Friday, December 8

A true crime podcast has helped free Adnan Syed but the killer must still be caught | Bidisha Mamata

YoIn 2014, one audio series kickstarted the podcast revolution and reinvigorated true crime documentaries. Serial was a US audio series created by Julie Snyder, Ira Glass and Sarah Koenig. It examined the murder in 1999 of an American teenager, Hae Min Lee, and the conviction and jailing of her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed.

Thanks to the questions Serial raised about that murder investigation and trial, Syed had his conviction overturned last week.

That’s good for him. I’m thinking now about Hae Min Lee, the murdered woman. I care that speculative “himpathy” seems to outweigh any drive for justice for murdered women and girls. Snyder, Glass and Koenig are not prosecutors, murder detectives, forensics experts, criminal profilers or specialists in perpetrator tactics. They have made their names in the media, digging up the hideous trauma suffered by Hae Min Lee and her family. What a nightmare it must be for her relatives and friends of her; a never-ending, unresolved, obscene perpetuation of their horror of her as this woman’s murder is curdled into entertainment industry content.

Snyder, Glass and Koenig may say they are professionals dedicated to justice and truth, in which case I look forward to the next series of Serial. The one where they tirelessly search for the man who murdered Hae Min Lee.

Last rites and wrongs

King Charles III at the committal service for Queen Elizabeth II at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle on 19 September. Photo: Reuters

It’s been a strange week, drifting into autumn after the Queen’s death and funeral. I covered the full 10 days for American TV, broadcasting through the night from outside Buckingham Palace. The heightened emotion, pageantry and bouquet-strewn streets contrasted with our 4am hack world of Portakabins, mud and the Hollywood movie-like spectacle of journalists from all over the world lined up under bright lights, talking straight into the camera about the end of an it was.

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Top grifter funeral guest marks went to Carrie Johnson, who was in full Carrie-Bradshaw-as-Anne-Boleyn mode at Westminster, with her military style Karen Millen coat dress and Jackie Kennedy pillbox hat. It looked great, although cosplaying as the doomed Tudor mistress of a randy king and the neglected wife of a randy US president is really quite painfully apposite.

I also have sympathy for the presenters of Australia’s Channel 9, who said the prime minister, Liz Truss, was “hard to identify… maybe a minor royal?” Truss has so failed to distinguish herself that I keep accidentally referring to her as Lynn Truss. She has the permanent vibe of a hapless office muppet who’s burst into a breakout space in search of a whiteboard pen during a company away day.

Nonetheless, Monday served us a glorious pageant, with its brilliantly choreographed approach to Windsor soundtracked by Darth Vader music. The bit that got me was the removal of the orb, crown and scepter from the coffin, which sank slowly into the family vault. Prince Charles looked like a 1,000-year-old elephant as he alternated between turning gray with fatigue and pink with sadness. As we enter increasingly dark times, his querulous emotionality of him fits right in, alas.

all at sea

See Monster, a decommissioned North Sea offshore platform has been transformed into one of the UK's largest public art installations.
See Monster: A decommissioned North Sea offshore platform has been transformed into one of the UK’s largest public art installations. Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA

Those seeking novelty amid the grimness of everything could explore the Unboxed 2022 project. It comprises several public art commissions celebrating British creativity, the latest of which is called See Monster. Yes, that’s a thuddingly hilarious play on the words sea monster. See Monster is a decorated, decommissioned North Sea oil platform in Weston-super-Mare. There’s a waterfall and a planted garden bit. It totally reflects Brexit Britain in that it resembles a gigantic, rusting, algae-contaminated lavatory cistern leaking bog water on to the populace from on high.

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Bidisha Mamata is an Observer columnist

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