The 17 best true crime podcasts
From unsolved murders to missing people, these shows will have listeners falling off the edge of their seats
Podcasts and crime are a match made in audio heaven.
Though tales of real-life wrongdoings are a popular genre across literature, theatre and the silver screen, podcasts have proven to be “the finest, most frightening form of them all”, said Rolling Stone. Here are some of the best to keep you up at night.
“Is West Cork the next Serial?” asked The Irish Times after the show premiered in February 2018. As it turned out, the Irish podcast failed to win as much attention as the US hit had four years earlier, but for many Irish listeners, Sam Bungey and Jennifer Forde’s series represented “the first time a podcast approaches a local story with the same depth”.
The reporters investigate the case known simply in West Cork as “the murder”. Sophie Toscan du Plantier was found dead near her home in the area in 1996. There was no known motive for the crime. Over the series, they introduce a cast of characters involved in a case that still makes headlines today.
Broken: Seeking Justice
Tara Palmeri told Marie Claire magazine that in much of the coverage surrounding the Jeffrey Epstein case, she felt the women making the accusations, which include sex trafficking and sexual abuse, “weren’t getting their fair due”. “There was just so much fixation on Jeffrey and not on them,” she said.
In Broken: Seeking Justice, a follow-on series to Broken: Jeffrey Epstein, Palmeri gives these women the opportunity to explain the claims they have made and what they allege happened to them.
Walking tour guide and podcast host Michael J. Buchanan-Dunne takes listeners on an exploration of the more than 300 mysterious deaths that have taken place in West London.
He also runs a top-rated true crime tour in Soho but “no matter where you’re listening”, Murder Mile promises “you’ll feel like you’re actually there”. It’s a “brilliantly clever idea”, said The Telegraph, and each case is “totally gripping”.
The Teacher’s Pet
The Australian’s 2018 podcast series The Teacher’s Pet was downloaded more than 28 million times before being made temporarily unavailable for Australian listeners in May 2019. Over 16 episodes, investigative journalist Hedley Thomas examined the unsolved disappearance of Lynette Dawson, a mother of two who went missing in 1982.
The series “made legal history in Australia after being cited by a judge” as one reason a murder trial of her husband, Chris Dawson, could not take place in 2020, said Vulture. Justice Elizabeth Fullerton described the “unrestrained and uncensored public commentary” around the suspected murder as “the most egregious example of media interference with a criminal trial process”.
Sweet Bobby “isn’t your regular true crime podcast”, said the Financial Times. In this episodic investigation, Alexi Mostrous unpicks what Tortoise Media describes as “one of the world’s most sophistiated catfishers”.
For more than a decade of her life, Kirat Assi was deceived by a catfish, someone who creates and uses false online identities to lure victims into a relationship with them. It’s “an extraordinary story that’s made even more powerful by Mostrous’s empathetic and wide-ranging reporting”, the FT continued.
Joseph O’Callaghan was 18 years old when he became the youngest person to go into witness protection in Ireland. In this ten-episode series, O’Callaghan tells his life story, and explains what happened when he assisted the courts in convicting two drug dealers of the murder of a rival gang member, Jonathon O’Reilly.
Executive producer Nicola Tallant has written a book of the same name. “Groomed into gangland and forever a prisoner to his past, Joey tells his story with conviction, honesty and a rawness that I have never heard before or since,” she said.
The Missing is “a well-researched and ethically sound addition to the true crime genre”, said The Guardian. With the help of Missing People charity, host Pandora Sykes, formerly of The High Low, looks into unsolved cases of missing persons in the hope of bringing new attention to them and help people still searching for their loved ones.
Sykes told Grazia magazine that she’s interested in “storytelling with a prupose”, and said the podcast “doesn’t just exist for our entertainment”. Locate International, an organisation of police detectives and criminology students, was also involved in the project, and was looking again at cases that had gone cold.
Bad Bad Thing
In 2018, Jennair Gerardot walked into a home in the suburbs of Philadelphia and shot Meredith Chapman before turning the gun on herself.
Chapman and Gerardot’s husband, Mark, had been having an affair. Over the course of the series, listeners hear recordings made by Jennair in the months leading up to the crime that give insight into her frame of mind. Clinical psychologist Dr Ramani Durvasula joins host Barbara Schroeder to shed her expert insight on these recordings, and the wider case.
The Shrink Next Door
Wondery’s 2019 podcast explores “what it’s like when a relationship with a psychiatrist goes terribly wrong”, said Rolling Stone. When journalist Joe Nocera began investigating the relationship between his neighbour, Marty Markowitz, and his neighbour’s psychiatrist, Isaac Kerschkopf, he “discovered a deeply layered story of manipulation and betrayal”, said Time magazine.
A dark comedy drama of the same name starring Will Ferrell and Paul Rudd was released on Apple TV+ last month. Earning a two-star review from Empire, crime fans might be better advised to tune into the more highly-rated podcast instead.
ABC News’ The Dropout follows the story of Elizabeth Holmes and her biotech start-up, Theranos. The first series documents the rise and fall of the blood testing company, while the second follows the trial of Holmes, who faces 11 counts of fraud and up to 20 years in prison.
The podcast succeeds in a “bulletproof retelling” of the story, “without any stylistic flourish”, said Podcast Review. It’s an investigative work “through and through”, with host Rebecca Jarvis’s “grilling” interviews of investors making for a “thrilling” listen.
Arpana Jinaga was killed on the night of a Halloween party in 2008. Her body was found several days later in her home at Redmond, Washington, and the case is still unsolved.
“Suspect is about as straightforward as a true-crime podcast can get,” said Vulture. Journalists Matthew Shaer and Eric Benson interview people who attended the party, friends of Jinaga’s and the wrongfully convicted Emanuel Fair as they explain how the case has since unfolded.
My Favorite Murder
Stand-up comedian and TV writer Karen Kilgariff and writer Georgia Hardstark’s My Favorite Murder “stands out in an endless sea of true-crime podcasts, largely because of the easy camaraderie between its two hosts”, said The Observer. “In podcast terms, it doesn’t get bigger than MFM,” said Elle.
The pair, who now have their own podcast network, begin each episode by discussing a serious crime “before inevitably getting side-tracked into talking about past experiences and current obsessions”, The Observer added. Like any loyal fanbase in the 21st century, its followers too have their own nickname: “murderinos”.
For years, Anna Sorokin went by the name Anna Delvey, posing as a German socialite with a trust fund of millions of dollars, and leading a lavish lifestyle in New York. In 2018, an article published on The Cut exposed the truth.
The series is “gripping, lively, scandalous and comprehensive”, filling listeners in on “all the details you need to know” about the case, said Stylist magazine. The six-part podcast explores how Delvey tricked friends, investors and high-profile figures before her masquerade began to unravel.
The Thing About Helen and Olga
Dateline is a good place to start if you’re after a new true-crime binge. One of its latest, The Thing About Helen and Olga, is a “twisted tale of two ‘sweet old ladies’ who became ‘coldblooded murderers’”, said the Daily Mail. Enter Helen Golay and Olga Rutterschmidt.
Host Keith Morrison told E! that he “jumped at the chance” to revisit a case he first covered some years ago. The story had “always stuck in my mind”, he said, the women “waiting years for the right moment” before committing crimes “in the most violent way”.
It almost goes without saying that Serial is a must-listen for any true crime fans. The Observer’s Miranda Sawyer called it “the greatest murder mystery you will ever hear”, and The New Yorker’s Sarah Larson described the concluding episode as “a major cultural event”.
Over the 12-part series, host and This American Life producer Sarah Koenig examines the murder of Hae Min Lee in 1999 through a series of interviews with her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed, the man sentenced to life imprisonment for the crime but who has always claimed his innoncence. If you haven’t yet, “you have to start listening to Serial”, said Sawyer.
Casefile True Crime
What’s “perhaps most interesting” about the Casefile True Crime podcast “is the mystery of the show’s host”, said Stylist magazine. The anonymity of the Australian host adds “to the mystery and creepiness of the true crime show”, in which the narrator dives into the gruesome details of historic cases.
If that doesn’t scare you off, there’s a back catalogue dating to 2016 to get stuck into. Speaking on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, actor Steve Martin said he was so “obsessed” with the show that he “listened to 158 episodes” in one summer.
Who The Hell Is Hamish?
Another production by The Australian newspaper, Who The Hell Is Hamish? puts “Hamish McLaren under the microscope” to take a glimpse inside “the elaborate, desperate and manipulative mind of a serial conman”, said Cultr.
Journalist Greg Bearup interviews people who knew Hamish, or thought they knew him, from around the globe to unpick his lies and their ruinous consequences. It’s “terrifying on so many levels”, said Games Radar.