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E-mail bomb threat traced to NZ boy

October 2, 2001

A bomb threat e-mailed to the US after the September 11 terrorist outrage has been traced to a 13-year-old Dunedin boy using a school computer.

The apparent terrorist threat was reported to the FBI, which called in New Zealand police.

Specialist investigators at the Wellington electronic crime laboratory were alerted on an afternoon two weeks ago, shortly after the atrocities at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

They worked through the night to find the source of the e-mail.

It was a "pretty difficult" assignment and involved a lot of people from various organisations, e-crime labs' national manager Maarten Kleintjes said yesterday.

The threat was considered real and carried a date and time - which expired while the inquiry was still being conducted.

"Nothing happened," Mr Kleintjes said. "We had it sewn up by the next morning."

Senior Dunedin police officers refused to comment, but Mr Kleintjes said the matter was still being investigated and the schoolboy had yet to be spoken to.

As a juvenile he could not face criminal charges but the school might limit his computer access when the new term began.

Although not on that scale, threats via computers were dealt with frequently, Mr Kleintjes said.

This year a threat to blow up a bus load of children, sent to the New Zealand police website, was traced to a Rotorua school.

Coincidentally, the Otago case came as the country's third electronic crime laboratory was being set up in Dunedin. The others are in Wellington and Auckland.

Mr Kleintjes warned of the stupidity of schoolboy pranks, which he said wasted official time and resources.

He said free internet accounts such as Hotmail and Yahoo, under which false user details could be logged with the provider, were no guarantee of anonymity.

All mail - physical or electronic - left a trace.

"You can't get away with it. We will track you down," he warned potential pranksters.

Police national crime manager, Detective Superintendent Bill Bishop, confirmed last night that a Dunedin schoolboy had perpetrated the hoax last month, but he refused to give further details.

"Good work by the police electronic crime lab and Dunedin police established in short order it was a hoax," he said.

Police would not reveal to whom the e-mail was sent or from where.

"The matter is now closed as police concentrate on more serious crime," the statement concluded.

By ROSALEEN MacBRAYNE, Copyright © 2001, New Zealand Herald


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