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Saturday, December 08, 2007

It's the internet, stupid

Pick a detail, any detail, of the John Darwin disappearance story and you can trigger a dinner table discussion lasting half an hour. Why the...? What the...? How could we imagine he could..?
Anyway, my favourite facet is how they found the picture, which I repeat here for the benefit of anyone who doesn't think that Google has changed the world.
As the members of her majesty's press and Cleveland Police were exhausting all the specialist lines of enquiry trying to find out if the Darwins were in Panama, Britain or elsewhere, an anonymous single mother just went to Google image search and keyed in "John Anne Panama" and there, top left, was a picture of the couple with some Panamanian property agent. Try it yourself. The larger picture has gone but the cache is still there. It's even dated.
Not since the year 1910, when wireless was used to capture the fugitive murderer Crippen, has technology been used so publicly to catch somebody red-handed. And this time it didn't take an expert or a specialist. In fact those people didn't think of it. In future they will.