Text messaging forensics

Txt 4n6: Idiolect free authorship analysis?

Authored by: Tim Grant

The Routledge Handbook of Forensic Linguistics

Print publication date:  March  2010
Online publication date:  March  2010

Print ISBN: 9780415463096
eBook ISBN: 9780203855607
Adobe ISBN: 9781136998737


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Danielle Jones disappeared on 18 June 2001; she has not been seen since and her body has never been found. Within hours of her disappearance two text messages were sent from her phone which, the police suspected, might have be written by her Uncle, Stuart Campbell. In the first case of its type to reach the UK courts, Malcolm Coulthard offered a linguistic analysis which showed that the messages were unlikely to have been written by Danielle. Stuart Campbell was convicted of Danielle’s murder on the 19 December 2002 at least in part because of the linguistic evidence. In a parallel case, Jenny Nicholl disappeared on 30 June 2005. Once more Malcolm Coulthard was able to offer a linguistic analysis suggesting that she was unlikely to have texted the final messages sent from her phone and that her lover, David Hodgson, was one of a small group of possible authors. Hodgson was convicted of Jenny’s murder on 19 February 2008.

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