The week in audio: Death at Deepcut; The Disappearance of Shergar; Adults, Almost – review

<span>Photograph: PA</span>
Photograph: PA

Death at Deepcut | Audible Originals
The Disappearance of Shergar the Super Horse | BBC Sounds
Adults, Almost (Radio 4) | BBC Sounds

Here are two investigative podcast series about past crimes. (Yes, I know. Bear with.) In the first, Death at Deepcut, a deeply serious piece of work, journalist Jane MacSorley and retired detective Colin Sutton unpick the notorious deaths at Deepcut’s army training base between 1995 and 2002. Privates Sean Benton, Cheryl James, Geoff Gray and James Collinson all died of gunshot wounds on separate occasions.

MacSorley, whose presentation has the right amount of fire and outrage, has covered this case for almost two decades. Sutton used to work for Surrey police and was put in charge of the investigation of Gray’s and Collinson’s deaths, until he left for a job in the Met. He’s unhappy with what happened after he left. In short, they know their stuff and during this podcast, they uncover a new line of inquiry, plus – shockingly – another sudden death of a young private, Anthony Bartlett, just two months before that of Gray. This was quickly deemed a suicide by the army, this time by overdose. Bartlett’s brother, Steve, a level-headed man, ex-army himself, had to identify Anthony’s body. “I’ve seen death, sudden death. He wasn’t clean, if you know what I mean,” he says. “There was blood from his ears and nose.”

Perhaps you feel you already know about Deepcut: any Private Eye reader has been kept informed of the appalling way the camp was run. But this series brings it all home. In the first episode, some who were there at the time describe violent bullying, sexual assaults, “hazing” that involved masked men jumping sleeping privates and beating them up. Commanding officers were involved. Deepcut was where young recruits went after their first training; several of them were still teenagers.

We learn more, especially during episodes five and six. Collinson was panicking about money when he died; there was extensive loan-sharking at the camp, between officers and privates, which has never been investigated. Very occasionally, an army higher-up speaks. One was working at Deepcut when Leslie Skinner was sent to work there. Skinner had a previous conviction for exposing himself to two young boys. “It was beyond belief when we heard that Skinner was coming to us… on any account he should have been thrown out… but we were told to take him,” blusters the higher-up. And, heartbreakingly, we hear from a young private who was sexually assaulted by Skinner at Deepcut. (Skinner was eventually convicted of five counts of sexual assault and was jailed for four-and-a-half years.)

A show about Vanilla Ice, presented by Shergar, would make just as much sense

Who would want to come up against an army that closes ranks, a police force that believes what the army tells it and a government that wants to draw a line underneath the whole mess? Collinson’s mother has seen what happened in the inquiries into the deaths of Benton, James and Gray and has withdrawn her request for one into her son’s. She can’t face it. A proper public inquiry into all of these deaths, plus that of Bartlett, is clearly overdue. I hope this exemplary, enraging podcast is the catalyst.

If you want a laugh after all that, then you might try the other true-crime show, about the kidnapping of Shergar, winner of the 1981 Derby. Spoiler: the horse dies. But that’s not what’s funny here: the joke is in the presenter, Vanilla Ice. A show about Shergar, presented by rapper Vanilla Ice. If only Shergar wasn’t dead. A show about Vanilla Ice, presented by Shergar, would make just as much sense.

Ice – real name Rob Van Winkle, pub-quiz fans – is not an idiot. An enthusiastic, self-aware presenter, he cheerfully acknowledges that he’s best known for “singin’, dancin’, movies and renovating houses… like Kirsty Allsopp but with more tattoos and a ball cap”. No mention of horse racing, you notice. This is a many-episoded podcast that will tell a story that most know already. Whether you join the ride will depend on how long you think the joke will sustain itself.

If you want cheering up in another way, then Radio 4’s gentle Adults, Almost featured various 17- and 18-year-olds recorded over the last year. “Lockdown was a relief… I had a GSCE Spanish oral I hadn’t revised for,” says one, Kezia, cheerfully. Oh, they were so upbeat, even when they felt down; how lovely to hear such natural wit and delight in life. Young people, hopeful and enthusiastic for the future, learning all the time. Like those poor Deepcut privates.

Three complete series to binge on

John Barnes
‘Always excellent’: John Barnes. Photograph: Tom Oldham/REX/Shutterstock

Coming in from the Cold
Winner of gold and silver at the Arias awards, in the best sports show and best factual categories, this six-part series from TalkSport about black and mixed-race players in British football celebrates their presence since the very start of the beautiful game. Great contributors (the always excellent John Barnes, plus Andy Cole, Ian Wright, Gareth Southgate and more) and a top soundtrack make this an essential listen. Jessica Creighton presents well and intelligent interviews reveal the extent to which brilliant black British players have been overlooked or stereotyped due to racial prejudice. Perfect for anyone into football, but especially teenagers.

A Life in Music
A Radio 4 four-parter that finished a few days ago, A Life in Music is presented by music journalist Jude Rogers. It’s a delight, beautifully produced and written, taking us from Rogers’s early years to how she might incorporate music into her late years (she’s in her 40s). From the very first episode, where we hear her singing, aged five (with a gorgeous Welsh accent), this is an intelligent and sensitive examination of how music helps us access the joys and disasters of who we are and where we fit into the world. “Music and memory have a tight evolutionary link,” says a neuroscientist. “Music is a portal.”

Reply All
The well-loved, long-established tech show is returning after some controversy. Co-host PJ Vogt and producer/presenter Sruthi Pinnamaneni resigned after The Test Kitchen, the last Reply All mini-series, was pulled after two episodes. The series concerned the allegedly toxic atmosphere at a New York food magazine but led to Reply All employees accusing Vogt and Pinnamaneni of creating a similar atmosphere (the mini-series was an odd show even before it was ditched). The new presenters are Emmanuel Dzotsi and Alex Goldman, whose rapport is sweet enough and the first show looks at Goldman’s internet search history (shades of “Look! I’m a nice guy! No dark history here!”). Binge the old, but embrace the new.