‘Beyond Reasonable Doubt?’ is the UK’s answer to ‘Serial’

Take note, true crime junkies

So you’ve binged Making A Murderer; you’ve hoovered up Serial; and you’ve gorged yourself on S-Town. It’s safe to say you’re a true crime addict. But there’s a new series on the scene that you probably don’t know about. It’s called Beyond Reasonable Doubt? and it’s the UK’s first really good attempt at cashing in on the recent detective craze. Here’s everything you need to know to get involved.

What is it about?

Released in weekly instalments, the BBC Five Live radio documentary follows presenter Chris Warburton and his growing obsession with a cold murder case in Durham, North Carolina.

Kathleen Peterson, a successful businesswoman and head of a multinational communications company, was found in a pool of blood at the foot of her staircase one night in September 2001. Her husband Michael – novelist, newspaper columnist, war veteran – was charged with her murder. He claims it was an accident and his wife had fallen down the stairs. But in his panicked 911 call, he said he found her body (still breathing) after the incident had happened. Curiously, the paramedics revealed Mrs Peterson died two hours after the incident and her injuries didn’t match up to a simple tumble down some steps… 

16 years after these events happened and the tale was finally coming to its tense legal conclusion – which is where Warburton got involved. He was in court to watch the grisly proceedings unfold, later travelling around the southern state investigating every lead and searching out anyone who might shed light on the story.

Beyond Reasonable Doubt

The Peterson’s house at 1810 Cedar Street in Durham, North Carolina

What makes it so good?

Nothing is ever as it seems in Beyond Reasonable Doubt?. One moment you’re convinced Michael’s innocent, the victim of a local witch hunt. Then new evidence comes to light – another death, ‘owl theory’, some blow poke analysis (you’ll have to look that last one up) – and we’re back to square one. It’s compelling in the extreme.

“When I first was told about the case I became obsessed,” Warburton told Huffington Post.

“I’m convinced after you start listening to Beyond Reasonable Doubt?, you too will be discussing whether this story is about one woman’s death or two…” he added mysteriously.

Another interesting twist is the narration. Chris Warburton is a UK journalist caught up in a very American crime, the sort that’s been catnip for US soaps since the ‘70s. What Warburton brings to the table – and sets this series apart from Serial and the rest – is his delivery. Straight, to-the-point and with a friendly tone, the BBC presenter focuses less on speculation and more on the facts. A welcome change from the sensationalist style of recent US true crime programmes.

beyond reasonable doubt

Where can I listen?

Episodes 1-7 can be downloaded from the BBC Radio Five Live website.

How long is it?

The first part of the series was released in an initial splurge of four 15-20 minute episodes on June 28. Subsequent episodes have come out once a week and last roughly 30 minutes. Seven episodes have been released so far with another six still to come.