Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Undone By Technology

Rachel O'Reilly was found dead in the bedroom of her home by her mother, back in 2004. The woman had been beaten and strangled, but who would murder a suburban housewife?

It took a long time, but eventually detectives made a case against Rachel's husband, Joe. Of course, they'd look to the husband first, but isn't that always how they begin? However, Joe had an alibi, he was at work, far from the house, over in Bluebell. Didn't know who would want to kill such a lovely woman, but the marriage was grand and he wasn't the one who done it.

Rachel had been buried for some time when gardai received a tip. Joe had put a letter into Rachel's coffin at the removal. Her boys had put letters in as well, and friends sent her off with packs of ciggies and cards. Except that the letter from Joe was said to be a confession. The sod had just begun to grow back over Rachel O'Reilly's grave when it was opened again.

Dead bodies placed in sealed coffins will decompose, but the anaerobic bacteria that go to work have a tendency to liquify things. The letter that was retrieved was described as "heavily soiled" and could not be brought into court as it was considered a biohazard, but forensics used modern technology to read what Joe wrote.

Joe O'Reilly denied that he was having an affair until he could deny it no longer. Hard to refute evidence that's clear cut. And then yesterday, Mr. Oliver Farrell testified that the cell phone Mr. O'Reilly had admitted to having in his possession did not follow the same route as the one the accused had described to detectives.

Telephone towers are remarkable feats of engineering, carrying signals but sending their own signals to mobile phones to find out where they are. You don't like calls being dropped, do you, and the tall masts keep an eye, so to speak, on your phone and where it's going so that the call can transfer from tower to tower as you motor along. Bad news for Joe O'Reilly, as the service provider keeps records for each phone and each call and each tower that handled the call.

When Joe said he was going left, the cell phone records show that he went right. He said he was far from home when Rachel was murdered, but his phone was very close to home, and at the time that the murder took place.

Sure and the devil's in the details. It's the little things that trip you up every time.

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