Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Culture
  2. TV & Radio
12 January 2022

The surreal twists and turns of Tortoise Media’s Sweet Bobby

This tale of catfishing promises to be the latest in a long line of salacious, whiplash-inducing true crime podcasts – and it delivers.

By Anna Leszkiewicz

Sweet Bobby, a podcast series from Tortoise Media, sells itself as an unbelievable true story, a “live, multi-part investigation” into a complex crime, “a screwed-up, crazy kind of love story filled with death, lies and witness protection programmes”. It opens with a lawyer telling the host Alexi Mostrous, an investigative reporter for Tortoise, about “the craziest case I’ve ever seen”. There’s ominous music, and clips of a woman sobbing. It’s clear that Sweet Bobby promises to be the latest in a long line of salacious, surreal, whiplash-inducing true crime podcasts that started in 2014, when Serial became a phenomenon. By that metric, it delivers.

Mostrous introduces us to Harkirat Kaur Assi, or Kirat. It’s her story this series explores, often in her own words. When it begins, in 2010, Kirat is a happy, vibrant 30-year old from a close-knit Sikh community in west London, working part-time as a presenter on a local station, Desi Radio. One day she receives a Facebook message from a man called Bobby. Although they’ve never met in person, they have friends and family in common. Their chats become increasingly intimate. They bump into each other once in person, but Bobby is distant and acts as if he doesn’t know Kirat. They stop speaking for a couple of years – and then Bobby suddenly reappears in Kirat’s life with a shocking story. Though he is now living in the US, they quickly grow closer, and enter a relationship that soon becomes controlling, consuming Kirat’s every waking moment.

Mostrous tells us almost from the start that Bobby isn’t who he says he is. At the heart of this story is catfishing: the practice of creating a fictional online persona in order to deceive one’s victim. But to provide the podcast with all the requisite twists and turns, key details are held back, some until the final moments of the series. At the end, some questions remain unanswered. And, like many true crime sagas that largely rest on the compelling testimony of a single witness, there are nagging ethical questions that are, for the most part, left unaddressed.

Sweet Bobby
Tortoise Media

[see also: BBC drama Rules of the Game shows how toxic culture spreads through workplaces]

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

Content from our partners
How to create a responsible form of “buy now, pay later”
“Unions are helping improve conditions for drivers like me”
Transport is the core of levelling up

This article appears in the 12 Jan 2022 issue of the New Statesman, The age of economic rage