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This is why you should be following this murder mystery....

There’s still time to catch up with podcast…

Image: Serial

IN JANUARY 1999, teenager Hae Min Lee went missing in Baltimore.

A month later, her body was found in a city park. She had been strangled.

Her former boyfriend, Adnan Syed (17), was arrested for the crime. Within a year he was put on trial, found guilty of murder, and thrown in jail.

But did he really do it?

That’s the premise of Serial, a new podcast from the makers of This American Life (which we told you about just before it launched) and people are obsessed with the series.

The obsession is for good reason, as Serial takes a fascinating, in-depth look at a case that might not be as it seems.

Did the pot-smoking Muslim teen with a secret (to his family anyway) ex-girlfriend really kill her in a fit of jealousy? Who was the anonymous caller that tipped off police that Adnan was the person who dumped Hae’s body in a notorious murder spot? Why was Adnan convicted without any physical evidence? Did somebody else kill Hae, and frame Adnan?

The host, longtime radio producer Sarah Koenig (from This American Life), brings the story to life for listeners using piles of legal information and documents, taped police interviews and testimonies, and, most importantly, recordings of her regular telephone calls to Adnan in jail.

We get to hear the convicted murderer himself, telling Koenig he didn’t kill Hae. And we get to hear as his friend, small-time drug dealer Jay, recount to police back in 1999 how Adnan showed him Hae’s body in a Best Buy parking lot.

We, as listeners, get so intimate and familiar with the story that it sometimes takes a while before we realise that this is real life and not an episode of Law and Order. Adnan has been convicted of a crime. We’re playing detective. And no one knows if the podcast will change things.

Innocent or guilty?

In one sense, what Koenig is trying to do is piece together the story, and see if, as his close friends and family maintain, Adnan is really innocent. But it’s not quite as simple as that: this isn’t strictly a ‘let’s prove this guy is innocent’ podcast.

It’s a re-evaluating of a long-finished case, poring over the details, looking at things a different way, and examining elements the legal experts didn’t even see before (wait till you get to episode two to find out one very big thing that wasn’t covered).

It’s a discussion, a conversation, an amateur investigation, on a podcast made by people who themselves don’t even know what the ‘ending’ of the series holds.

It’s one giant, confounding, captivating mystery.

What really happened?

serial timeline Source: Serial

That sense of anticipation, mystery, and feeling that there might not be a clear-cut answer is what drives the obsession with Serial.

Everyone has their own theory about Adnan, or his stoner friend Jay (whose taped police interviews are a key point in Serial), or their friend Jenn.

Eeryone has questions they want answered: Where’s Jay? Was he telling the truth? Was the 3.15 call made by Jay or Adnan? Why would Adnan kill Hae? Did the streaker have anything to do with it? Why would Adnan protest his innocence for all this time?

With six episodes already aired, there’s plenty of time to get stuck into the podcast – trust us, after one episode you’ll be hooked. A new episode is released every Thursday (on iTunes and on the official website), around 12pm Irish time.

You’ll soon be itching to discuss what you’ve heard with other obsessives, so here’s where you can find them:

On the Serial site, you’ll find articles about the ‘smoking gun’ call, and if you hop over to Facebook you can find interviews with Sarah Koenig, where she has given out more tidbits about making the show.

And before you know it, you’ll be like these people (and, ahem, this writer):

Source: Cartwright Comedy/YouTube

What do you think of Serial? Chat amongst yourselves in the comments…

First published 5 November, 8am

Read: Revealing the truth about a teenager’s murder… on a podcast>

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