Main witness in Serial podcast murder case says he was unfairly portrayed

Jay Wilds breaks silence over hugely popular series

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The main witness in the US murder case at the centre of the hugely popular podcast Serial has said he was portrayed unfairly. Jay Wilds has also said the young man convicted of the murder of Hae Min Lee had told him he was going to kill her a week before her death.

Mr Wilds had previously declined to be interviewed by the media and declined to take part in the 12-part podcast, presented by journalist Sarah Koenig. He was only identified by his first name in the series.

Yet in the first of a series of extracts from an interview with The Intercept, Mr Wilds presented his side of events for the first time. He also modifies one potentially important aspect of his information, saying that he had first spotted the body of Ms Lee in front of his grandmother’s Baltimore home, and not in a Best Buy car park, as he told police in taped interviews featured in the podcast.

Asked why he had changed his story, Mr Wilds said: “I didn’t tell the cops it was in front of my house because I didn’t want to involve my grandmother.”

Mr Wilds was the main witness used by prosecutors in the trial of Ms Lee’s ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed. Mr Wilds, who said he made a living selling drugs, has said he helped Syed bury the young woman’s body.

Syed was convicted of killing the 18-year-old in 1999 while she was a student at a Baltimore High School. The body was later discovered in a park.

Syed pleaded not guilty and did not appear on the stand. He maintains his innocence, and The Innocence Project at the University of Virginia is investigating the case. It has reportedly identified several alternative suspects.

Mr Wilds said that Syed had talked about killing Ms Lee around a week before the actual murder. They had been riding together in a car.

“It was at least a week before she died, when he found out she was either cheating on him or leaving him. We were in the car, we were riding, smoking,” he said. “I think she’s [messing] around. I’m going to kill [her], man.”

Asked why he helped agree to bury the young woman’s body, Mr Wilds said he was concerned that Syed would tell police he was a drug dealer.

“At the time I was convinced that I would be going to jail for a long time if he turned me in for drug dealing, especially to High School kids,” he said. “I was also running [drug] operations from my grandmother’s house. So that would ruin her life too.”

Serial was produced as part of This American Life, a weekly radio programme broadcast weekly on more than 500 public radio channels across the US.  Since its launch in October, it has become the most popular podcast in history.

“We wanted it to feel like a live thing, Ms Koenig told National Public Radio. “And we were still reporting last week for the final episode.”