Another year passed before Amanda let the whole world in on her plight. In a nine-minute YouTube video, she outlined her torment on a series of hand-written placards, a visual trick reminiscent of Bob Dylan’s video for Subterranean Homesick Blues, considered the forerunner of the modern music video. In writing, she told her story, including details of one attempt at suicide by drinking bleach.
The video drew a moderate crowd by YouTube standards, most of them offering sympathy. But it wasn’t enough to buoy her flagging spirits. On Oct. 10, 2012, she took her own life.
In the weeks that followed, her story became international news. The Coquitlam, B.C., RCMP assigned 30 investigators. A small army of hackers, independent web researchers and a journalist for Vice.com exposed the shadowy world of cappers who pursued images of Amanda and other vulnerable girls.
“Looking back, there were a few clues,” says Jen Sadler, one of dozens of independent sleuths who took up the cause of finding Amanda’s tormentors. “In some of the chat logs people dug up there was someone with the initials ‘AC’ talking. And there was a Netherlands connection with another girl who faced a similar situation.”
But at no time did the name Aydin Coban or the bucolic Dutch town where he resided ever enter the frame.
The Todd case had gone cold for a year by the time the Dutch National Police Agency zeroed in on a cluster of 14 drab bungalows in the south of the country. The Bungalowpark De Rosep is a five-minute drive from the picturesque town of Oisterwijk, 110 kilometres south of Amsterdam, where noisy café tables spill out across the sidewalks and a Ferrari sighting is not uncommon. It has the feeling of cottage country, a place where people can commune with nature among the maze of local walking and biking trails.
If Mr. Coban sought privacy, this park was the place for it. Broad-leafed trees and a barbed-wire fence obscure any view of the brick bungalows from the road. Unfamiliar visitors are provided a cold welcome by the park’s owner. The individual cabins are arranged along a narrow road, barely wide enough for a sputtering Volkswagen Golf that coughed blue smoke as it dieseled by on a recent weekend afternoon.
Most of the tenants are guest-workers from Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, some employed at a nearby meat plant. Each cabin runs between $1,000 and $1,500 a month, according to Jacob, a retired Dutchman who has lived in the park for several years and keeps his bungalow in immaculate condition. An avid hunter who has roamed as far as Smithers, B.C., to bag a grizzly, Jacob keeps close watch on all movement around the park. But he never once saw Mr. Coban.
“He’s a big mystery to all of us here,” he said. “We all talk around here, but no one knows him. And no one saw him get arrested, but we know it happened here.”
Further down the path, a Slovakian tenant says he saw Mr. Coban, but never spoke to him. “He didn’t talk to other people.”
At the main office, the owner tries her best to shoo away inquiring journalists by insisting Mr. Coban didn’t live at De Rosep. “You have the wrong place,” she says. Presented with contradicting testimony from her own tenants, she relents. “Yes, okay, he did live here, but I never saw him, never talked to him, never dealt with him. That’s all I know.”
Born in Holland, Mr. Coban’s parents emigrated from Turkey and live in the area around Tilburg, Holland’s sixth-largest city, nine kilometres west of Oisterwijk, according to his lawyer. He had no spouse or children and didn’t attend a mosque, judging by the lack of name recognition at any of the area’s major mosques.
Back in Oisterwijk, a Turkish-Dutch resident who requested his name not be used said he once met Mr. Coban. “A friend of mine knew him,” he says. “He is not really someone special. He’s not very charismatic. An ordinary man.”