How detectives 2.0 tried to solve an investigation

It took three weeks for the police to find the body of Nicola Bulley, an English mother who disappeared while walking her dog. In the meantime, the case has fascinated to the point of mobilizing many amateur detectives from social networks. If the phenomenon is already known in the United States, rarely has a news item attracted so many anonymous people to the United Kingdom, documenting their research on their TikTok or Instagram accounts.

Nicola Bulley, a 45-year-old mortgage adviser, was last seen alive by the River Wyre on January 27 in north-west England. She was then walking her dog after dropping off her two daughters at school. His body was found three weeks later in the river by the police. The case ended up in the front page of many newspapers and some news channels multiplied the direct on the spot to retrace the macabre journey of Nicola Bulley.

The hashtag #NicolaBulley used millions of times

As the search for divers continued, the hashtag #NicolaBulley has been used millions of times on social networks by Internet users sharing their most scabrous theories on the disappearance, to the dismay of those close to the mother of the family. A user of the TikTok platform even filmed himself digging in the dirt to search for the body, and also shared the moment when the remains were finally found and brought out of the water.

“People are trying to get more involved in these cases, becoming detectives and trying to investigate and provide another perspective on crime,” says David Schmid, professor of English at the American University at Buffalo. , who notes that this fascination is already evident in the United States.

Investigators 2.0 thanks to new technologies and online databases

According to him, the phenomenon has grown with the boom in crime investigation documentaries and series, such as the worldwide hit podcast Serial or the documentary series Making a Murderer. These successes, he explains, have “signalled a new type of public interest in crime, which is specifically aimed at working on unsolved cases or intervening in cases where people feel there has been a miscarriage of justice”.

The involvement of amateurs in investigations, made possible by new technologies and databases accessible online, however raises the question of the potential destruction of evidence and the damage caused to falsely accused suspects. As part of the search for Nicola Bulley, the local police had to issue “a dispersal order” in the face of the multitude of improvised detectives surveying the woods of the region in search of the body.

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