Vanity Fair reports that two British Columbia teens convicted of first degree murder used World of Warcraft to plot the rape and murder of a close friend. The result: a trail of online evidence 1.4 billion pages long.
Its common knowledge that our increasing reliance on the Internet to communicate has been a boon for law enforcement. After all, stories about criminals doing all manner of research about their crimes online have been popping up for more than a decade. These days, murder suspects are often found to have Googled…well…”How to Murder Someone” long before committing their crime, and to have searched around for everything from tools of the trade, to places to dispose of evidence.
These online wanderings – often faithfully preserved on hard drives and in Web browser caches and search histories – provide a moment by moment account of premeditation – a powerful tool when trying to convince a jury that the detectives “got their man.”
But the real extent of digital evidence that modern criminals can accumulate in even a short time never ceases to amaze. The most recent example of this comes from a chilling account in Vanity Fair Magazine of the murder of Kimberly Proctor, an 18 year old high school student from British Columbia, who was raped and murdered by two teenage friends. In investigating the crimes, detectives quickly settled on two suspects – Protcor’s friends Kruse Wellwood and Cameron Moffat, both avid gamers and World of Warcraft players. Turns out the two not only chatted with friends online using IM and WoW’s internal chat feature, they also used it to plan Proctor’s murder. In the end, detectives accumulated what they claim was more than 1.4 billion (with a “b”) pages of evidence in the case, including text messages, Web search histories and – especially – IM chat records from MSN and WoW. Those included chats with Proctor, each other and friends. In the end, Kruse confided in a friend that he committed the crime within WoW, which he assumed would be harder to trace. Google Map searches provided possible dumping locations for the body. (Though Kruse would send a text message from the location, making the job of police even easier.)
“People tend to be freer online, especially young people—they don’t feel any repercussions or anyone watching,” observed Corporal Darren Lagan, spokesperson for the British Columbia Island District R.C.M.P. in the piece “We used to try to get a booth in a coffee shop next to a person we were surveilling. We don’t have to do that anymore.”
Indeed, once investigators began their work, the Internet and Facebook were invaluble in narrowing their search. Investigators monitored Kim’s friends writings on Facebook and listened as visitors to a Facebook memorial page traded clues and theories about possible killers. That, combined with monitoring of suspects public Facebook pages eventually led authorities to Kruse and Moffat. Much of the initial footwork could be done without a warrant, Lagan notes. “You’d be amazed at how many people don’t have a single privacy [setting] on there,” Lagan said.