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The 15 best true crime podcasts

There’s no shortage of grisly listens these days, but these are the best when it comes to true crime podcasts

Andrzej Lukowski
Written by
Andrzej Lukowski

If you’re into podcasts, there’s a pretty decent chance it’s because of true crime. While, sure, there’s much more to the podcasting world than true crime, there’s no denying that the genre dominates. There are simply few things quite so gripping as grappling with a mystery – and knowing that it could all be true.

True crime’s success was no doubt launched by the mind-boggling listenership of 2014’s ‘Serial’ and these days the standard TC ‘cast often follows a very similar form. An intrepid investigative reporter usually digs into a criminal case – often a cold one – and sheds new light through multi-part documentaries that go deeper than any TV show would likely be allowed to.

And crime isn’t all just dead bodies and morbid stuff – as we’ll show in this list. Below are some of the best true crime podcasts around, featuring everything from a reappraisal of Jack the Ripper’s victims to an in-depth examination of British colonial looting.

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Best true crime podcasts, ranked

You can’t talk about true crime podcasts without acknowledging the granddaddy of the genre. Dating way back to 2014, series one of ‘Serial’ is the most famous and successful podcast of all time: Sarah Koenig’s hyper in-depth exploration of a 1999 Baltimore murder has been downloaded well over a hundred million times, and had a vast cultural impact. It laid down a template that many, many true crime podcasts have understandably followed. But it still stands up terrifically today.

Some extremely legitimate criticisms have been made of ‘This American Life’ spin-off ‘S-Town’, which is – to be frank – not really a true crime podcast, or certainly not in the most literal sense. But you absolutely wouldn’t know that from the first three episodes, which see host Brian Read doing the standard re-examining a death in a small American town thing, as he’s invited down to Woodstock, Alabama by local eccentric John B, who is convinced he has stumbled across a murder mystery. What happens afterwards is really not what you’re expecting, and there’s an argument that Read should have abandoned the whole thing. But what he found is truly remarkable – if disturbing – stuff.


Inevitably many of these podcasts are very polished and very American. But Brit cast ‘RedHanded’ is a delight precisely because it flies in the face of all this. Hosts Hannah Maguire and Surithi Bala met at a party, drunkenly bonded over their love of true crime, started a podcast… and this is pretty much it. Their well-researched hourlong dissections of various crimes of the week are great, but it’s the fact the series actually traces the duo bonding and becoming friends that gives ‘RedHanded’ its frisson.

Yes, lavishly researched limited series with insanely detailed hour-plus individual episodes that have a profound impact on the global consciousness are great. But sometimes they’re a bit much. ‘Morning Cup of Murder’ is a ten-minute daily podcast that outlines – fairly briefly – the details of a murder that happened on that day in history. And that’s about it. But it’s tightly made, and if you’re after a daily murder bump, it’s second to none.


You want your true crime a touch more niche? Kary Antholis’s excellent arson-themed podcast centres on a truly compelling mystery: a series of California wildfires in the ‘80s and ‘90s for which nobody was convicted, and a poorly-received manuscript for a novel that investigators came to believe to be an oblique confession. It’s an extremely gripping story: the titular arsonist’s identity is easy to confirm with a quick Google, but it’s much better if you hold off and let the story meticulously unfold.

Well, there are technically plenty of true crimes outlined in this long-running podcast series from hosts Ben Kissel, Marcus Parks and Henry Zebrowski. Admittedly it’s lodged firmly in the ‘lurid’ end of the spectrum, and it often veers into out-and-out supernatural business. From terrifying serial killers to OJ Simpson to, er, werewolves (criminal werewolves, mind), ‘Last Podcast on the Left’ is extremely tongue-in-cheek but massively entertaining.


The case of Black US boxer Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter – convicted of murder in 1967 on outrageously flimsy grounds – has long been a part of the public consciousness thanks to Bob Dylan’s anthemic 1976 song about him. But there’s more to the case than can be fitted into the lyrics of one (admittedly very long) tune. This excellent 2018 podcast takes you through the complicated and angering history of the case, with invaluable insight from the late Carter’s less remembered co-defendant John Artis.

Veteran Brit investigative reporter John Sweeney’s smash 2020 podcast is the perfect primer for anyone struggling to get their head around the whole Jeffrey Epstein/Prince Andrew/Ghislaine Maxwell horrorshow. It zeroes in on Maxwell as the fulcrum of the whole sordid business, beginning with her upbringing as the daughter of tyrannical media mogul Robert Maxwell and ending with her incarcerated and awaiting trial. A recent epilogue covered the trial itself.


When the British empire took over huge swathes of the globe, they stole loads of stuff and stashed it away in museums. That’s the bare facts of ‘Stuff the British Stole’ – but it’s the way this Australian ‘cast tells it all that really gets it off the ground. Every week, Marc Fennell zeroes in on an object, individual, idea or – in at least one case – a pet stolen by the British during the height of empire. Sifting through stories and getting to the significance of each stolen thing, Fennell manages to entertain, enrage and, more often than you’d think, make you chuckle at the absurdity of it all.

What would a true crime list be without a dose of Scandi noir? This collaboration between the Norwegian public broadcasting service NRK and the BBC World Service traces the case of the Isdal Woman, an unidentified woman found dead near Bergen in 1970. There is plenty of reason to believe she may have been a Cold War spy, but her identity has never been discovered, and even the cause of death remains heavily disputed. Created by Norwegian investigative journalist Marit Higraff, the podcast has uncovered some valuable clues, although the woman’s identity remains elusive.


Odds are, you’re already passing familiar with the story of Anna Delvey, aka Anna Sorokin, the Russian-born German fashion student who moved to New York and spent four years conning her way into high society and passing herself off as a wealthy socialite while she was nothing of the sort. It’s a fascinating story both for its lurid details and the fact it’s essentially a ‘Gatsby’-ish parable about the nature of capitalism. It’s inspired multiple TV shows and even a play, but the excellent ‘Fake Heiress’ BBC podcast is the definitive account of the affair.

Sure, ‘Bonaparte’ is very, very much in the lineage of the post-‘Serial’ cold case investigative podcast, but it’s also something very special. It’s personal: New York attorney Anne Champion happened to tell journalist Jason Stavers about the unexplained death of her childhood friend Laura van Wyhe, who went missing at a party in Bonaparte, Iowa, in 1996 and turned up dead eight hours later. The two of them decided to make a series about it, and while their investigation bears many of the hallmarks of a well-made true crime ‘cast, it also delves poignantly into how an unsolved murder can poison a small community.


Although the title alludes to the fact that ‘Bad Blood’ does indeed serve as a coda to John Carreyrou’s book of that name, you can be assured that his podcast ‘The Final Chapter’ stands up on its own. Essentially it’s about the trial of Elizabeth Holmes, the blood testing entrepreneur who was sent down after the criminal collapse of her company Theranos. It’s a modern scandal that can be slightly difficult to get your head around: but over 12 episodes (and supplementary reports from court), Carreyrou breaks it down immaculately.

These days, you probably know what catfishing is. Y’know, it’s when someone pretends to be somebody else online in order to try and fool someone else. But that doesn’t mean ‘Sweet Bobby’ is any less astonishing or ridiculous. It tells the story of how host Kirat Assi was taken in via flabbergasting levels of deception that led her to believe she was in a relationship with a cardiologist. With its vast cast of supporting characters, all backing up the lie, it’s one that’ll leave you questioning everything – and everyone.


Short of unearthing his true identity, there isn’t much left to say about Victorian serial killer Jack the Ripper. But social historian Hallie Rubenhold has found a remarkable amount of new information about his still shamefully little known female victims. This excellent 15-part podcast has been controversial, with hardcore Ripperologists (they exist!) angry at Rubenhold’s conclusion that there is no evidence that three of the five women killed were prostitutes. For the less partisan, it’s a scrupulously researched and often poignant series about what it was to live and die in Victorian London.


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