Why are we so fixated on murder?
True crime podcasts have never been more popular, with millions of people tuning in each week. What is it about them, though, that has us so enthralled? Elizabeth Archer looks into it…
Sitting across the table from a murder suspect is not many people’s idea of fun. Sam Bungey and Jennifer Forde couldn’t help but feel uneasy as they sipped tea in Ian Bailey’s home.
They were, nevertheless, adamant about getting to the bottom of the crime.
The husband and wife pair, creators of the hugely popular West Cork podcast, traveled to Ireland’s west coast to look into the unsolved 1996 death of French woman Sophie Toscan du Plantier.
When they arrived in Toormore, the little hamlet where Sophie was murdered, they would have anticipated the man accused of her heinous murder to be wary of speaking with them.
Instead, he invited them into his home and spent hours discussing the matter.
“We were trying to address our own questions about why the investigation had stopped for so long when we launched the podcast,” Sam adds. “This case has been plagued by false rumors, which have been magnified by the media, as well as a suspect who has hogged the spotlight.”
Ian was the major suspect for the Irish police at the time of the murder, although he was never charged.
In 2019, he was found guilty in absentia of Sophie’s murder in a French court and sentenced to 25 years in prison, yet he stays in Ireland.
While France has attempted to extradite him multiple times, Ireland’s High Court has refused since there is no proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The West Cork podcast was the result of several hours of interviews with Ian and over 100 other people directly involved in the case.
The show became a cult favorite, and its success led to the release of two TV documentaries about the case on Netflix and Sky.
Despite the positive reviews, the film’s makers had conflicting feelings about its success. “Crime journalism can be gruesome and voyeuristic, so you have to ask tough questions about what you’re doing and why,” Sam explains. “We went to great lengths to avoid sounding like amateur detectives when reporting the crime.”
Jen Mellor is the type of true crime aficionado who gets hooked on podcasts like West Cork. “A few,” she adds. “Brinkwire Summary News.”