Apple Watches could become the latest weapon in the law enforcement arsenal thanks to a strange case in Australia.
It all started in September 2016, when 57-year-old Myrna Nilsson was found dead in her home in Adelaide around 10 p.m. local time.
Myrna’s daughter-in-law Caroline Dela Rose Nilsson was seen leaving the house at the time the body was found. She was wearing a gag and appeared to be distressed, so a neighbor called the police.
Caroline told authorities that a group of men in a truck had followed her mother-in-law home. They argued with Myrna for about 20 minutes outside her house before attacking her. Caroline was in her kitchen with the door closed and didn’t know anything was wrong until the assailants entered her home and tied her up.
But Myrna’s smartwatch told a different story—and actually implicated Caroline in the attack.
Prosecutors analyzed data from Myrna’s Apple Watch and found there had been a seven-minute spike in heavy activity from 6:38 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. on the night in question. Myrna’s heart rate, movement, activity level and energy level sharply increased when she was ambushed before decreasing to zero when she expired.
Neighbors also never saw a truck outside her house, and police weren’t able to find DNA evidence of attackers in the home.
As such, Caroline’s story of a 20-minute struggle didn’t hold up—so prosecutors took her into custody. They believe she spent the three hours after the killing staging the home invasion and discarding of bloody clothes.
“The evidence from the Apple Watch is a foundational piece of evidence for demonstrating the falsity of the defendant’s account to police,” prosecutor Carmen Matteo told ABC News Australia.
The case will return to trial in June, and Caroline’s lawyers are already asking the judge for leniency because she has three young children.
However, this isn’t the first time key evidence in a murder case has come from an app.
Earlier this year, an Afghan refugee in Germany was accused of raping and murdering a student. Authorities examined the Apple Health app on his iPhone and found that it had recorded part of his activity as “climbing stairs.”
The time he was “climbing” correlated with the time he allegedly dragged his victim down a river embankment. German police were also able to replicate his movements.
American courts have ruled that individuals have no right to hand over passwords for their smart devices to police. But data from stock iPhone apps, like Apple Health, is stored in the cloud, making it easy to access.
Some American government agencies are also taking advantage of the Apple Watch. The Food and Drug Administration recently cleared KardiaBand, an app that detects dangerous or abnormal heart rhythms, for medical use.
It’s only a matter of time before an American cold case gets cracked open thanks to Apple tech.