Mounties in British Columbia have dismissed a widespread allegation that one of Amanda Todd’s primary tormentors had been traced to a home in New Westminster.
“Investigators spent considerable time [Monday] responding to rumours spreading quickly through online and social media,” said Sergeant Peter Thiessen, spokesman for the Lower Mainland District RCMP, in a statement. “One unfounded allegation involved the release of information that spread quickly online identifying a man as Amanda’s tormentor.”
“Hacktivist” group Anonymous had posted online contact information it said was for a 32-year-old New Westminster man, linking him to websites devoted to underage girls. Soon after, the name was disseminated through social media, with people online accusing him of being responsible for Amanda’s death.
Amanda Todd, 15, committed suicide last week, a month after posting on YouTube a video detailing years of bullying. Part of the video told of a moment of indiscretion – flashing her breasts on a webcam in Grade 7 – and of an unknown male who sent the images to Amanda’s friends, family and schoolmates after she refused to “put on a show” for him.
While Sgt. Thiessen called the finger-pointing “unfounded,” he would not clarify whether the allegation was outright incorrect or if the RCMP was still investigating it.
A person with a name similar to that of the accused does have an outstanding file in Surrey Provincial Court. The 19-year-old was charged with sexual assault and sexual interference of a person under 16 in offences alleged to have occurred in August in Surrey.
However, Crown spokesman Neil MacKenzie said those charges have nothing to do with Amanda Todd.
“I’m not in a position, one way or another, to say whether this particular individual has anything to do with Amanda Todd, but I can say this particular file – the charges in Surrey –have nothing to do with Amanda Todd,” he said.
A man who returned an e-mail from the address posted by Anonymous denied being the accused blackmailer, saying the account was recently closed and that he had “scooped it up.” A man who answered the door at the publicly released address reportedly said he did not know anything about the online claims.
Meanwhile, a Vancouver defence lawyer who weighed in through local media on the risks of such Internet vigilantism has received angry e-mails from people mistakenly believing he is representing the alleged blackmailer.
“I got a lot of hate mail,” said Eric Gottardi. “I’m not acting for anybody [in this investigation].”