Aug. 13, 2021 – It is an eerie feeling to go through the computer of a dead woman. Touching the keyboard, scrolling through the chat history, looking at the photos. It is a terrible invasion of privacy. Our computers are, after all, the holders of our secrets, storing everything we’ve ever searched up, the messages we’ve sent, the pictures we’ve taken.
The computer belongs to a woman named Colleen. It was given to me by her grieving sister, Karen Ringham, in the days leading up to the one-year anniversary of Colleen’s death by suicide in Delta, British Columbia. (W5 is only identifying Colleen by her first name at the request of her family for privacy.)
Karen gave me her sister’s computer in the hopes I could find some answers about how her gregarious and beautiful sister could have been so tragically duped. Colleen was the victim of an elaborate romance scam that left her destitute.
But her death was not over the lost money. Her three-page suicide note revealed that the scam had spiralled into a sophisticated con that had Colleen believing she was about to be arrested.
She wrote: “I was advised yesterday that the authorities in Toronto know my first name and it is only a matter of time before they come to arrest me. I am too old and too law abiding to end up in jail.”
On October 9, 2018, Colleen ended her life. The RCMP was called. They read the suicide note where Colleen documented how she had given over almost $1 million. But the RCMP did no investigation into the fraud. They didn’t even open her computer to look for clues.
So W5 did what police failed to do. We took Colleen’s computer to a forensic investigator in Toronto, who cracked her password in less than one second.
Copying the hard drive, we were able to see that Colleen had been doing Google searches for protection orders, women’s shelters and the RCMP. She clearly thought her life was in real danger. And then there were the thousands of chats, with someone who went by the name of Ryan Scott, an online man she had fallen in love with. Little did she know that Ryan was a fraud and his photos were stolen from someone else to carry out an elaborate scam.
If police had simply examined Colleen’s computer they would have found the dating site where ‘Ryan’ first lured in Colleen. A key piece of evidence that could have been helpful in tracking down the scammers, according to forensic analyst Matthew Musters from Computer Forensics Inc. CTV News/W5 reports. | READ MORE/WATCH DOCUMENTARY