Social media helped the hunt for the murderer of Jill Meagher

September 28, 2012

The investigation of the disappearance of Jill Meagher in Melbourne, Australia appears to have been accelerated through the use of social media and CCTV footage released by the police

The search for a missing woman in Melbourne, Australia ended tragically but was immensely speeded up through the use of social media.

Jill Meagher a young Irish woman working for an Australian media company, ABC radio, went missing after leaving a bar in the early hours on Saturday [20th September 2012].

A Facebook page was set up to raise awareness drawing on CCTV footage. Within days the police were able to identify and interview a suspect, and locate Jill Meagher’s body.

The breakthrough

The breakthrough came a day after police released CCTV video taken from the store, which showed a man wearing a hoodie talking to Ms Meagher, 29, at 1.43am on Saturday as she walked home after a night out with ABC work colleagues. Police say they were led to the scene by the man charged with the murder and rape of Ms Meagher.

The role of social media

In a statement issued on behalf of the family, Mr McKeon [Jill’s uncle] said: “We are devastated…There are no words to describe how we feel at what has happened. We acknowledge the role that social media has played in the search for her. It has helped us to reach a conclusion, although it is not the one we had hoped and prayed for.

The down side

Social media coverage is not a universal good. On the down side, even in this case, a senior Melbourne police chief joined with Jill Meagher’s grieving husband in calling for people not to post anything on social media websites which might prejudice the trial of the man accused of killing her.

Technology and crime

Police investigations often take advantage of the potential of technological inventions.

In 1910, less than a decade after the commercialisation of wireless system, the captain of the westward bound SS Montrose, asked his Marconi operator to send a brief message to England: “Have strong suspicions that Crippen London cellar murderer and accomplice are among saloon passengers. Accomplice dressed as a boy. Voice manner and build undoubtedly a girl.” A detective from Scotland Yard boarded a faster ship and arrested [Crippen] before SS Montrose docked in Montreal.

See also

Crime investigator outlines procedures