The evidence presented in the Tia Sharp murder trial in the UK highlights the important role that mobile forensics now plays in both police investigations and convicting criminals.
During the trial, Prosecutor Andrew Edis QC showed jurors an image of a dead child alleged to be Tia, taken with a mobile phone, although the girl’s face cannot be seen, on her bed at her grand-mother’s house.
Blood could be seen on the bed linen in the picture, said to have been taken in the early hours of 3 August, when prosecutors say Tia died. The court heard Tia had used Blackberry messaging, or BBM, on her mobile phone to speak to a friend until 00:42 BST on 3 August. After that, the prosecution say, she did not use her mobile phone ever again. Mr Edis said it seemed sensible to conclude she had died after that time.
In many murder cases, mobile devices can provide the missing information needed to outline the victim’s last actions or communications and/or possibly ? nd a link to identify the killer. They can also provide a wealth of signi?cant and important data that can be used to assist in ongoing inves-tigations or as evidence in a court of law, leading to a successful conviction.
Every investigation is about gathering information and building up a picture. Just as biological forensics analyse DNA to pull pieces of the puzzle together, mobile forensics gives more than just a basic overview of what criminals are doing or have done. Not only can it provide an insight into the past behaviour and habits of the criminal, but it can help investigators to plan ahead and ensure that they can map the future movements of suspects. Connections between criminals can also be identi?ed by tracking the communication from one phone to another, allowing investigators to see the period over which communication between criminals took place and who they are talking to on a regular basis.
Of course, it’s not just the visible and easily accessible information that might be relevant; it’s the data that is hidden and deleted that is often the most inter-esting and useful to investigators.
Yuval Ben-Moshe, senior forensics technical director, Cellebrite