Lightbox is in production on a premium three-part documentary series for Sky Documentaries telling the story of a group of young women from across the globe who join forces to bring down a predatory Italian policeman.

Based on the hit podcast, Verified, Bad Host: Hunting the Couchsurfing Predator is being produced in association with Scripps and global film and TV studio Fifth Season. Fifth Season will also handle worldwide distribution rights and will launch the series to buyers at Mipcom 2023.

This is the story of how a group of remarkable young women, unbeknownst to each other, were all victims of a predator who lured them to stay with him using Couchsurfing, a website where travellers can find trustworthy hosts to put them up in their homes for free. Tracing each other through the internet, the young women united and battled for six years, often in the face of indifference in their home countries, to bring him to justice.

For each of the young women – from locations as far apart as California, Australia and Portugal – the promise of a perfect trip to one of the world’s most iconic cities turns dark when they decide to look for a place to stay on the popular Couchsurfing website. Drawn in by the trustworthy profile of Leonardo, a serving Italian police officer with pages of positive reviews on his profile, each of them accepts his offer of a place to stay for the night.

He seems the perfect host, generously showing them the sights, cooking for them and treating them to homemade Italian wine. But they leave his apartment confused, disoriented, and haunted by sinister flashbacks.

Back home, some of the women try to forget until they receive an unexpected message online, from a stranger. That stranger was another of Leonardo’s victims who, like many of the women, had tried to report him without any success.

Gradually, it becomes clear to the women, all now connected in a secret Facebook group, that Leonardo had sexually abused and raped at least five women and drugged at least 15. It emerges that he has also been accused of sexually assaulting a minor. What started as a forum to share experiences becomes something different: a conversation about how to bring the perpetrator to justice, and a dynamic tale of bravery and tenacity against all the odds ensues.

With exclusive access to many of the extraordinary group of women involved, who were in their teens and early 20s when they visited Italy, Bad Host: Hunting the Couchsurfing Predator tells the story of their six-year fight for justice, first hand and in all its rich and compelling detail.

Poppy Dixon, Director of Documentaries and Factual for Sky says:“Lightbox are renowned for crafting compelling, noisy documentaries, with real purpose at their heart. Working hand in hand with the incredible women and journalists at the centre of this story, they have created a series which absolutely delivers on a victim-led true crime investigation, which will have audiences gripped throughout.”

Suzanne Lavery, SVP Unscripted, Lightbox says: “Bad Host: Hunting the Couchsurfing Predator is filled with unexpected twists, turns, and cliff-hangers in a story shedding light on the dark side of the sharing economy, and the way the police often fail to take seriously allegations made by vulnerable young women. Alongside highlighting the dangers of trusting the online world, the series shows the potential of the internet to empower a group of young women to connect, communicate, organize and fight for justice.”

Liz Tang, Executive Director, Acquisitions at Fifth Season, says: “We’re currently seeing ongoing demand from audiences all around the world for premium, compelling true crime docuseries that see individuals empower one another and take justice into their own hands. With Bad Host: Hunting the Couchsurfing Predator, Lightbox has once again used its impeccable storytelling to pull back the curtain on a shocking true crime story – as with its hits ‘Curse of the Chippendales’ and ‘Untouchable: The Rise and Fall of Harvey Weinstein’ – and created a title in the same vein as documentaries that have recently captured the zeitgeist, such as ‘The Tinder Swindler’ and ‘Don’t F**k with Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer’.”

Bad Host: Hunting the Couchsurfing Predator is produced by Lightbox in association with Scripps for Sky Documentaries. It is directed by Lottie Gammon, the series producers are Joe John and Lydia Delmonte, the line producer is Samantha Tilyard, the production executive is Polly Allen and Suzanne Lavery, Simon Chinn and Jonathan Chinn are executive producers for Lightbox. The executive producers for Sky are Poppy Dixon and Hayley Reynolds and the executive producers for Scripps are Ellen Weiss, Susanne Reber and Peter Clowney. Fifth Season has worldwide distribution rights.


Pippa Considine

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