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The True Story Behind Netflix's Dirty John Meehan

The True Story Behind Netflix's Dirty John Meehan

WARNING: Contains Dirty John spoilers

If you've not yet watched Netflix Originals series Dirty John, it's probably best to get it featured in your next binge.

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The gripping eight-part series tells the story of John Meehan and Debra Newell and it's utterly gripping - but it's nothing compared to the real-life story and true-crime podcast that inspired the show.

A quick summary of the show: Debra Newell (played by Connie Britton), a wealthy interior designer, decides to get herself on a dating website following four failed marriages - this is where she meets Meehan (Eric Bana).

But Debra's dream romance soon becomes a waking nightmare with the discovery that Meehan preys on innocent women before attempting to extort money from them in a bid to fund his lifestyle and drug habit.

Netflix has added a disclaimer at the end of each episode, telling viewers: "While this program is based on real events, some scenes and characters have been dramatised or fictionalised." So what happened in reality?

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Meehan set his sights on Debra Newell after meeting her on a dating site. Credit: California Department of Corrections
Meehan set his sights on Debra Newell after meeting her on a dating site. Credit: California Department of Corrections

Back in 2014, a 55-year-old Meehan told Debra that he owned several properties and worked as a doctor, having previously been stationed in Iraq.

The Metro reports that Debra's daughters, Jacqueline (renamed Veronica for the Netflix show) and Terra, weren't convinced with this story which was mainly due to Meehan's scruffy appearance.

It seemed Debra was accepting of his story as the pair married in secret two months after starting a relationship. Things then started to go downhill, however, as Meehan insisted on installing cameras into their home to control her life.

John Meehan was portrayed by Eric Bana in the Netflix series. Credit: Bravo
John Meehan was portrayed by Eric Bana in the Netflix series. Credit: Bravo

Speaking to Fox5, Debra said: "He tended to have everything on my checklist that I was looking for. I liked that he was a doctor, that he had been successful helping people."

In March 2015, three months after the marriage, Debra's nephew Shad discovered that the 'doctor' was in fact a convicted drug thief, having stolen anaesthetic medication from a hospital where he worked as a nurse.

Debra then began privately looking through documentation and found evidence of a long history of seducing, conning and harassing women, according to Harpers Bazaar.

Court records showed that many of the women Meehan had terrorised were on dating sites, which is where he initially met them. He would also attempt to extort money from victims by exposing (or threatening to expose) naked photographs that were in his possession.

Debra did some digging and found court documents. Credit: Bravo
Debra did some digging and found court documents. Credit: Bravo

According to the Metro, in an anonymous letter he told one woman: "Every breath I take will be to ruin your life." He also said that he had knocked her unconscious, raped her and taken nude pictures of her.

Debra left Meehan in 2016 and his behaviour became more erratic - he stole her car and set it on fire before turning his attention to her children.

One evening, when a 25-year-old Terra was leaving home for a night out, he followed her with what police dubbed a 'kidnap kit' which included knives, duct tape, his passport and injectable drugs.

Terra Newell is speaking out about what she experienced. Credit: Instagram/terranewell
Terra Newell is speaking out about what she experienced. Credit: Instagram/terranewell

Meehan tried to attack Terra, but she managed to kick a knife out of his hands and used it to defend herself, stabbing him 13 times.

He was taken to Orange County Global Medical Centre, in Santa Ana, and spent four days on life support machinery before it was turned off.

Terra was never charged for killing Meehan as it was classed as self-defence.

Chilling stuff.

Featured Image Credit: Bravo

Topics: News, TV and Film, Celebrity, Netflix Original

Rebecca Shepherd

I'm Becky - a journalist at LADbible. I graduated with a First Class BA in Journalism before going on to cover criminal court cases, medical tribunals and breaking news for the national media - which inevitably and eventually became as glum as it sounds. Can often be found rocking a bag for life - which I made a 'thing' way before Rihanna. You can contact me at [email protected]

 

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