Many of us in the UK have resorted to buying and fitting an electronic navigation aid in preference to thumbing our way through creased, grubby maps and gazetteers.

Whilst there are many advantages to using a Sat Nav, how many of us have got lost when relying on them or ended up going a longer way around a town than needed.

You either love them or hate them but when it comes to fiction, where do you stand?

Have you incorporated them into a story yet and if not why not?  I know they don’t sound the most glamorous of items but when you have digested the following, you may just change your mind.

In August 2011, a Lithuanian born Vitalija Baliutaviciene was reported missing by her young son when she failed to return home at the end of the day.  She had previously been threatened and assaulted by her ex-husband who had followed her to Cambridgeshire in the UK following their divorce.

Thankfully the local police took her disappearance seriously and began a detailed investigation, which led them fairly quickly to suspect her ex-husband, Rimas Venclovas.  It appeared from analysis of CCTV and Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) footage that he had attacked and abducted his ex-wife in the UK on her way to work.  He had bundled her into his van and within 58 minutes had killed her before driving off.  Her body could not be found anywhere near the site of attack or abduction.

To see video footage of the abduction click here

By virtue of the fact that both people were Lithuanian, this became an international investigation, especially as Venclovas couldn’t be located at first. 

Following painstaking mobile telephony enquiries Venclovas was arrested in Lithuania for the murder and Kidnap of Vitalija but her body was nowhere to be found.  His van, which was recovered revealed no clues, nor were any found at his home address.  However, amongst property seized from him was the Sat Nav from the van he had been seen driving in the UK.

This is the first known case where a Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) has exploited the data of a Sat Nav to the extent seen in this case. Despite being told by the manufacturers that only limited data could be extracted from the Sat Nav, he continued to seek further information from the equipment, finally succeeding in recovering its ‘inner files’.

These were analysed and they revealed that Venclovas had travelled from Lithuania to the UK and back around the time of the disappearance of Vitalija.

It was considered possible, using the data from the Sat Nav that her body could have been dumped anywhere along the route, he had travelled across 6 European countries after leaving the UK.

Cambridgeshire Constabulary Creating a safer CambridgeshireThe Cambridgeshire Constabulary detectives (part of the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit) identified from analysis of the Sat Nav that Venclovas had stopped at various points along the route back to Lithuania.  They asked Interpol to circulate the co-ordinates of these stops to the police in the respective countries.

The police in Poland responded, reporting the discovery of a female body, buried in a shallow grave in the region of Lutol Suchy, Poland, within 50 metres of one of the sets of coordinates.  The body was identified through DNA as Vitalija Baliutaviciene (the ex-wife of Venclovas).

After a 7 week trial at The Old Bailey, a jury unanimously convicted Venclovas of Vitalija’s murder and kidnap. He was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment.

Watch the BBC Crimewatch programme about the case here

So, as you can see, the outcome of the thorough analysis of the Sat Nav was a fully mapped journey of a kidnap and homicide, the recovery of a body and most importantly, a conviction for murder. 

Would this example help you develop your story or could your killer find a way to thwart the investigation (other than not using a Sat Nav in the first place)?

Don’t forget your copy of Writers, Researchers and the Police at an introductory price to the first 50 purchasers. For more information follow the image below

Writers, Researchers and the Police 2014 Cover

  1. Pete Denton says:

    I think technology is great to use in stories and Sat Nav definitely fits the bill. Great that in real life the police have another tool available to catch criminals.


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