Everybody loves a good whodunnit. It’s why true-crime documentaries like Making a Murderer, The Keepers and now The Staircase have all been big Netflix hits. Yet away from television screens, true crime has found another very happy home – podcasting.
True crime documentaries really exploded as soon as everyone fell in love with Serial but they've been around for a lot longer than that. They interest us because they're frightening - and real - and, admit it, you like to terrify yourself just a little bit, but you also like to play the role of couch judge, couch jury and couch executioner.
Here are some of the best True Crime documentaries we've come across.
Serial is often cited as the podcast that gave birth to the genre in 2014. That’s not entirely true, but it was ranked number one on iTunes even before it debuted.
Presented by investigative journalist Sarah Koenig, season 1 focused on the murder of Baltimore student Hae Min Lee in 1999. It was downloaded over 68m times and arguably led to Adnan Syed, Lee’s then boyfriend, having his conviction vacated. He’s now awaiting a new trial.
We have reached the stage where it is getting harder and harder to separate the gems from the dross. Here then is my list of five true crime podcasts that demand your attention this summer:
Having recently chosen a new case for their third season, the Cincinnati Enquirer‘s Accused team seem unstoppable. Digging into leads old and new, interviewing witnesses, family members and other persons of interest, journalists Amber Hunt and Amanda Rossman breathe life into the cold cases they pursue. They are personable but level-headed and unflinchingly professional in their pursuit of the truth.
Start with Season 1, which focuses on the unsolved murder of college student Elizabeth Andes in 1978. Andes was brutally strangled and stabbed near her flat in Oxford, Ohio. Her boyfriend Robert Young confessed to the murder the next day, but recanted shortly after.
Over the course of a year, Hunt and Rossman examine the possibility of a false confession. They demonstrate the difficulties in reviving cold cases – including lost evidence, uncooperative officials, unchallenged suspects and unsubstantiated reports.
#2 Someone Knows Something
From mail bombs to missing persons to murders by the Klu Klux Klan, filmmaker/writer David Ridgen doesn’t shy away from complex and dangerous unsolved cases. With empathy and care he establishes relationships with victims’ family members, making each season about their loss and grief as much as the case itself.
A prime example is Season 2, the case of Sheryl Sheppard. Missing since 1998, her boyfriend Michael Lavoie had been the police’s main suspect. On New Year’s Eve of that year, two days before she went missing, Lavoie had asked Sheppard to marry him on live TV.
As anyone who works in a school or childcare centre will attest, Australian parents come up with some pretty weird names for their offspring - including Google, Tron and Hippo. While most names are reluctantly approved by the state or territory's Registry of Births, there are a few that you just can't get away with.
For the last month, much of Australia has been gripped in an insane tempest of petulance and stupidity because single-use plastic bags aren't available in supermarkets any more. This is so first-world problems it's almost as embarrassing as our national energy policy, but for anyone who is still stressing about this, I'm here to tell you IKEA can save you.