In the UK, a woman has been convicted of trying to murder her husband after researching methods on Google. It’s one of several cases like this that have come up in past years.
Google poisoner tried to murder husband describes the method this woman used to try to kill her husband of seven years. She snuck anti-freeze into her husband’s drink, which caused him to go blind and deaf and left him brain damaged and with kidney failure but did not kill him. The wife wanted £250,000 from his life insurance policy to pay off debts.
This isn’t the first time Google searches have been used as evidence in murder cases.
Alleged techie killer Googled ‘neck snap break’ from The Register back in 2005 reports how a man did a Google search for “neck snap break” and “hold” days before his wife turned up dead. The Durham, North Carolina man decided to defend himself and was convicted of murder in 2005. He is now requesting that his case be reviewed by the North Carolina Supreme Court, claiming his trial was unfair.
In The Google Murder, Philipp Lenssen reports Indian PhD student Anurag Johri killed his wife with a baseball bat after Googling “tips with killing with a baseball bat” and “how to murder someone and not get caught.” He was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2006.
In March, our Google Searches Used In Murder Trial covered how a wife’s searches were used in a trial over her husband’s murder. The story we cited back then has disappeared, but you can see a copy here. The woman, Melanie McGuire, was sentenced to life.
Google Search Finds Wife With “Dead Husband” In Panama City is a twist to the legal stories above. In this case, Google was also used to bring someone back to life, sort of. A man who had been reported missing by his wife and later declared dead turned up alive in the UK. As police probed the mystery, an ordinary citizen did a Google search to discover he was not only alive and well during his disappearance but photographed with his wife when she supposedly didn’t know his whereabouts.
Privacy advocates tend to worry about government agencies getting evidence from the search engines themselves that might be used in trials, such as in the examples above. Google Anonymizing Search Records To Protect Privacy covers this and also explains how in most cases like these, the search engines never have to provide evidence. Instead, the traces of searches are left on computers of defendants.