HALIFAX — As tensions rise in a small Dartmouth community, some are starting to name names in the case of a 17-year-old girl who killed herself after being allegedly raped by four boys and bullied by her peers.
Students at Cole Harbour District High School passed four names along to Global News on Wednesday alleging they were the boys who were involved in the 2011 incident.
A petition calling for an independent review of how the police handled the investigation has topped 100,000 signatures.
The online hacking group Anonymous announced on Thursday they found the names of all four of the boys. The group is also asking for an inquiry and for the police to reopen the case, in an effort they’re calling “Operation Justice for Rehtaeh“. They say if they don’t see a response from police, they’ll release the names.
“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 a press release, adding that they don’t encourage vigilante justice.
“This wasn’t some high-tech operation that involved extracting private messages from someone’s Facebook account. Dozens of emails 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 community taking to Twitter, Facebook, and the streets are mostly standing with Rehtaeh’s parents, demanding to know why the joint RCMP-Halifax Regional Police investigation did not uncover enough evidence to lay any charges in the case, and what, if any, more action they could have taken.
The RCMP focused on online comments spreading misinformation in their latest press release on Thursday, encouraging citizens to report social media misuse.
Nova Scotia Justice minister Ross Landry announced that he would look into reviewing the case and provide options within a few days. As of Thursday, no plan has been presented.
Landry initially said on Tuesday he wouldn’t second-guess the police and review the case, a position he quickly changed after he admittedly faced intense public pressure.
Premier Darrell Dexter instead announced a plan to assess support services for people who face violence.
Prime Minister Harper told reporters in Calgary it’s time to stop using the word bullying to describe what’s alleged to have happened. Harper said the word has the connotation of kids misbehaving, rather than the criminal activity that was described in this case.
With all parties involved teetering on the edge in a PR cold war, it’s anyone’s guess who will make the next move.
One boy allegedly linked to the case refuses to speak
Global News contacted one of the boys who was named by students at his family home in a small Dartmouth-area community.
The boy arrived at the home late Thursday morning.
“Wait,” he said to a person on the other end of an open phone call as he stepped out of a car. “There are people here.”
The boy confirmed the parents of one of the named boys lived there, but said they were not home. After hesitating, he denied that he himself was one of the accused.
“No… no… no,” he said while walking into his home and refusing further questions.
In a quiet nearby trailer park, a man who identified himself as the boy’s uncle said he couldn’t say anything about his nephew’s part in the case.
“Oh, you mean that Parsons girl who killed herself?” said the man, while tightly clutching a rip saw he brought out of his shed. “This is the first time I’m hearing about a connection between [the boy] and you’re telling it to me now.”
“I’m not going to tell you where he is,” said the boy’s uncle and went inside his home.
The boy’s father was contacted for his side of the story, but he hung up as soon as a reporter identified herself.
Attempts were also made to contact the three other boys who were named by community members. Neither the boys nor their parents could be reached on Thursday.
Global News offered the named boys and their family anonymity for interviews.
Mom says suicide was a result of rape, bullying
Rehtaeh Parsons was 17 when she took her own life.
Her mom spoke out about the case on Tuesday, after her family took Rehtaeh off life support, three days after she hanged herself in her Cole Harbour home.
Leah Parsons, says her daughter committed suicide because of relentless taunting following the November 2011 sexual assault.
One of the boys took a photo of the alleged assault, which spread around Cole Harbour High, where Rehtaeh became a victim of bullying sending her into a deep depression, her mom said.
The police investigation lasted almost 18 months, but no charges were laid.
Rehtaeh’s parents said they were disappointed 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.
In a blog post about his daughter, Glen Canning asked Landry how – given the alleged assailants left a digital trail – they did not have evidence of a crime.
“Why was this treated like a minor incident of bullying rather than a rape? Isn’t the production and distribution of child porn a crime in this country? Numerous people were emailed that photo. The police have that information (or at least they told us they did). When someone claims they were raped is it normal to wait months before talking to the accused?”
“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.”
“For the love of God do something,” wrote Canning, “I feel like I’m dead inside.”
A vigil was held in Halifax’s Victoria Park on Thursday.
A funeral for Rehtaeh is planned for Saturday.