Anonymous is dead: An inaugural lecture by Professor Tim Grant

  • Leading expert on forensic linguistics, whose work led to the arrest of murderer Jamie Starbuck, gives his inaugural lecture at Aston University on Thursday, 17 November 2016
  • Professor Tim Grant will explore exaggeration, capability and intrusion in forensic linguistic investigation

‘A husband killed his wife a week after their marriage, then dismembered her body and burned the remains,’ the BBC reported back in 2013.

36-year-old Jamie Starbuck, now serving a minimum of 30 years, tried to cover up the crime by sending emails in Mrs Starbuck’s name for nearly three years, pretending they were travelling together.

The masquerade could have continued for many more years, were it not for the ground-breaking research in forensic linguistics carried out by Aston University’s Professor Tim Grant which led to the international arrest warrant for Starbuck.

Now, for his inaugural lecture, Professor Grant turns his eye on how the careful analysis of language and linguistics means that the days of anonymous criminals who operate online may be numbered.

Professor Grant, Aston University 50th Anniversary Chair in Forensic Linguistics, said:

“I will argue that both the successes and failures can be explained by understanding linguistic identity – who we are, and how we express who we are through our language.

I will show how language analysis can assist in the delivery of justice by providing reliable and convincing evidence for the Courts, and also show how—without a good theory of linguistic identity—forensic linguists can overreach in their claims in Court.

“Applying a new theory of linguistic identity to the investigation of online child abuse, I will set out a new research challenge for forensic linguists by describing an “author search” problem, and I will show how developments by colleagues from the Centre for Forensic Linguistics are already addressing this issue.

Finally I will address the tension between invasion of privacy and the delivery of justice, and explore whether an ethical liability model can create a distinction between justified intrusion and violation of rights in this context.”

Staff, students and members of the public are invited to attend the lecture on Thursday, 17 November 2016 from 5.30pm to 8pm in the Mike Wright Lecture Theatre in the Aston University Main Building. This event is free to attend and open to all. It will also include refreshments and a buffet.

Author, Danuta Reah, will also be attending and signing copies of her books, as recommend by Professor Tim Grant.

To attend, please register online here.

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