Mobile Phones' Value as Legal Evidence Grows
By Carlo Longino, Wed Dec 17 19:00:00 GMT 2003

A man in England was convicted this week of murdering two 10-year-old girls, with location information provided by both his and the girls' mobiles providing crucial evidence.

This article from the BBC points out how the killer, Ian Huntley, knew about some aspects of forensics, he was blind to the information that the mobiles would both give police evidence in the initial hunt for the girl's murderer and later help damn him in trial.

The three lived in a small town called Soham in Cambridgeshire, England, and most of the village was served by a single cell site, but a handful of areas within it were "hot spots" linked to a stronger signal from a mast further away. When one of the girls' phones was turned off and sent its final to the network the night of their disappearance, it was in a hot spot, one of which happens to be the area encompassing Huntley's home. The expert that determined this was also able to use the man's phone to pinpoint where he'd had his car tires changed in an effort to get rid of other forensic evidence.

Evidently this is just the latest in a string of trials where people's mobiles have helped put them away. Anybody that's seen Law & Order reruns knows one of the first things the detectives pull are a suspect's LUDs -- local usage details -- from the phone company, which show all incoming and outgoing calls, and their duration. But mobile phones are now on the list too, with police looking not just for call records, but location records as well.

But there can still be some confusion over mobile-phone evidence, with jurors given complex coverage and cell site maps. One man jailed for life for the killing of three men, hopes that his phone will help overturn his conviction on appeal. Prosecutors allege that his phone put him at the scene of the murders, while the same expert that helped find and put away Ian Huntley says his findings support the man's story that he was more than a mile away.