Toronto Police Use Social Media Clues to Arrest Murderer in ‘Serial’-Style Investigation

It seems we weren’t the only ones excited for the new season of the Serial podcast.

Toronto police must have been pretty jazzed about it too. Because we strongly suspect that a few of the force are fans of the investigative show.

Homicide detectives capitalized on the popularity of the podcasts, by using social media to share clues with a global audience and were able to subsequently arrest a man for second-degree murder in a four-year-old cold case.

The mysterious 2011 New Year’s Eve murder of Mike Pimental in Liberty Village was far from being solved in December last year, when Detective Tam Bui decided to try a new tack. By posting clues on Twitter and using the hashtag #mikepimentalmurder, he hoped to crowdsource new information on a case where there was very little to go on.

And, in true Serial style, the detective even posted a weekly piece of new evidence every Saturday to spark interest and draw out anyone who knew about the events of the evening.

Bui posted a photo of the crime scene, an image of a woman they were looking to speak with, and critical pieces of evidence; a hair extension, a high-heeled shoe, and a key chain.

Detective Jeff Tavares, who worked alongside him said that he hoped people would say “Hey, we have a real life Serial story in our neighbourhood so why don’t we start following this.”

In a parallel to the popular podcast series, Det. Bui posted enticing captions like “clue 2, the keys, who was locked out that night, NYE 2012.” Sarah Koenig better watch her back. The tweets received a hugely positive response, with a lot of people reaching out with fresh information. One woman came forward to say she owned the same pair of shoes and informed police where she had purchased them from.

Toronto Police Staff Inspector, Greg McLane said to CBC, “It attracted their interest. It was different. It sparked their curiosity. People wanted to be a part of this. It was very captivating.”

Mike Poirier, 30, was arrested in Calgary, for the murder of Mike Pimental. Police had believed that the killer lived outside the Toronto area and had hoped that using Twitter could gather information from further afield.

With social networking already a powerful tool for Millennials in their personal lives and their careers, this success story is a triumph for police, who have shown an ability to modernise and think beyond traditional ways of investigating.

In a world where some see hashtags and social media as the beginning of the end for civilization, it’s important to see how useful it can be in connecting us and bridging the gap.

Here’s to fighting crime, one emoji at a time.