True-crime podcasts like Serial and The Teacher’s Pet seem to have changed history but have they?


As with Syed’s launch and the Serial podcast, he says, we are inclined to confuse a compelling story with an affect on a authorized final result. “That’s the massive disconnect that occurs quite a lot of the time – now we have compelling narrative, however compelling narrative is just not the identical factor as a superb case with which you’ll change a authorized final result.”

Nearer to residence, the success of the Hedley Thomas podcast The Instructor’s Pet appeared to once more underline the facility of such storytelling. The 17-episode podcast concerning the disappearance of Lynette Dawson from her residence in 1982 reportedly unearthed new proof, which many assumed finally resulted in her husband, former rugby league participant Chris Dawson, being discovered responsible of her homicide final month. Interrogation of the collection’ precise worth tells one other story: the reality is that police already had all of the proof, in accordance with Professor Jeremy Gans from Melbourne College.

Chris and Lyn Dawson.

Chris and Lyn Dawson.

He argues that the podcast offered no new or admissible data concerning the homicide, however did present a story of “unwavering certainty {that a} single principle about an unsolved disappearance is absolutely the reality”. In consequence, it positioned robust public stress on prosecutors to evaluate the case.

One other of Thomas’s podcasts, Shandee’s Story, appears prone to have a major affect – not in fixing the case of Shandee Blackburn’s homicide – however in enhancing police processes. Blackburn, 23, was murdered as she walked residence from work in Mackay, Queensland, in 2013. Within the podcast, forensic scientist Dr Kirsty Wright expressed grave considerations over the testing of DNA in Blackburn’s case, and in a whole bunch of others.

In consequence, the premier of Queensland introduced a far-reaching public inquiry to be held to get to the reality of what had occurred within the DNA laboratory. The inquiry turned unavoidable after police went public with alarming particulars about what they have been discovering within the lab’s dealing with of proof and DNA in a whole bunch of sexual assault circumstances, triggering a evaluate of rapes going again 4 years. A closing report is predicted in December.

Circumstances ignored as a result of the victims are from marginalised communities can profit from the highlight offered by podcasts – or certainly any media protection. The collection Bowraville, produced by The Australian and tracing the unsolved homicide of three Aboriginal teenagers in NSW in 1991, and this masthead’s Bondi Badlands, led by Greg Callahan, which examined the murders of homosexual males at Bondi Seaside within the Eighties and ’90s, match into this class. The activism of members of the family, plus vital work by police, personal investigators and reporting on these circumstances have been essential elements as nicely.

Phoebe Handsjuk.

Phoebe Handsjuk.Credit score:Fairfax Media

The ABC’s Hint podcast, by journalist Rachael Brown, revisited the homicide of Thornbury mom Maria James in 1980. It did end result within the Coroner reopening the case earlier this 12 months however the identical determination was handed down as within the unique in 1982, an open discovering with no conclusion about who stabbed the 38-year-old. A neighborhood priest, the late Anthony Bongiorno, stays below investigation; it was mentioned he had motive and alternative and was seen lined in blood on the day of the homicide.

Equally, this masthead’s podcast Phoebe’s Fall, led by Richard Baker, advised the story of Phoebe Handsjuk, who was discovered lifeless on the backside of a rubbish chute 12 flooring down from her St Kilda Street residence constructing in 2010, led to a evaluate of the Coroners Act in 2016. The Handsjuk household needed to problem the coroner’s discovering of unintended loss of life – they needed an open discovering – however legislative adjustments to the act in 2008 made it virtually inconceivable for strange individuals to take action. The evaluate was the catalyst to the Victorian authorities broadening the scope for appeals towards coroner’s findings.

One true-crime TV collection that had a major affect is the HBO documentary trilogy that began with Paradise Misplaced: The Youngster Murders at Robin Hood Hills, launched in early Nineties. It lined the West Memphis Three, three youngsters convicted of homicide who have been ultimately launched. They used what’s often called an Alford plea, which Bartle describes as “a bizarre function of authorized system” below which they might keep their innocence however say prosecutors had sufficient data to convict them. Though acquitted, they might not search prices for his or her illegal 18-year imprisonment.

The 1996 murder of French film producer Sophie Toscan du Plantier is the subject of the podcast West Cork.

The 1996 homicide of French movie producer Sophie Toscan du Plantier is the topic of the podcast West Cork.Credit score:Netflix

Additional afield, the podcast West Cork tells the story of the homicide of French filmmaker Sophie Toscan du Plantier, who was discovered lifeless close to her vacation residence in Eire. Made by a journalist and a documentary maker, it lined the investigation and revealed a collection of mishaps by the Garda, the Irish police, and led to a trial in absentia of the principle suspect, Ian Bailey, in France in 2019, the place he was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in jail. Makes an attempt to extradite him have failed so far, so he stays a free man dwelling in Eire. Netflix has additionally made a documentary concerning the case referred to as Sophie: A Homicide in West Cork.


In line with Bartle, there are solely very restricted means obtainable to individuals who have been wrongfully convicted to clear their identify within the US and in Australia. When you can collect a compelling narrative of innocence, if the authorized mechanisms aren’t in place then little might be completed, he says. It’s why he’s concerned with the Bridge of Hope innocence initiative, an advocacy group for individuals who have been wrongfully convicted.

True-crime is a broad style, Bartle says, that may contain award-winning journalists presenting well-researched tales, or only a bunch of buddies of their lounge rooms not contemplating defamation or future repercussions for a trial. As an entire, it could have its deserves in elevating public consciousness however that in itself is rarely sufficient to vary historical past.

Discover out the following TV, streaming collection and films so as to add to your must-sees. Get The Watchlist delivered each Thursday.

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