Police identify criminals from texts

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The Independent Online

*Criminals who use text messages are being caught out by new techniques that can identify a person from the clues they leave in a message. Language scientists believe that it is possible to identify the author of a message by analysing the spelling, grammar and syntax of the words used.

Police have already used the method in high-profile murder cases but it has to be tested further before courts can accept it as routine evidence. Tim Grant, the deputy director of the Centre for Forensic Linguistics at Aston University, said that texting was similar to handwriting in that it involved the use of personal styles and choices.

The approach was used in the case against David Hodgson who was convicted in February of murdering his former lover Jenny Nicholl, 19. Ms Nicholl's family kept receiving messages from her phone after she had disappeared, but police suspected her former boyfriend was sending them, not her. "A linguistic analysis showed that text messages sent from her phone were unlikely to have been written by her but, rather, were more likely to have been written by Hodgson," Dr Grant said. Hodgson had a different texting style to Ms Nicholl. For example, he would write "I am" in his messages, while Ms Nicholl would use "im".