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Big data Police check mobile phone records in rape case

The path where a woman was brutally assaulted


Lucerne’s state prosecutor has turned to big data in the hunt for a rapist whose victim is now a quadriplegic as a result of the assault. 

Police are combing through thousands of mobile phone records in the hopes of finding the perpetrator, as there are several mobile phone antennae near the scene of the crime. DNA results have failed to yield a suspect – despite mass DNA screening efforts involving hundreds of men. 

As police spokesman Simon Kopp told central Swiss television channel Tele1external link on Tuesday, they’re collecting the numbers of all mobile phones that were switched on in the area at the time of the crime. 

“Now it’s a matter of seeing which phone owners might be in question,” Kopp said. Numbers registered to women are not considered suspicious; nor are numbers associated with extremely short connections – as these would suggest phones speeding past on the nearby highway. 

In the cases of numbers registered with a company plan, businesses have received a letter from the police asking for employee details. 

“We’ve had a good response so far,” said Kopp. “We get the sense that people feel moved by this case and want it to be solved.”

The crime occurred on a summer night in 2015, when a 26-year-old woman was riding her bicycle along a riverside path in Emmen, a suburb of Lucerne. A man pulled her off the bike and raped her in a nearby patch of woods. The fall from the bike was so bad that both her arms and legs are paralysed.

In 2014 there were 6,484 crimes against sexual integrity reported in Switzerland, among them 556 rapes.

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