HALIFAX – Online hacking group Anonymous says they have found the names of four boys who allegedly sexually assaulted a 15-year-old girl in 2011.
The group is asking that the RCMP reopen the case and the justice department launch an inquiry into the initial investigation.
Anonymous says they don’t encourage vigilante justice, adding they won’t release the names unless it appears the RCMP and government aren’t providing a response.
“At this time we can honestly say we’re confident we know the identities of the people involved in Rehtaeh’s rape,” the group said in Thursday morning press release.
“This wasn’t some high-tech operation that involved extracting private messages from someone’s Facebook account. Dozens of e-mails were sent to us by kids and adults alike, most of whom had personal relationships with the rapists. Many recalled confessions made by these boys blatantly in public where they detailed the rape of an inebriated 15-year-old girl.”
The Nova Scotia RCMP are warning anyone against seeking vigilante justice or identifying the boys.
In an interview with Global News, RCMP Cpl. Scott MacRae said he is concerned about online threats to identify the alleged perpetrators.
“Anytime people are going to use social media to identify people that can be a concern for the police and the public. Social media is a form for people to express opinion, good and unfortunately bad,” said MacRae. “When people are going to use the social media world for harmful or potentially threats or criminal activity, police will certainly have to take a look and investigate. Right now we don’t see anything on social media so we’ll have to basically make a determination if that does happen at that time.”
“The challenge in the social media world is people will sometimes hide behind that at a distance,” says MacRae.
“We are discouraging anyone from taking the law into their own hands, or in any way encouraging vigilante justice.”
Members of Anonymous took aim at the alleged rapists on Wednesday, saying that they planned on finding their names.
By the afternoon, Anonymous announced they confirmed the identities of two of the four alleged rapists, and were working on confirming a third.
“We want the N.S. RCMP to take immediate legal action against the individuals in question. We encourage you to act fast. If we were able to locate these boys within 2 hours, it will not be long before someone else finds them,” the group said in their first press release Wednesday.
Halifax school board spokesman Doug Hadley said he cannot confirm if the alleged perpetrators attend Cole Harbour District High School, adding that “given the intensity of emotions I am concerned for the well-being of everyone involved, including friends, family and staff.”
Anonymous plans to hold a peaceful protest on Sunday outside RCMP headquarters on Gottingen Street.
Mom says suicide was a result of rape, bullying
Leah Parsons spoke out Tuesday about the case of her 17-year-old daughter, Rehtaeh, after she was taken off life support on Sunday night after hanging herself last week.
Parsons said Rehtaeh was sexually assaulted by four boys at the age of 15 at a Dartmouth home in November 2011. One of the boys took a photo of the of the alleged assault, which spread around her high school, where Rehtaeh became a victim of bullying sending her into a deep depression her mom said.
The RCMP launched a joint investigation into the incident with the Halifax Regional Police that lasted almost 18 months, but no charges were laid.
Parsons said she is dissatisfied with the RCMP’s conclusion that there was not enough evidence for charges.
The four accused boys were interviewed by police 10 months after the incident was reported, said Parsons.
RCMP and justice department comment on lack of charges
MacRae wouldn’t offer specifics on the reasons behind the length of the investigation, but said generally preparing for interviews in complex cases takes time.
In addition to the RCMP’s lack of evidence for a sexual assault charge, MacRae said there was also not enough evidence to lay child pornography charges based on the photographs alone.
“I know some people are saying you know, it’s simple, there’s photographs and go with it. But there’s identification processes — where did the photo come from. So there’s more to this story and that’s really important.”
MacRae said the investigation was completed with consultation from the Crown, who decided there was insufficient evidence to proceed with charges.
Nova Scotia public prosecution spokesperson Chris Hansen said the RCMP could have laid charges without the Crown, who do not require police to pre-screen charges with prosecutors.
In the end, Hansen said, it was the police who did not lay charges.
“We prosecute and police investigate and lay charges, so it up to them to make that decision to lay a charge or not,” said Hansen.
“I can tell you that we had two prosecutors review this quite thoroughly,” she said.
Two prosecutors were assigned to review the case. One looking into a possible sexual assault charge and another who specializes in child pornography cases to analyse the photographic evidence.
“We looked at all of the evidence surrounding the photo and we did a real sort of 360 view of that very thoroughly and there just was not the evidence to warrant a realistic prospect of conviction,” said Hansen.
Justice minister changes position on reviewing the case
On Tuesday justice minister Ross Landry said he wouldn’t be reviewing the case saying, “in regards to the issue of second-guessing the police at every case, no, I’m not going to do that.”
However, Landry announced late Tuesday evening he is now looking for ways to review the RCMP’s handling of the case, and expects officials to present him with options in the next few days.
“This is a tragic situation, there’s no way around that and we want to address all reasonable questions and try and move forward, how we can move as a society forward and this means a collaboration by all of us,” said Landry.
“We’re in the technological era that we’re in and the changes that are occurring on a daily basis, we have to have laws and processes that can adapt.”
The minister met with the Parsons family on Wednesday morning to address their concerns with the justice system, he said.
A petition calling for an inquiry into the police investigation has so far received over 70,000 signatures.
A Facebook page has been set up in tribute to Rehtaeh’s life, showing dozens of photos of her smiling surrounded by family and animals.
In her obituary Rehtaeh was described as free thinker and painter with a devotion for animals in need.
Rehtaeh’s father, Glen Canning, wrote a letter about his daughter on Wednesday describing her as the absolute best part of his life.
“I had to write something about this. I don’t want her life to defined by a Google search about suicide or death or rape. I want it to be about the giving heart she had. Her smile. Her love of life and the beautiful way in which she lived it.
“I found out this afternoon my daughter saved the life of a young woman with her heart. How fitting.
“She also gave someone a new liver, a kidney, a new breath, and a new chance to love. She saved the lives of four people with her final gift of life. She was that wonderful.
In the letter Canning asks minister Landry how –given the alleged assailants left a digital trail– the RCMP do not have evidence of a crime.
“My daughter wasn’t bullied to death, she was disappointed to death. Disappointed in people she thought she could trust, her school, and the police.”
A vigil in Halifax’s Victoria Park is planned for Thursday at 7pm.
A funeral will be held for Parsons on Saturday.