Australians have always been interested in true crime - think Lindy Chamberlain, Ivan Milat, the Beaumont children, Anita Cobby, Martin Bryant and William Tyrrell (pictured) to name a few.
Australians have always been interested in true crime - think Lindy Chamberlain, Ivan Milat, the Beaumont children, Anita Cobby, Martin Bryant and William Tyrrell (pictured) to name a few. contributed

Why Aussies are obsessed with true crime

NEXT time you're sitting on the bus or train, take a look around - chances are many of your fellow commuters are listening to or reading the gory details of a murder or a serial killer's spree.

Australians have always been interested in true crime - think Lindy Chamberlain, Ivan Milat, the Beaumont children, Anita Cobby, Martin Bryant and William Tyrrell to name a few.

But in recent years our interest has been piqued by the onslaught of podcasts and television streaming devices.

Hollywood is making a movie about serial killer Ted Bundy starring Zac Efron, while Russell Crowe will star alongside Nicholas Hoult and Essie Davis in a film based on Peter Carey's book True History Of The Kelly Gang, with English actor George Mackay as Kelly.

Zac Efron and Jim Parsons in a scene from the new movie about serial killer Ted Bundy.
Zac Efron and Jim Parsons in a scene from the new movie about serial killer Ted Bundy.

And Margot Robbie has been cast as Sharon Tate in Quentin Tarantino's film about the Charles Manson murders, Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, out next year.

Surprisingly, the most voracious consumers of this grisly genre are women.

US comedians Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff tapped into the female taste for true crime with their hugely popular podcast My Favorite Murder, which they began in 2016 and has brought together a mostly female community of "Murderinos" and lessened the stigma of finding a macabre joy in hearing about serial killers and murder.

Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark from the My Favourite Murder podcast. Picture: Instagram
Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark from the My Favourite Murder podcast. Picture: Instagram

The pair now have a cult following across the world and enjoyed a rock star welcome when they came to Australia last year to perform their podcast live.

Kathy Lipari, executive editor of News Corp's new website True Crime Australia, says it's an innate fear in women that leads them to want to know as much as possible about these grisly crimes.

"As women we learn about the fear of violence early. The fear is in-built in women," she tells BW Magazine.

"The true crime thing feeds that. Firstly, women identify with the victims of crime, who are also generally women, and then there's a kind of reassurance they get that the police are out there and there is justice and, with cold cases in particular, women look for that resolution."

Academics and psychologists agree with Lipari. A 2010 report that studied book reviews and book choices found women are more likely than men to seek out true crime.

Psychologists claim there are many factors responsible for women's attraction to the genre: a fear they could be a victim; an empathy with the mostly female victims; and a search for redemption when a crime is solved - indulged in from the safety of a controlled environment.

In Australia, podcasts are quenching the thirst of true crime seekers. Six of the top 10 podcasts in Australia are about true crime, according to the iTunes charts.

Serial killer Ivan Milat’s story has fascinated Australians for many years.
Serial killer Ivan Milat’s story has fascinated Australians for many years.

The Teacher's Pet by The Australian and Unravel by the ABC are two of the most popular of the year. Casefile, Trace and Wrong Skin also fill out the top 10.

The popularity of The Daily Telegraph podcast 8 Minutes, which looked into the unsolved murder of Sydney man David Breckenridge, prompted police to test a forgotten piece of evidence 16 years after his death.

The Australian's The Teacher's Pet has proved a podcasting phenomenon, tracking straight to the number-one spot on the Australian iTunes charts from its first week and staying there.

It has topped 4 million downloads, an unparalleled feat in Australia, with as many as 25 per cent of listeners tuning in from overseas, predominantly the US and UK.

The Daily Telegraph delved into the death of David Breckenridge in the podcast 8 Minutes.
The Daily Telegraph delved into the death of David Breckenridge in the podcast 8 Minutes.

The Teacher's Pet is created by Walkley Award-winning journalist Hedley Thomas who became gripped by the 1982 disappearance of Sydney mum Lynette Dawson 17 years ago when he first heard about the story.

Listeners have followed the unfolding story of how her husband, former rugby league star and high school PE teacher Chris Dawson, was having an affair with a 16-year-old student at the time she disappeared.

The new medium of podcasting gives a multidimensional look at a case that hasn't been caught before

Further investigations revealed an alleged culture of teachers having sex with their teenage students in at least three northern beaches high schools. While Dawson has never been charged with the murder of his wife, two coronial inquests have ruled he murdered her.

A major reason for the popularity of the podcast is the fact Thomas produces it week to week, bringing in new evidence uncovered by his investigations and interviews with people coming forward with information after hearing earlier episodes.

Lynette Dawson disappeared 17 years ago.
Lynette Dawson disappeared 17 years ago.

He is often still editing it in the studio only hours before it's due to be released to his voracious public. In this sense, listeners have the feeling they are taking part in a continuing, live investigation.

"Podcasting is incredibly attractive as a storytelling medium," says Thomas, who admits that he barely knew what a podcast was before he started working on The Teacher's Pet.

"I have never had a public response to anything else I have ever done like I have to this podcast.

"The agitation and concern from members of the public that the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions should look at this with a very fresh set of eyes is huge."

Thomas adds podcasting has become the new frontier for journalists who want to provide stories in a multidimensional and detailed format.

Many of the popular Australian true crime podcasts are created by metro newspaper journalists.

Dead Wrong by The Courier-Mail looks into the shooting death of Jeffrey Brooks.

The newspaper also covered the murder of Queensland teen Rachel Antonio.

The Dead Wrong investigation looked into the shooting death of Jeffrey Brooks.
The Dead Wrong investigation looked into the shooting death of Jeffrey Brooks.

Bowraville is the investigation by The Australian into the 25-year-old cold case murder of three Aboriginal children.

"The new medium of podcasting gives a multidimensional look at a case that hasn't been caught before," Thomas says.

"We've read books and long-read features in newspapers before, but that's just one channel. Podcasts can give an emotional edge - you can hear the voices of family members and people relevant to the case."

In the publishing world, Ali Hammond of Dymocks says true crime has been a hugely popular genre since the publication of what is considered the first-ever true crime novel, In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote in 1966.

"People do seem to be talking about (true crime) more and more, and that seems to be directly linked to true crime podcasts and Netflix documentaries," Hammond says.

"They have made the genre less of a guilty pleasure. My Favourite Murder is a great example of how these podcasts and TV shows help sell the books connected to the crimes.

"On the podcast the hosts often discuss the murderer known as the Golden State Killer, who was the subject of Michelle McNamara's novel I'll Be Gone In the Dark.

"In turn this book has been the best-selling true crime book at Dymocks since its release this year."

Helen Littleton, head of nonfiction at Harper Collins Australia, says big Australian criminal cases or what she refers to as "rock star memoirs" of the figures involved will always result in good sales.

Last King Of The X by John Ibrahim was one of the best-selling books in the category when it was released last year.

Other top sellers include books on other big cases, including Peter Falconio and Ivan Milat as well as historical true crime, such as Caroline Overington's Last Woman Hanged.



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