We’ve already seen how technology can play a role in criminal trials—a 2015 murder in Arkansas saw police issue Amazon a warrant for recordings from the suspect’s Echo device. Now, health data from an Apple Watch is being used in an Australian murder case.
ABC News reports that 57-year-old Myrna Nilsson was found dead in her Adelaide home in September 2016. A neighbor had called the police after her daughter-in-law, Caroline Dela Rose Nilsson, emerged bound and gagged from the house.
Caroline Nilsson told authorities that her mother-in-law had been attacked by a group of men who followed her home following an argument. She claims to have not heard the attack because she was in the kitchen with the door closed, adding that the men tied her up shortly afterward.
Prosecutor Carmen Matteo last week told Adelaide Magistrates Court that Nilsson had fabricated the story and that she should be held on murder charges without bail.
Matteo said a forensic expert had analyzed Myrna Nilsson's Apple Watch and was able to narrow down her time of death to a seven-minute window. The data showed a burst of activity, possibly due to her being attacked, followed by a period of calmness—presumably when she was unconscious. Her heart rate stopped soon after.
“The prosecution accumulates those timings and the information about energy levels, movement, heart rate, to lead to a conclusion that the deceased must have been attacked at around 6.38pm and had certainly died by 6.45pm,” Matteo told the court.
Caroline Nilsson told police she made her way out of the house at 10 pm to call for help. It’s also alleged that she used her phone to text her husband at 7:02 PM and shop on eBay at 7:13 PM. Moreover, DNA evidence does not support her claims, all of which means her story has been thrown into doubt.
“Her emergence from the house was well after 10:00pm and if the Apple iWatch evidence is accepted, that is over three hours after the attack on the deceased," said Matteo. "That represents time within which to stage the scene […] and represents time to clean up and discard bloodied clothing.”
The judge has denied Caroline Nilsson bail and she is due back in court on June 13th.