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#Serial Inspired #SocialMedia Campaign Solves a #Toronto #MurderCase

Toronto Police Services
If you haven't familiarised yourself with the fascinating, freakishly addictive Serial podcast, I would thoroughly recommend that you do. The first season investigated the 1999 murder of 18-year-old Baltimore resident Hae Min Lee, a case which, despite the evidence being highly inconclusive, led to the sentencing of her ex-boyfriend Adnan Sayid. It blew up, practically overnight and is now deservedly recognised as one of the most popular podcasts of all time.

The first episode of the new series premiered on Friday, and whilst there is still a great deal of excitement surrounding it, there's also an air of controversy. The case that host Sarah Koenig and her team investigated in season 1 was never solved conclusively, and many argued that Adnan was innocent and that they got too close to clearing his name to just drop the case and move on to a new one. Another podcast, Undisclosed, was later founded to keep the investigation going, but Serial had a far wider impact than just raising interest in Adnan's case, and now, as a result of that influence, another murder case appears to have actually been solved.

Just as the first episode of season 2 was being released, an arrest was being made in Toronto in connection to a murder that happened on January 1st 2012, the fatal stabbing of one Mike Pimentel. He was killed outside an NYE party at a club, which suggested that they had been witnesses, but the police initially struggled to convince anyone to come forward, regardless of local media coverage. That's when Detective Staff Sergeant Tam Bui, a fan of Serial himself, had the idea which would ultimately lead to the arrest.

Rather than going to all the effort of starting his own podcast, Bui and his team started releasing photographic and written evidence episodically on social media, primarily under two hashtags - #mikepimentelmurder and, of course, #serial. The notion was that a lot of the people connected to the crime, young people who were part of the Toronto nightlife but not necessarily native residents, might have been fans of the podcast, and would therefore be more receptive to this kind of coverage.

Not only did people take a keen interest in the case, as new material was posted week to week, but they offered input. Some of it was directly connected to the case, some of it was speculation from people who simply wanted to help, to be part of the narrative. Clearly the gambit paid off, as Calgary resident Shawn Poirier has now been arrested and charged.

This story has some really interesting implications, not only about the influence of Serial, but also about the appeal of cold cases, and the way that news is absorbed through social media. People can now respond actively to news, and this investigation demonstrates that they can also help that news reach a satisfactory conclusion. Bui could not reveal if there was any one particular tweet or piece of information put forward by a campaign follower that helped crack the case, but it's abundantly how much the initiative helped.

Whether or not the same technique could be applicable to multiple cases is somewhat unclear, certainly it's not universal, but this strange synergy between murder and murder mystery could well become a staple practice of police all over the world, when necessary.



Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF


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#Serial Inspired #SocialMedia Campaign Solves a #Toronto #MurderCase Reviewed by Callum Davies on Saturday, December 12, 2015 Rating: 5

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