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Zara McDermott opens up about 'social media frenzy' linked to chilling quadruple murder case ahead of new BBC true crime doc

Zara McDermott opens up about 'social media frenzy' linked to chilling quadruple murder case ahead of new BBC true crime doc

The gripping documentary drops tomorrow

A brand-new documentary delving into one of the most harrowing true crime cases in recent years lands on BBC tomorrow (13 March).

Fronted by broadcaster and critically-acclaimed documentary maker Zara McDermott, the film uncovers the chilling story of the social media frenzy that sprung up following the tragic murders of four Idaho University students a couple years back.

The doc in question, The Idaho Murders: Trial by TikTok, follows Zara as she heads into the small US town of Moscow to learn some more about the truly devastating case that saw victims Ethan Chapin, Kaylee Goncalves, Xana Kernodle and Madison Mogen all stabbed to death in November 2022.

Zara McDermott is fronting a brand-new BBC true crime doc.

29-year-old Bryan Kohberger was arrested and charged with four counts of murder and one count of felony burglary for the murders of the four students. A trial date is yet to be set, but it could either be in the summer of 2024 or 2025.

From the very first reports of the crime to the news of the arrest, Zara invites viewers to see how every single detail of the investigation into the murders was turned into social media content, and also meet those who took it upon themselves to try and identify the killer.

Now, the Made in Chelsea star first found out about the horrific news on social media and, for six weeks, the police said they had no suspects, no motive, no weapon, and had found no signs of forced entry into the house.

Zara, along with millions of people across the globe, began to look deeper into the case, scouring social media looking for clues and theories as to what happened and try to find an understanding of how such a heinous crime could have occurred.

Ethan Chapin, Kaylee Goncalves, Xana Kernodle and Madison Mogen were all stabbed to death in November 2022.

Along her journey, she met up with online true crime sleuths building their own theories about the murders alongside those who were personally affected by the social media storm, leading her to reflect on her own role in the tragedy and learn more about the cause and effect of obsessive online consumption of true crime.

So, to find out a little more about the case and the doc, Zara sat down with Tyla to open up about the 'social media frenzy' linked to the quadruple murder case.

Explaining why she reckons people find true crime stories so compelling, Zara told us: "I think it means something different to everyone. But I think, generally, we're fascinated by true crime, because we want to understand the 'why'.

The doc follows the tragic murders of four Idaho University students back in 2022.

"I think that trying to put ourselves in the head of someone who could do something so horrific is a really difficult thing to try and understand - how could someone do this, what would make them do this, and why they would go to such lengths and, also, how someone can feel actually okay with themselves when they commit such evil acts?

"I think that it's a real 'trying to understand the psychology of it' that gets people so gripped by true crime."

One thing that really stuck out about the documentary was how it differed from other true crime docs - namely with a much larger focus on the victims, survivors and affected community more so than the killer.

Talking about the importance of centring on the victims rather than the criminals, Zara told us: "I think that it's important that we don't sensationalise killers.

"We have a habit of making them celebrities in themselves and that's quite a scary concept. Killers can gain notoriety for their crimes and become celebrities.

Zara opened up about why people are so 'gripped' by true crime'.

"You know, you hear these stories of people writing love letters to prisons where serial killers are being held and it's really scary."

Explaining a little more about the upcoming doc itself, she added: "What this documentary is, is a documentary about true crime.

"It's a documentary about the online phenomenon of true crime."

Admitting she was 'one of those numbers' when the case first started doing the rounds online, Zara continued: "I was one of those likes on TikTok, I was definitely one of those views.

"How did that impact the community and what is the reality of the other side of the side of the screen?"

Zara warned against 'sensationalising killers'.

But why was there such a social media frenzy around this particular case and why was it so different from all that others that came before it?

"This is one of the biggest cases that has happened since TikTok was created," Zara said.

Bear in mind TikTok only started to become quite big in 2020 and the Idaho murders took place just two years after that social media boom in 2022.

A massive proportion of content on the social media platform started to be around the murders and, not long after, conspiracy videos and speculation were starting to gain more and more viewership with more interest in the case.

"It just started this huge whirlwind of content, content, content about this case," she added.

Zara also reckoned the case gained such a buzz online as 'a lot of TikTok users are young people' and they 'saw themselves in the victims'.

Zara met up with true crime sleuths along the journey.

This - partnered with the fact that the 'callous, awful crime' involved four victims and one perpetrator - led many to question 'how could this possibly happen?', prompting them to attempt to come to some understanding of it themselves.

There seemed to be a 'constant need to kind of fill that gap of information' when police weren't sharing any updates on the case, leading many to try and find their 'next fix' - even if it came in the form of the most ungrounded information.

Now, a lot of the true crime stories we've seen are 'retrospective', Zara says, as they're not happening right now.

However, this modern social media phenomenon gives us the ability to follow a case as it's happening which is a 'very new' concept to us.

Zara went on to point out that the mainstream media is 'a lot more controlled', whereas online 'anyone can say anything'.


"People just wanted to consume content of the victims and I think that's when it becomes quite scary," she said.

It's true that we are in such a culture where we do binge content, and I guess that in an age where it's more common than ever to watch an entire series in one sitting, do movie marathons all-day or partake in doom-scrolling on social media for hours on end, it seems almost totally inevitable that this was going to unfold in the way that it did.

With that said, however, it doesn't make it any less haunting.

The Idaho Murders: Trial By TikTok will be available to stream on BBC iPlayer from 13 March.

Featured Image Credit: BBC

Topics: BBC, Celebrity, Documentaries, TV And Film, TikTok, True Crime, US News, Zara Mcdermott, Social media