HONK KONG: The photographic images, grabbed from a video clip that was on sale until recently on some websites, show a Chinese-looking woman in a slinky dress standing alongside a river and talking endearingly to a kitten that she holds in her gloved hands.
But soon that ice-candy image gives way to a macabre scene as she places the kitten on the walkway and slowly proceeds to stomp it with the sharp point of her stiletto. One of the last images shows her driving her spiked heel into the cat’s eye, and blood spouting out.
There is, of course, no accounting for human perversions. Even so, the gruesome images from a ‘crush video’ that celebrates cruelty to animal as a sadomasochistic sexual stimulant set off a wave of revulsion among Chinese netizens and animal lovers.
It also triggered one of the most enterprising online investigations driven solely by citizens (but which would do Scotland Yard proud), which culminated in the public shaming of the high-heeled cat-killer. Here’s a blow-by-blow account of how the civilian cyber-sleuths tracked down the culprit.
Within days of the videos and photographic images being posted on the web, a Chinese netizen put out a ‘Wanted’ poster with the photograph of the woman and sought out Web-users’ help in identifying her and the location of the killing.
The background images of a tower provided some clues. Professional tourist guides, who were shown the photographs, identified it as a landmark in a park in north-eastern Heilongjiang province.
Further Web-trawling revealed that these images were part of a larger collection that was for sale on www.crushworld.net. The website was soon closed down, but from the domain registration information, the sleuths gathered that the images had been uploaded in Hangzhou by a person bearing the handle of ‘gainmas’, with the mail ID email@example.com.
A search on Google.cn — that accursed search engine that has been pilloried for doing business in China — for the telephone number listed on the site led the cyber-sleuths to a company with the name of Silver Fox Technology that was also listed at the same Hangzhou address.
More personal details about gainmas came tumbling out rapidly: gainmas was shown to have a silver-grey Mazda with a Zhejiang registration, and a search on the auction site ebay.com.cn revealed that gainmas had purchased a pair of 12-cm-heeled shoes in January 2005.
Meanwhile, another line of investigations was undertaken to track down the woman in the images. One red-herring was thrown at these sleuths, when one web-post claimed that the woman in the pictures was, in fact, Japanese, and that this was an advertisement for a well-known brand of Japanese shoes.
Localising the search to Helongjiang province, the cyber-sleuths finally identified her Wang Jeu, a 37-year-old nurse at the Luobei People’s Hospital in Luobei county. Having been publicly identified and shamed, Wang earlier this week offered a public apology to animal lovers for her senseless, sadistic act.
She claimed that she had been persuaded into performing for the camera at a time when she was in emotional turmoil following a divorce.
The episode is striking for two aspects: it shows up the amazing possibilities of the Web, even in a society where information flow is restricted.
But equally important, it shows what heightened civic consciousness and public outrage can do. The netizens who tracked down the high-heeled cat-killer of Luobei county are worthy of a place in the Cybersleuths Hall of Fame.