True crime

Gripping tale of Ireland’s most polite bank robber: I’m Not Here To Hurt You reviewed

There should really be a special word for it: that vicarious fragility you feel when hearing of a minor decision with catastrophically heavy consequences, as if a falling acorn had tipped a boulder. In the case of John O’Hegarty, the subject of the engrossing podcast I’m Not Here To Hurt You, the catalyst for disaster was a quick short cut the wrong way down a one-way Dublin street while working as a bicycle courier. It would ultimately lead him – an academic with a master’s degree in psychology – into heroin and crack cocaine addiction, followed by a stint as a bank robber and eight years in prison. With a

An untrue true crime story: Penance, by Eliza Clark, reviewed

Remember the teenage girl who was murdered in Crow-on-Sea in 2016? A horrific story. Google it. Or the journalist Alec Z. Carelli, the guy who went to school with Louis Theroux, Adam Buxton and Giles Coren and wrote a book about it? Remember how it was pulled because of the controversy over the way he obtained some of his material? Well, the publisher has decided to release that book after all. There will be no upset loved ones –except perhaps those who were affected by the true crimes mentioned None of this is true. Instead, Eliza Clark, the author of Boy Parts and recently named by Granta one of the

No genre of storytelling is more formulaic or more exhausted than true crime

Nothing new under the sun. Or at least it feels that way these days, doesn’t it? The movies are TV shows are comic books are children’s toys. The TV series are podcasts are non-fiction books are magazine articles. The radio shows are real-life stories are Twitter threads are TV series. Even the interesting movies are remakes now. Intellectual property is king, franchises rule the entertainment world and audiences are left to chew the cud from a hundred-stomached cow. Sunrise, sunset and nothing new to offer. So it is with radio, and especially with true crime, the staple crop of narrative radio. No genre of storytelling is more formulaic or more

The case of the ‘Hay Poisoner’ inspired many a cosy murder mystery

The case of the retired major Herbert Rowse Armstrong, a Hay-on-Wye solicitor hanged in 1922 for killing his wife Katharine with arsenic, is one of nine examined in George Orwell’s 1946 Tribune essay ‘The Decline of the English Murder’ as having enthralled the public. ‘A little man of the professional class’, living an ‘intensely respectable life’, nevertheless, for reasons that appear somehow underpowered (in Armstrong’s case a change to his wife’s will and a romantic friendship, probably never consummated, with a woman he met in Bournemouth during the war), finds himself resorting to the bathroom cabinet or garden shed (‘the means chosen should, of course, be poison’) with heinous intent,

Why are we so fascinated by crime?

A suitcase landed in my garden. It seemed to have come from the sky. Soon after, two policemen urgently knocked on my door. Confused, I invited them in, they hurriedly went to retrieve the bag. Inside was a load of money, drugs and keys belonging to expensive cars. They inquired if the items were mine. ‘Certainly not,’ I said. After they’d gone, I was filled with questions. That evening the policemen returned and I was interviewed for an hour. I asked them for more information, but they were unable to tell me anything. Drug deals occur regularly on our street. They happen in a flash; a hand through a car window,