November 6, 2013 3:30 pm
Updated: November 7, 2013 10:59 am

Forensic audio experts mixed on whether ‘Ian from Etobicoke’ caller was Rob Ford

A A

TORONTO – Forensic audio analysts are torn on whether the voice of a commenter who called a local Toronto radio station to defend Mayor Rob Ford Thursday night belongs to Rob Ford himself.

Story continues below
Global News

Global News contacted two forensic audio experts to separately and independently analyze the audio of the call – One expert analyst is convinced that the voice of the caller – who identified himself as “Ian from Etobicoke” – was that of Rob Ford.  Another analyst found the tests inconclusive but could not rule out the possibility that the caller was the mayor.

The analysis of one expert is startling because, if accurate, it means that Rob Ford falsely represented himself and later, lied about it, and that Rob Ford’s brother, Doug, knowingly or unknowingly perpetuated the lie.

On Sunday, Ford maintained that he was not the voice of “Ian” on AM640.

“If I call, you’ll know it’s me,” said Ford during an interview with Lorne Honickman.

Forensic audio experts disagree on caller analysis

Global News provided the two forensic audio experts with the recording of the call to AM 640 – where a commenter, who identified themselves as “Ian from Etobicoke,” defended the embattled mayor – along with several audio samples of Ford speaking at press conferences, during his radio show, and during altercations with the media.

Ed Primeau, a forensic audio analyst with over 30 years experience, says he is confident that the voice of the commenter who called local Toronto radio station AM 640 to defend Mayor Rob Ford Thursday night belongs to Ford himself.

“I based my conclusion on the speaking style, voice and speech characteristics and vocal tone,” Primeau told Global News.

Primeau, who has testified as an expert witness in dozens of cases in American courts and overseas,  previously matched a voice recording from a mysterious company that sent out a robocall “push poll” about Saskatchewan riding boundaries to the firm that was used to send out the infamous “Pierre Poutine” calls in the last federal election.  Primeau also helped CNN confirm the identity of the voice of Apple’s “Siri” voice assistant.

After analyzing the AM 640 recordings using critical listening – a technique forensic audio analysts use to determine voice patterns – Primeau concluded with 85 per cent probability that the caller’s voice was that of Ford’s.

Primeau cut together sections of examples of Ford speaking in order to better analyze the voice – additionally, he added a filter to a cut of Ford speaking at a Gay Pride event to make it sound like he was using a telephone, making it closer to the radio call.

“I applied some equalization to the gay pride speech to get the tone of his voice closer to the tone of the caller’s voice.”

Listen: Primeau’s cut of Ford’s voice samples

Global News also provided the recordings to Marisa T. Déry, a forensic consultant and chief engineer with the Tamar Mastering Group near Boston, Massachusetts, with more than 20 years experience assisting law enforcement agencies and attorneys with audio authentication.

“There was a moment when I thought that there was a possibility that they were the same person, but now I believe that the files don’t show that.” Said Déry, who also works and lectures at Harvard University in the Audio Preservation Services.

Over a period of 96 hours, Déry put the voice recording through a spectrogram and pitch analysis to compare it with some voice samples of the mayor.

“While there are some similarities –especially with the cadence of his speech- there are some differences,” Déry explained in an email to Global News. “The low resonance of the caller [Ian] is much fuller than the example on where the mayor is identified as the speaker.”

Screenshot from Marisa T. Déry SIS II /Speechpro audio analysis shows  the .wav file on top, spectogram in the middle, and pitch analysis at the bottom. The overall pitch between the two voices is quite different.

Screenshot from Marisa T. Déry

When asked if she could rule out that the caller wasn’t Rob Ford, Déry responded that no, she could not rule out that possibility at this time but would continue to analyze the audio for several more weeks.

Some have expressed their doubts in the theory that Ford called AM640 posing as “Ian” – many pointing out that the voice of the caller was much deeper than Fords.

Primeau says that he took that into consideration during his analysis of the clip, explaining that the voice may sound deeper due to the equipment that the radio station used to record the call, coupled with the fact that the caller was on the phone.

“It’s the same vocal tone I am hearing; the ways the words are being delivered are identical in all of those segments. But the reason why it’s got more fidelity – why it’s deeper – is because of the way that the phone is connected to the radio show. It’s the electronic equipment they are using,” said Primeau.

The voice analysis expert noted that he is trained to hear these differences.

“It’s kind of like a professional guitar player who can recognize the difference of sound between a Rickenbacker between a Stratocaster,” he said.

Doug Ford says the timing doesn’t match up

Even if one forensics expert is convinced that the voice is that of Rob Ford, it doesn’t resolve the claim that the timing of the call doesn’t match with what Mayor Ford was doing during that time.

The mayor’s brother Councillor Doug Ford called AM 640 Friday morning disputing the claims, saying it wasn’t the mayor who called the show – noting that Ford was out trick-or-treating with his family.

“It took me a half a second to realize that’s not Rob on the radio,” Ford told Mike Stafford. “That is not Rob 100 per cent; he was out trick-or-treating with his kids last night.”

However, Global News’ own investigation into the timeline of the call raises doubts as to whether Ford was trick-or-treating when the phone call was made.

A Global News cameraman was in front of Ford’s house while the family was trick-or-treating gathering footage.

Footage notes that at 6:35 p.m. Ford leaves his house with his family to trick-or-treat.

ford-trick1

From around 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. the Ford family was trick-or-treating on foot.  At 7:25 p.m. Ford returns home with his family.

ford-trick-2

But, then leaves the house ten minutes later in his Escalade with a staffer.

ford-leaving

Ford returns to his home at 7:57 p.m.

ford-home-(2)

Our cameraman left the scene at 8:05 pm.

The AM 640 call log shows that the call from “Ian” came in between  8:23:45 to 8:24:15 after Ford had returned home from trick or treating.

AM640CallLog

It is possible that Ford left his home once again after 8:05 pm to do some more trick or treating.

For his part, the AM 640 host who first recognized the voice was quick to identify it as Rob Ford’s. “I’ve met the mayor many times, I know him pretty well, I have interviewed him on the show many times…this guy, if he’s not the mayor he could play one on the radio,” Bill Carroll said to AM 640′s Jeff McArthur.

The question remains, if the caller wasn’t the mayor then who is ‘Ian from Etobicoke’ and why hasn’t he come forward to identify himself?

If you have any information on the whereabouts of Ian from Etobicoke, please send us an email at tips@globalnews.ca.

Report an error

Comments

Global News