Vengeful spouses using technology to terrorise victims

Vengeful Aussies are spying on their ex-partners using bugs inside children's teddy bears in the latest example of technology fuelling "domestic terrorism".

A Melbourne security company fields up to 40 calls a week from people worried they are being spied on, usually by their former spouses.

The extent to which abusers have become more cunning has shocked the former organised crime and homicide ­detectives who run the firm Protective Group.

They have found tracking devices in cars and listening devices in beds - even in children's teddy bears.

Tiny cameras have been found in homes, spyware on phones and drones hovering above skylights to film occupants below.

 

Stephen Wilson runs a company called Protective Group which sweeps homes for bugs and tracking devices. Picture: Alex Coppel
Stephen Wilson runs a company called Protective Group which sweeps homes for bugs and tracking devices. Picture: Alex Coppel

"It's an epidemic," Protective Group chief Stephen Wilson told the Herald Sun.

"It's domestic terrorism, ­really - terrorism in your own home."

Victims told him it was more terrifying than being threatened by a stranger.

Mr Wilson, who has worked undercover investigating Australia's toughest gangs, said the wave of technology-inspired torment troubled him.

"It's frightening. When I was in the police and someone threatened to kill me, that would scare me," he said. "But if you are an abused women fearful of her partner and he threatens you and knows your every move …"

One example was a woman whose ex-partner watched her sleeping via a camera in the roof then taunted her.

Another was a man who traumatised his former partner by remotely controlling security and even the heating at her home, using an app on his phone.

A mum of five feared her partner was about to get out of jail and was shattered to find a sophisticated tracker hidden in her glove box.

 

It had been recording her every move while her former partner was in custody.

"It's becoming more prevalent and will get worse as the devices become smaller and more advanced, but we are landed with it (technology) now," a Victoria Police spokesman said

"We have seen a significant increase in family violence technology offences involving harassment over the past five years, largely perpetrated by men against women.

"Perpetrators are using ­social media, apps and devices to track, locate and control victims, perpetrate image-based abuse, or to contact or harass victims, particularly after a ­relationship separation, and often after an intervention order is in place."

Breaches of family violence and personal safety intervention orders continue to increase, with 47,465 offences in Victoria in the year to March 2019.

"The full extent remains unknown as it is often linked to other offences, or victims may not recognise the uses of technology as abusive behaviour and do not report it to police or services," the police spokesman said.

"However, technology is used by perpetrators as a tool to commit family violence.

"We encourage anyone ­experiencing this behaviour or who feels unsafe to contact police."

 

SOMEBODY'S WATCHING

  • Listening devices placed in homes, children's toys - even in the headboards of beds.
  • Tracking devices in cars, hidden underneath and inside the vehicles. Also hidden on car keys, effectively tracking the holder's every move.
  • Tiny cameras hidden inside homes.
  • Drones that hover outside homes and over skylights to film occupants.
  • Hacking emails and impersonating the victims.
  • Remote control over household electronics, from heating levels to security systems, used to taunt victims.

andrew.koubaridis@news.com.au

Watches are just one of the devices used to film or track people. Picture: Alex Coppel
Watches are just one of the devices used to film or track people. Picture: Alex Coppel