Hint: If You Commit A Crime, Do Not Google Every Aspect Of It Afterwards

from the isn't-this-obvious? dept

Techdirt has reported on a number people accused of murder googling for things like "neck snap break" or "how to commit murder" beforehand, and leaving these suggestive details on their computers. Those were some years back, and since then there has been plenty of attention given to the idea that your search histories provide a great deal of information about what you were thinking - and possibly even what you were thinking about doing.

So you would expect people by now would have learned to be a little more cautious for example, by carrying out searches anonymously at different Internet cafes. But the story of Vincent Tabak, whose case is currently going through UK courts, suggests that message still hasn't got across. The court has been hearing about his intensive use of the Internet to research a range of topics after killing a woman called Joanna Yeates (he admits manslaughter, but denies murder):
The 33-year-old defendant ... looked up satellite imagery of the site where he dumped Yeates's body. He researched the Wikipedia page for murder and maximum sentence for manslaughter, web records from work and personal laptops showed.

While regularly checking the Avon and Somerset police website and local news site www.thisisbristol.co.uk, the Dutch engineer was also checking decomposition rates.

Days after killing Yeates at her Clifton flat on 17 December, Tabak was watching a timelapse video of a body decomposing, Bristol crown court heard.
That's a reminder of just how much detailed information about past Internet activity can be gleaned from computers, and how incriminating that might be in certain circumstances. On the other hand, perhaps we should be grateful that people committing crimes are still making it so easy to convict them on the basis of their tell-tale online activity.

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Filed Under: crime, evidence, searches


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  1. icon
    Butcherer79 (profile), 21 Oct 2011 @ 2:43am

    Re:

    "This is not to say the guy is not guilty at this point I really don't know and it may be fun to accuse him of wrong doing, but one hopes that the evidence against him is a lot more stronger than just internet searches."

    He's admitted to killing her, just not murdering her, this evidence is being used as firstly a sign of mental awareness (so he cannot try the diminished responsibility on mental health grounds), it also is being used to show how calculating and calm he was after killing the woman in researching different ways to dispose of/decompose the body, to either speed up or slow down decomposition to a degree that the foresic teams cannot accurately pinpoint a time/date of death.
    Also, these searches were made after the killing, but it had only been released to the press as missing person.

    The fact that he's admitted to killing her has thrown more weight behind this evidence, it's circumstantial, sure, and not enough to convict alone, but it's another nail in the defenses case.

    Incidently, he has said he killed her by placing his hand over her mouth to stop her screaming at his 'misinterpretation' of inviting her neighbour for a cup of coffee, he tried to kiss her and she screamed, he shut her up. Plausable but sadly for him, the cause of death was strangulation, not just suffocation. Another nail.

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