Spook Yourself With the Best True Crime Podcasts

Tom Nicholson
·4-min read
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From Esquire

The great true crime revolution of the last decade might have started with Making A Murderer and The Staircase and all that kind of thing, but these days it lives in podcast land. It's the perfect medium: intimate, expansive, and endlessly bingeable.

Some stick to the tried-and-true method of having one host run through an old case in the company of a mate who goes "Ew" or "That's awful" at the appropriate moment. Others are more considered efforts by bigger news organisations, bringing their storytelling nous and heft to cold cases you might have missed while also leveraging that visceral thrill of the depraved, the audacious, and the obscene. These are the best ones around.

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No Strings Attached

On Easter Sunday 2015, Vicky Cilliers fell 4,000 feet through the air and into the Wiltshire countryside when her parachute failed. Somehow, she survived. It looked like a terrible accident, but then Wiltshire Police started investigating Cilliers' husband, Emile, who'd given Vicky the jump as a present. All sorts of secrets started to emerge. Naming a podcast about an attempted spousal murder by tampering with a parachute ‘No Strings Attached’ is rather cheap, but ITV’s retelling is less glib than that title makes it sound.

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Heist With Michael Caine

It might sound a little bit Youth Hostelling with Chris Eubank, but this is a superior six-part series in which the Muppets Christmas Carol star retells the most audacious and risky heists from around the world. They include the diamond snatched from an impregnable vault in Antwerp, a rare book taken from a university by a desperate student, and a $150 million job landed without ever stepping inside the bank itself.

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Nut Jobs

This is of a piece with another Audible Original, Marc Fenell’s It Burns, which followed chilli-eating ultras who prove their manhood by eating gut-ulceratingly hot chillis. Nut Jobs, though, is about the disappearance of $10 million of nuts – almonds, pistachios, cashews, peanuts, pecans – in a heist that spirited away 20 trucks of nuts over six months. Where did they go? And why would anyone want to steal nuts? The answer touches on big agriculture, the wellness movement, health, wealth, and immigration in America.

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El Impenetrable: Death in the Forest

This murder mystery is a particularly murky, weird, hallucinatory one. It's set in the deepest thickets of the Argentinian forests, where the country's biggest landowner was tortured to death with his sister-in-law. The authorities believe that the killer was trying to diddle him out of his land, but what's the real story behind the murderer that police called The Man With A Thousand Faces?

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The Dating Game Killer

That might sound like incredibly lurid title, but it’s just the bare facts. Rodney Alcala won a date on the American TV show The Dating Game in 1978, when he was in the middle of a murder spree that stretched from New York to Los Angeles. He managed to evade and confuse psychiatrists and police as he killed again and again. It's from the makers of Dr Death and Dirty John, so it's got good pedigree, but be warned: this is a properly grim one.

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What Happened To Annie?

You might have first got into Sky News's award-winning podcast strand Storycast with its excellent retelling of a 1983 heist, The Hunt for the Brink's-Mat Gold, but its newest true crime podcast is rather darker. What Happened To Annie? tries to get to the bottom of the death of 30-year-old Annie Börjesson, who was found dead on Prestwick beach in Ayrshire, Scotland, in 2005. Was it suicide? Or was it something to do with the CIA? Annie's family go in search of the truth.

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My Favourite Murder

However you feel about the ethics of digging through old murder cases and riffing on them, this is the behemoth of true crime. Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark have built a gigantic fandom – the 'murderinos' – and their wry, dark humour and emphasis on empathising with victims and lauding detectives rather than romanticising killers has a purging effect. "The only way we know how to deal with the horrors of life is through humour," Hardstark has said.

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Polonium and the Piano Player

The poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko in a London hotel was one of the most shocking and brazen assassinations carried out on British soil, but Litvinenko wasn’t the only one on the end of a dose of polonium-210. Piano player Derek Conlon got a dose from the miniature nuclear weapon, too, and was suddenly thrown into a the dark underworld of spycraft and murder. It’s all told on Sky News’ Storycast strand, a superior investigative podcast which digs into cases from the past.

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