So I thought I’d try something new. I signed up for Audible and downloaded West Cork — the company’s first True Crime production. It’s a podcast, but more than a podcast. It has 13 chapters and is over seven hours in total, and . . .
It was a revelation.
I’ve never really listened to a podcast before, other than a few seconds here and there to sample one. But friends and familh have been urging me to try audio books. I went one better and sample an audio “show.”
West Cork is reflective of the reason I spent 20 years working in broadcasting — most of it in radio. It’s the story of a crime that occured on the west coast of Ireland in 1996 — the murder of a youngish French woman, Sophie Toscand DuPlantier. She was beaten to death at the bottom of a lane leading up to her vacation home.
While the police quickly had a suspect in mind, he’s never been brought to trial, and he was more than eager to talk to the producers of West Cork. His name is Ian Bailey, and he’s a journalist turned poet who never made any money in Ireland but apparently loves the spotlight so much he has never left the community.
And a spotlight it is. This story captivated Europe for more than 20 years, and still isn’t over. Bailey will be tried, probably in absentia, in France early next year. But the truth about how Sophie Toscand DuPlantier met her death may never be known.
So, to get to the 10 things I learned from West Cork:
- Ireland has a screwy court system, and the police have done many questionable things. You can’t really compare it to the United States, where police are so often accused of unnecessary violence. But these Irish cops had a unique zeal to find an and convict their suspect, which lead to witnesses changing their story and Ian Bailey complaining about how much he has suffered.
- France has a weird system as well. Who ever heard of trying a murder case when there’s no suspect in the courtoom. But, according to journalists who narrate the series, the system dates back to a Napoleonic law that allowed French citizens hurt in other countries to try their cases at home.
- Speaking as an Irish person, after listening to West Cork I can fully understand why some are so critical of Irish people. The key witness in the case, a certain Marie Farrell, never told the whole story of what she experienced the night of the murder, and then changed her story completely almost a decade after the murder.
- Jennifer Forde and Sam Bungey, who narrate the series, are great journalists. It reminds me of what radio news in the 1940s must have been like.
- West Cork, an enclave on the westernmost part of Europe, is said to be beautiful. But it’s like any small town in any other city in the world.
- Alcohol makes people do bad things.
- Some crimes may never be solved
- If a crime is absorbing enough, an audience will listen for hours.
- If you listen to a person talk long enough, you think you can tell when he or she is lying.
- I hope they do more shows like this on Audible
West Cork does bog down a bit in the middle, but overall it’s a great introduction to audio books and podcasts.
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