Cyber Crimes Unit to take over 'private beach' investigation

A screenshot from the video of the woman police are looking for. -
A screenshot from the video of the woman police are looking for. -

AFTER three days, the police have found a woman who recorded a now-viral video at what she claims was “her own private beach.” But they are now tasked with retrieving solid evidence from her cellphone and laptop - both of which they seized - to prove their case.

On Saturday, the woman posted a video on Instagram claiming she could not be charged for breaching covid19 regulations, since the beach was on “her own private land.” She has since been the target of heavy public criticism and also said she did not have to explain herself to anybody.

But the police soon issued a release saying they were trying to find her. She later posted to her Instagram status asking for her 22,000-plus followers to "please give her a chance.

"People, I'm asking that you please don't flood my inbox with your DMs (direct messages). I know what's happening." Since then, she has only posted once to Instagram, wishing a child "Happy eight months," along with photos of them at the same beach.

After the original post, she was criticised by Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh during the Health Ministry's virtual press conference on Monday. He described her as "the worst of young people in TT."

He also asked her, while repeatedly rolling his eyes, "Are you going to build an ICU (intensive care unit) in your house? You have oxygen (masks) in your house? You have a heart monitor in your house? You have a ventilator in your house? You have IV set up in your house?"

The woman's personal information, including her cellphone number and full name and address, was posted to social media pages.

But up to Monday morning, police had said they were still trying to find her. When Newsday called one of the numbers, the woman answered but said she had "not a word" to say on the matter. She apologised before hanging up.

But in a release on Tuesday, they said Toco police, Grande CID, and Eastern Division Task Force, led by Sgt Callender and Cpl Guy, went to the woman’s St Augustine home at around 5.15 pm on Monday. Sgt Callender searched for cellphones, tablets, computers and other electronic devices in relation to a report under investigation.

The release said “A search was carried out on the premises and one iPhone and one HP laptop were seized. Present at the address was the woman’s 35-year-old husband. The woman was interviewed following which the police officers left the premises. Sgt Callender is continuing inquiries.”

The police's cybercrime unit will now have to help investigators retrieve sufficient evidence to lay charges, such as pictures and videos of her at the "private beach," extracting the location from those media, pinpointing the date the files were created, and videos which may show other people at the same location breaching the covid19 regulations, among other things.

They will also need to obtain a warrant to be able to do this, as well as co-operation from the owner encrypted devices.

Head of the unit, Sgt Hernanez told Newsday after a device is seized, "The investigator, with a warrant, comes to the unit and then we will go through it to get what they are looking for. We have our methods and what we try to do is forensic extraction and the items are at the lab."

Forensic extraction refers to downloading or extracting all of the contents from a device with professional technology. It also requires bypassing passwords and/or other security features.

"When that's completed, it's returnerd to the investigator and he makes the arrangements to get it back to the owners. If there's a warrant, we have the authority to get on to the items. If there is no warrant, we have to get permission - especially if the person is a victim, for example, they will give us permission because they want to get their case solved."

He said he prefers not to give a time frame for such investigations to be complete since it depends on factors such as type of device, storage, software, etc.


"Cyber Crimes Unit to take over ‘private beach’ investigation"

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