Inside the Facebook murder mom culture where amateur internet sleuths probe cases like Gabby Petito

INTERNET sleuths love playing at being an Agatha Christie in the hope of discovering some vital clue that could help solve a murder mystery or missing person case.

The armchair detectives were recently highlighted in the disappearance of 22-year-old YouTuber Gabby Petito with members of a Facebook group hunting for possible clues to the mystery.

A YouTube video was posted to the Find Gabby group page on the social media site which featured a white van parked in the Wyoming National Park, which they thought may have belonged to Petito.

Members of the group were quick to scour the footage, searching for any sign of clues or evidence that could shed light on what happened to Petito who was declared missing on September 11.

Responding to the post, one person wrote: “Someone needs to check that field asap, I don’t think its her but there is something of significance he’s put out there, remains of her phone, jewellery, something of significance to her!!! Something is in a field to the left of screen.”

Another person said: “Definitely a person in the field just before the van is shown.”

Someone else thought they spotted a book lying on the ground behind the van.

The internet has helped create its own cottage industry of wannabe Sherlock Holmes’ trying to get to the heart of a mystery or whodunnit and sometimes coming up trumps.

Online podcasts, such as the Internet Sleuth Podcast, have even been set up to profile cases and help the armchair detective.

The three-part documentary Don’t F**k With Cats shows how a team of armchair amateurs hunted down the narcissist by exploiting the weakness that was also his motivation to kill — a desperate need for attention.


Over 18 months, a group of internet experts tracked the online activity of the 30-year-old Canadian Luka Magnotta, and helped an international manhunt snare him.

The killer went on to be found guilty of killing his lover Jun Lin in May 2012, dismembering his body and posting his hands and feet wrapped in pink tissue to schools and political parties.


Brit couple Mike and Sabina Baugh also played a key part finding out what happened to Elisa Lam who vanished while staying at The Cecile Hotel, in Los Angeles, in 2013.

Read our Gabby Petito live blog for the very latest news and updates…

The couple from Plymouth were also staying at the hotel at the time and turned amateur detectives after they noticed the foul taste and brown tinge of the tap water.

Initially, Lam’s body hadn’t been discovered and cops were still trying to piece together what had happened.

For a week, the couple never complained. "We never thought anything of it," Sabina said. "We thought it was just the way it was here."

Eventually the hotel’s maintenance department sent a worker to investigate the water tank where he made the grim discovery of Lam’s lifeless body at the bottom.


Internet detectives also got to work in the death of jogger Sydney Sutherland in 2020 who had disappeared in Jackson County, Arkansas.

Home security camera footage of Sutherland – taken about 90 minutes before her run – was shared by a relative on Facebook and showed no signs that she was distressed.

Farmer Quake Lewellyn initially admitted to police he mowed down the nurse with his truck, drove her to a nearby field, then raped her on the tailgate of his vehicle, according to an affidavit released on October 16.

He then told cops he used a shovel to dig a hole and buried Sydney's body, police records obtained by KATV show.

The 28-year-old has since denied the claims and has pleaded not guilty to capital murder, kidnapping, rape, and abuse of a corpse.

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