Police in Australia are reported to be using data recorded by a murder victim’s Apple smartwatch to help catch her killer.

Murder

The victim and owner of the smartwatch was Grandmother Myrna Nilsson, who was found dead in the laundry of her Valley View home in Adelaide’s north-east in September 2016.

The prime suspect in the murder case is daughter-in-law Caroline Dela Rose Nilsson, who was found gagged and distressed at the scene, and who told Police that her mother-in-law had been followed home by (and had argued at length with) a group of men in a car.

How Could The Watch Data Help?

The Apple watch contains sensors that can measure fitness signals such as heart rate. The watch can also track a person’s movements and, being a watch, it can link the other signals to the exact time.

It is believed that this data could indicate when the victim’s heart rate indicated a loss of consciousness as well as the actual time of death.

Contradiction

Reports about the case so far indicate that while the daughter-in-law’s testimony puts the time of death at around 10pm, and that her mother-in-law allegedly argued with the men for 20 minutes, the data from the watch is not consistent with this version of events.

Reports about evidence uncovered by the Prosecutor in the case, Carmen Matteo, show that watch data shows activity consistent with the victim being ambushed and attacked as she walked into her home just after 6:30pm. The watch is also reported to show activity and heart rate measurements consistent with her body going into shock and losing consciousness.

According to the Apple watch, the deceased must have been attacked at around 6:38pm and had died by 6:45pm, some 3 hours earlier than the time stated by the daughter-in-law.

Bail Denied

The strength and apparent reliability of the watch data has been enough to lead Magistrate Oliver Koehn to deny bail to Ms Nilsson.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Our phones and gadgets are now tracking devices, and can store or transmit a lot of data about us and our activities. In the right hands, as in this case and in situations where mobile phone signals have been used in legal cases, this information can be valuable for some very important reasons i.e. in the interest of justice for victims and their families.

In the wrong hands e.g. ‘sports wearables’ possibly leaking our login credentials and transmitting our activity tracking information in a non-secure way such as that identified back in February 2016 in Canadian research by Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs, could make us more vulnerable to crime.

This story should also, therefore, be a reminder to manufacturers of wearable technology that security and privacy of the data stored and transmitted about us should always be a priority, and it is in the interest of the manufacturer and the customer that correct safeguards are taken. After all, as this case proves, you never quite know how useful the secure, uncorrupted data from a mobile or wearable device could turn out to be.