Under Investigation: Liz Hayes takes a deep dive into unsolved crimes

Respected 60 Minutes team member Liz Hayes has covered all types of stories from the 2010 flood crisis in Pakistan, to the tsunami which devastated Japan, to the most recent US presidential election.

Hayes says it was the style of 60 Minutes reporting, where you are able to concentrate on a subject and bring new aspects of it to light, which aroused her interest in deep diving into unsolved crimes, mysteries and events that have shaken the world, or could do in the future.

The Logie-winning journalist is quite proud of her involvement as co-creator and host of Under Investigation, the second season of which began on Monday, August 23, on the Nine Network.

This year Hayes celebrates 40 years with the network.

"I'll tell what's pleasing, that you can be 65 and start a new program. I'm grateful, particularly as a woman. I'm acutely aware it has not been an easy road for a lot of women.

"It's a show of good faith by Nine. It means they think you are still valuable. But I'm not naive enough to think if they no longer thought that, then I'd be gone."

She and supervising producer Gareth Harvey have worked together on all aspects of the program.

"I'm keenly involved in every meeting. It's important for me to know what will be discussed. I also actively go out and seek people for the program."

Everyone involved was in a COVID bubble due to restrictions.

"We got tested every day and couldn't get out of our car until the [rapid] results came back. We were in an off-site studio with the crew wearing masks at all times. We explained to our panelists how we would keep them safe, and that included the Police Commissioner of NSW."

Hayes says Under Investigation has a small team, and every member is important.

It features a panel of experts, in the studio, who recreate the scenarios surrounding unsolved crimes, such as the murder of Sallie-Anne Huckstepp in 1981, which was dissected in last Monday's episode.

"It's human nature to be intrigued as to what makes people do something like that, and whether they are guilty or not," Hayes says.

"Audiences tend to try to solve it themselves.

"Through the sheer research and conversations with our experts, you come to see things or intentions a little differently.

"You might see how circumstances drive people to do these things.

"You go through the evidence, hear stories from friends and others and you start to understand how they [the criminal] can't stop it from happening.

"You are still stunned at the level of anger, depravity or revenge it takes to commit the act," she says.

Luckily she hasn't had a story stir up dangerous circumstances for her or her loved ones.

"I've had some strange calls, and you get stuff in the mail, but it's harder to do [make threats] these days.

"I've had twinges [of fear], but I've always felt confident there is enough security surrounding us.

One of the things Hayes loves about the series is how much knowledge she is acquiring.

"I'm learning things I would never have known, it's fascinating."

The viewers, too, enter the investigators' world and watch as they uncover clues and, with new technology, revisit old crimes to reveal facts not previously known or in evidence.

The job of determining when a suspect is telling the truth, Hayes says, is a job for the police.

"In terms of being a journalist, you do your research and call on your experience. You watch how they behave, the way they look at you, and how they react to questions.

"You can get a sense of things, and use your gut instinct, but the law has to be the benchmark.

"The police have a sense for these things. They love putting the next of kin in front of the microphone at press conferences to see how they handle themselves."

In terms of handling the emotional aspect of unravelling a crime, Hayes admits she hasn't always been prepared for it.

"Deep diving is hard because suddenly you find all that you thought was true is not. It's unsettling."

She admits it has become harder to remain stoic as she has gotten older.

"9/11 was unbelievable on so many levels, and so horrific at the same time."

Episode 2 of Under Investigation revisits the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York, and the Pentagon in Washington DC, as we near the 20-year anniversary of a day that changed the world.

The program introduces viewers to James Dorney, a then 25-year-old Australian working on the 92nd floor of one of the World Trade Centre towers when it was hit.

"His story of how he got out is extraordinary," Hayes says. "You can feel from him the deep wounds of his experience."

Hayes also introduces: former Prime Minister John Howard, who was in Washington on the day; Professor Simon Jackman, CEO of the US Studies Centre University of Sydney; Dr Anne Aly, counterterrorism expert and Australia's first female Muslim Member of Parliament; Professor Jolanda Jetten, a leading researcher in social psychology; and expert interviewees Dennis Richardson, then head of ASIO; conspiracy theorist Richard Gage and fire safety engineer expert Dr Jonathan Barnett.

UNDER INVESTIGATION: Nine Network, Mondays, 8.40pm, and 9NOW on demand

This story Hayes puts crimes under investigation first appeared on The Canberra Times.