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New technology helps find needle in the haystack in criminal investigation

Marie Spanswick - Sunday, November 22, 2015

The crime

One night in August, an armed gang forced their way into the home of a man who lived alone and inflicted on him a night of torture, before leaving with only a tiny amount of cash.

The cruel gang spent hours in the home and caused physical and mental damage to the victim, which he will carry for the rest of his life.

The criminals were artful and careful.

They left little physical crime scene evidence. And the terrifying ordeal left the victim so traumatised he was unable to give the police much information or many potential leads.

He did, however, remember the gang had used, on several occasions, their mobile phones. And this was the thread of hope the police needed.

The investigation

Investigators instantly contacted the main mobile phone service providers for details of the calls made in the area at the time...and were handed 10,000 of them.

In the past, this staggering amount
of data would have effectively made this line of enquiry useless. But the force had recently started using Mercure V3, a powerful but very cost-effective, forensic investigation tool.

Mercure V3 could take this kind of data and find the connections and potential leads that would never be found by a whole army of investigators.

With one click, the built-in technology discovered the call chains in the crime zone that could possibly fit the small amount of evidence they had.

The 10,000 calls were filtered through the Mercure algorithms and 90 possible call chains, between two to six phones, were identified in the crime scene area.

Each one was then carefully analysed to assess the profile of the people involved.

Many were discarded. But other chains had unanswered questions, especially one involving three prepaid numbers.

The legal requirements for further investigation were done, and permission to investigate five numbers in depth was given.

New data was added to the Mercure software from many different sources and devices, including tracking devices on cars used by the suspects. And calls and data use was obtained from before, and after, the event.

Other crimes that appeared to follow similar patterns were unearthed in other towns and more data was imported into the Mercure software to analyse activities and possible connections to these.

A comprehensive picture was beginning to build.

Mercure established a direct connection between the target phones and these other crime locations.

After several weeks of shadowing and observation, the police arrested the suspects as they were preparing to carry out another attack.

The outcome

The suspects were charged, and later found guilty of the attack on the man in August, and the other attacks.

Eleven people were sentenced to between eight and 20 years.

Because of the success, more investigators have also started using Mercure in their routine investigations.

Key points about the Mercure software: 

  • More than 4,000 police investigators use Mercure in their daily work
  • It was developed by a partnership between former police investigators and IT specialists and is used throughout Europe
  • It short circuits investigationsby allowing large amounts or complex digital data to be used as intelligence
  • It can process and analyse huge amounts of information from many different digital sources including calls metadata, BTS logs, smartphones extractions and GPS devices
  • It helps save time and money, and can make investigations more successful
  • This case took place in Brussels but the tool works just as well in the UK environment, and is currently being trialled by UK police forces.
  • Call us if you’d like to try it too.

    Avatu contact us 01296 621121 or by email: digitalforensics@avatu.co.ukpage1image48584 page1image48744  

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