The ‘Serial’ approach: Toronto detective turns to Twitter for help in murder investigation
A Toronto police detective is using Twitter to solicit help from the public in a murder investigation, an approach he said was inspired by the popular podcast Serial.
“People have a real appetite for cold case and historical murder — that sense of injustice that time has gone by and the family’s hasn’t had closure — and there are often clues,” Detective Tam Bui told New York Magazine. “When our investigation stalled, one way we can try to move it forward is putting out information to the public.”
Bui said his supervisors have allowed him to post clues related to the death of Mike Pimentel on Jan. 1, 2012. Investigators said Pimentel was stabbed to death after getting into an argument with an unknown man and woman. Pimentel’s family, Bui said, has also approved of the strategy.
The first clue, posted on Dec. 11, was a photo of a woman investigators are trying to identify, with the caption, “Who was this girl?”
— Detective Tam Bui (@DetBuiHomicide) December 11, 2014
Bui has also posted pictures of shoes, a hair extension containing a blood stain, and a keychain with a Moroccan flag connected to the investigation.
— Detective Tam Bui (@DetBuiHomicide) December 19, 2014
Bui said Twitter users have helped police determine the brand of a jacket found at the crime scene, as well as information about the keychain. One more clue is scheduled to be posted on Dec. 31.
Serial, which recently concluded its first season, concerned the murder of a Baltimore high school student, 18-year-old Hae Min Lee, in 1999. Lee’s ex-boyfriend, Adnan Masud Syed, was convicted of killing her in February 2000 and sentenced to life in prison.
Host Sarah Koenig and her staff revisited the case, and as The Daily Dot reported, the case spurred fans of the show to search for clues related to Lee’s death. The show has amassed 5 million downloads on iTunes faster than any other podcast.
“I have mad respect for Sarah,” Bui said. “I know these cases we disclose are 25, 50, 100,000 pages long.”
Watch a video on Bui’s investigation, as posted by CityNews Toronto, below.