British Columbia

Dutch police seized hidden cash, passport and hard drive from accused in Amanda Todd case

Dutch police found a passport and cash hidden inside a stereo when they raided the home of the man accused of sextorting Amanda Todd, according to one of the officers involved in the search.

Dutch investigator was part of team that searched home where Aydin Coban was arrested in 2014

B.C. teenager Amanda Todd died by suicide in October 2012. The man accused of extorting graphic images of the teenager is on trial in B.C. Supreme Court. (The Canadian Press)

Dutch police found a passport, cash and a hard drive hidden inside a stereo when they raided the home of the man accused of sextorting Amanda Todd, according to one of the officers involved in the search.

Lt. Erik Verstraten testified Tuesday at the trial of Aydin Coban, who is charged with five counts including extortion and possession of child pornography in relation to the online harassment of the Port Coquitlam teen, who died by suicide in 2012.

Verstraten is one of a series of Dutch witnesses who are expected to testify at the B.C. Supreme Court trial in New Westminster in the coming weeks.

The Crown has said investigators in the Netherlands were key to finding evidence against Coban — who is accused of using an array of 22 phony social media accounts to demand what he called "sex shows" from Amanda Todd in exchange for promises not to post graphic images of her exposing herself online. 

Coban has pleaded not guilty.

'I felt something moving'

Speaking in English, Verstraten told the judge and jury he was a member of a child abuse investigation team on Jan. 13 and 14, 2014 when a team of Dutch police officers descended on the holiday bungalow where Coban was arrested.

A search began under the guidance of a prosecutor a few minutes before 11 p.m. and wrapped up just after 3 a.m. the next morning. The arrest took place in the hours that followed.

Dutch national police officer Lt. Erik Verstraten, pictured here on Tuesday outside B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster, was one of the officers who searched a holiday bungalow where Aydin Coban was arrested in January 2014. Verstraten testified at Coban's trial. (Jason Proctor/CBC)

Verstraten said he and a partner returned to the bungalow in the afternoon, one of them searching rooms clockwise while the other went counter-clockwise to ensure they didn't miss anything overlooked the night before.

The officer said his suspicions were triggered by the discovery of a boxed stereo and speaker unit with the stereo component unwrapped and the speakers still wrapped.

"I thought it was strange that the middle section was opened while the speaker sets were wrapped and sealed," Verstraten said.

"When I lifted it out of the box, I felt something moving inside it."

A prosecutor showed Verstraten a series of photographs taken at the time, that showed a beige box which the officer said was found once the stereo's outer casing was removed.

He said the box contained a Dutch passport in Coban's name, along with two envelopes holding bundles of cash wrapped in rubber bands which totalled €10,000.

A picture of a map of the holiday bungalow Aydin Coban was living in when he was arrested in 2014, entered as evidence in the trial. Lt. Erik Verstraten said police found the hidden cash, passport and hard drive in a boxed stereo during a search of the bungalow. (B.C. Supreme Court)

The evidence photographs included a picture of the identification page of the passport, showing Coban's photograph and name, as well as shots of the money. 

Verstraten said police also found a Samsung hard drive with a USB connector cable in the box.

He said that all the items of evidence seized in the home were taken to an evidence room at the Dutch force's child exploitation division.

The officer said he was also present a few weeks after the search that produced the cash and passport for the inspection of a wireless router at a vacation home near to the bungalow where Coban was living alone at the time of his arrest.

The Crown has said that Coban was using his neighbour's wifi to access the internet.

Under cross-examination, the defence suggested the home where the search took place was some distance from the router and that trees in the heavily wooded area would have impeded access.

Verstraten said he didn't see any hard cables leading from the outside to the router.

Childhood friend testifies

Coban was extradited from the Netherlands in 2020 to face trial in B.C. 

One of his childhood friends also testified Tuesday, appearing through a video link from the Netherlands.

Amanda Todd smiles for a picture. She is wearing a white top.
Amanda Todd is seen in a photograph entered into evidence at the trial of the man accused of extorting and harassing the teenager. Todd died in October 2012. (B.C. Supreme Court)

Adem Gokcinar said he moved from Turkey to the Netherlands at the age of five. He met Coban while playing in the street as a young boy. They later attended the same school and spoke together in Dutch and Turkish.

Gokcinar said that he lost touch with Coban but decided to reconnect in 2011.

He said that the accused was living in a holiday park when they began speaking again and he helped him move into a holiday bungalow a few months before Coban was arrested.

The 46-year-old said the two men shared an interest in music, art, philosophy and religion and would get together about once a week for four hours at a time.

Gokcinar confirmed that Coban appeared to live alone and that he owned a laptop and personal computer.

Under cross-examination, Gokcinar agreed Coban was a "computer guy" who printed up pamphlets at some point advertising his services as someone who could fix computers and repair old hard drives.

He agreed that there were no cables running from Coban's home to another residence.

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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