inspired by the other side of tragedy – the healing, the growing, the restoration – that comes from the deep interrogation and introspection of individuals. The deeply interactive nature of our narratives is what sets our true crime books apart from the others.

Did you know that according to Time Magazine’s 50 most influential gadgets of all-time list, the Amazon Kindle is #28?  Our stories are specifically crafted to take advantage of the capabilities of the Kindle App.  But you don’t need a Kindle to read, any digital device will do – smartphone, laptop, PC, tablet.

MagnifierSpeaking of technology and interconnectivity, Nick and I live 10,000 miles apart.  In the two years I’ve known him, we’ve only spent three weeks together in the same place.  Yet, we share a tremendous camaraderie and have built this successful writing partnership because we have technology to support us.  That same technology can keep us connected to you.  That’s what this new space is about.  Having a place for all of us to connect with other creative and intelligent people; to discuss, debate and grow together.  We also want to have some fun, we want to laugh and yes we do swear.  I counted 52 instances of profanity in JUICE III [since edited down]. You’ve been warned.

Seeing this website come to life is particularly exciting for me because it marks a turning point in my career.   For the past two years while I’ve been collaborating with Nick I’ve also held a full time job during the day.  If you’ve listened to our podcasts which we often record in the middle of the night, you’ve probably had the joy of hearing me bitch about sleep deprivation.  Hopefully (most) of those days will soon be in the past as I’m officially making this labor of love my career.  I’ll still be doing other work, but #SHAKEDOWN will now be my primary focus.  photographer

The good news for our followers is that with both Nick and I at the helm, we can bring you more new content on a regular basis.  In addition to the many book series that we have planned,  like SICKOS [the Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo story], Robert Durst, and JonBenet Ramsey, to name a few, we’ll also be blogging about various cases and other topics every week.  That content can be found on our Coming Soon, True Crime Blog and Forum pages.

We’ll also be hitting the road on occasion to bring you stories and photography from around the world.  Nick and I will be making videos and podcasts so be sure to check out #SHAKEtube and Soundcloud.   Our ultimate goal is to connect with producers, so #SHAKEDOWN can be the source code for exciting new True Crime documentaries.  If we’re lucky, we’ll also get more fiction writing out of Nick.  To find out about his epic Bloodline series, click on the Fiction tab above.

microphoneOn my end, I’ll be working on bringing you audio [ACX] and print versions of all our current and future narratives.  We’ll continue to sell from Amazon, but plan to branch out to other retailers, including Apple iBooks, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Nook and eventually Google Books.  We’re also gearing up to sell directly from our site which means we can pass down cost savings to you, our loyal readers.

If you want to learn how you can do all of this too, Nick and I will be teaching a variety of How-to-write and How-to-write-for-Kindle Workshops.  Sign up for email alerts from our Home page so you can be informed of all the latest and greatest happenings on the site.  Another way to connect with us, beyond this site and social media, is via our Whatsapp group.   If you’d like to join those discussions, please private message your name and phone number to me @LisawJ13 and I’ll get you added to our list.

I now send you off to go explore and have fun.  Please sniff around our site.  We’ll be making frequent additions and updates, and we welcome your commentary and opinions. If you see anything you like, please also hook us up with your social media. Justice isn’t an individual thing, it’s a group thing, so we hope you’ll join us in our journey to find justice in the court of public opinion.