British Columbia

Files named 'Amanda Todd' found on device seized from accused in sextortion case

A digital detective with the Dutch national police force says he discovered files containing the words 'Amanda Todd' on a hard drive seized from the man on trial in B.C. Supreme Court for sextorting the 15-year-old.

Dutch police analyzed computers and hard drives following Aydin Coban's arrest in January 2014

These photographs were seized during the arrest of Aydin Coban in 2014 at a remote bungalow in the Netherlands. The images are part of exhibits that have been introduced into evidence at Coban's trial for sextorting Amanda Todd. (B.C. Supreme Court)

WARNING: This story contains disturbing details and may affect those who have been targeted for sextortion, or know someone affected by it.

A digital detective with the Dutch national police force says he discovered files containing the words 'Amanda Todd' on a hard drive seized from the man on trial in B.C. Supreme Court for sextorting the 15-year-old.

Testifying Tuesday, Det. Frank van der Molen said one of the files he found appeared to have been attached to a 260-second long video and another may have been connected to a Facebook profile.

The Dutch police officer's evidence marks the first time in the past three weeks the jury has heard evidence directly linking Amanda Todd's name to the digital devices seized from the bungalow where Coban was arrested in 2014.

Coban has pleaded not guilty to five charges including harassment, child luring and possession of child pornography in connection with what prosecutors allege was a scheme to extort sexual images from Amanda Todd.

Crown prosecutors claim the 44-year-old used an array of fake social media accounts to pursue his target through the internet from 2009 and 2012, when she was between the ages of 12 and 15 years old.

Amanda Todd died by suicide in 2012. Coban is not charged with her death.

Only references, not the videos themselves

Van der Molen said he and his colleagues in the child exploitation team examined the contents of Coban's devices in the months after they were seized from the bungalow where police mounted a covert operation culminating in Coban's arrest on Jan. 13, 2014.

He said the files referencing Amanda Todd's name were found on a hard drive, in a database file containing a list of 1,383 video files that had been played on an application that functioned as a media player.

Amanda Todd's name can be seen in this list of file names played on a media player. The list was found on a hard drive seized at the time of Aydin Coban's arrest. The file only includes a reference — police did not find any videos of Amanda Todd on the device. (B.C. Supreme Court)

Under cross examination, van der Molen agreed that the list contained only the references, not the videos themselves.

The officer who was in charge of the team that placed hidden microphones, cameras and a keylogger to record computer activity in the residence in December 2013 took the stand before van der Molen — continuing dramatic testimony that began on Monday afternoon.

Chief Insp. Joerie van Schijndel said he observed Coban two or three times on surveillance video and in person in the weeks between the covert operation and his arrest.

Dutch police used a nearby bungalow to keep an eye on their suspect, but van Schijndel said the exact location was confidential, as were many technical aspects of the surveillance.

Van Schijndel led the two plainclothes officers who arrested Coban.

In cross-examination, he told Coban's lawyer they wanted to get the accused while he was on his computer so they could access his devices when they were live online.

The bungalow where police mounted a covert operation that culminated in the arrest of Aydin Coban on Jan. 13, 2014. Police seized a hard drive that belonged to Coban, which contained files referencing Amanda Todd's name, from the bungalow. (B.C. Supreme Court)

But he said Coban went to the bathroom first and appeared to have spotted the police officers who silently entered the home, because he emerged from the bathroom holding an iron pipe.

Coban cut his eye on a radiator during the course of the arrest.

Once the accused was placed in handcuffs, van Schijndel said police put a blindfold over Coban's eyes and covered his ears with headphones so he wouldn't see the police officers removing their surveillance equipment.

The inspector said another of the officers involved in the operation ran into Coban's bedroom to keep his computer live so it wouldn't go to sleep.

Pictures from covert operation

Prosecutors have shown the jury pictures from both the covert operation and the search and seizure that followed Coban's arrest.

The photographs include images of various devices, including a laptop and computer monitor mounted on a bare mattress, a cable leading to a computer tower, and a wire plugged into an antenna on top of a set of boxes.

A picture of computers found by police during a covert search in 2013 of the bungalow where Aydin Coban would later be arrested. Coban is accused of sextorting Amanda Todd. He has pleaded not guilty. (B.C. Supreme Court)

The Crown said in their opening statement that police in the Netherlands were key to building a case related to the cyberbullying of Amanda Todd. Coban was extradited from the Netherlands to face trial in B.C. in 2020.

Outside court, Carol Todd — Amanda Todd's mother — said after three weeks of technical evidence about computers and digital forensics, she was pleased to see van der Molen present the jury with a direct link between her daughter and computers seized during Coban's arrest.

"It was a feeling of relief that now there's definite concrete evidence that the police have found that have linked Amanda's name to Mr. Coban's hard drives," she said. 

"Hopefully there will be more coming."

'Heartbreaking to hear'

Carol Todd has attended every day of Coban's trial, sitting at the back of the courtroom, a few metres from the prisoner's box where the accused sits with his back to her.

Todd has become an international voice against cyberbullying in the wake of her daughter's death and the viral impact of a video Amanda Todd recorded before she died detailing her anguish.

Carol Todd became an anti-bullying advocate after her daughter Amanda died by suicide in 2012. She has been attending Aydin Coban's trial in New Westminster. (TELUS Originals)

Even as Coban's trial has been unfolding in a B.C. courtroom, the story of a Manitoba teenager who took his own life after being sextorted has made national headlines.

According to his parents, Daniel Lints was a normal, happy 17-year-old until he accepted a message request from what appeared to be an attractive young woman on Snapchat last February.

She coerced him into sending an explicit image, and in minutes he was being blackmailed. He killed himself hours later.

Carol Todd said she has been in contact with the Lints family.

"It's heartbreaking to hear, especially when the young boy had just come home and told his parents that they had just had a presentation on Amanda Todd's story," she said.

"And that young person maybe didn't hear the message that if something happens you need to talk to someone else to help you with it."


If you or someone you know is struggling, here's where to get help:

This guide from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health outlines how to talk about suicide with someone you're worried about.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jason Proctor

@proctor_jason

Jason Proctor is a reporter in British Columbia for CBC News and has covered the B.C. courts and the justice system extensively.

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