Da Vinci Code Breaker Now Wants Your Text Prints to Help Solve Crimes; Linguistics Expert Seeks Your Help

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), May 9, 2009 | Go to article overview
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Da Vinci Code Breaker Now Wants Your Text Prints to Help Solve Crimes; Linguistics Expert Seeks Your Help


Byline: Sally Williams

AN EXPERT called on to solve a famous Da Vinci Code riddle is asking the public to text message him to help solve real-life crimes.

John Olsson, 57, who lives in a secluded spot near Welshpool, Powys, is a world-leading expert in forensic linguistics.

When author Lew Perdue claimed Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code had been plagiarised from his own work Daughter of God, Mr Olsson was enlisted as an expert witness for the case.

Mr Olsson said: "I studied both books and found 74 points in common between them, 68 of which were in sequence. I also found a common mistake in both; a parchment was incorrectly called a vellum. I could not find any other example of this mistake.

"However I was blocked from giving evidence and the judge threw our case out, saying the similarities were purely generic." However, he has had more success in dealing with serious criminal cases - he is one of only three experts in forensic linguistics in the UK whom police call upon for help.

His expertise is called upon when the authorship of a text message is in question.

"Although many people use social networking sites now, mobile texts are far more specific and usually say that someone will be at a certain place at a certain time," he said..

"They are also limited to 160 characters." Mr Olsson's evidence proved crucial in the case of the "Barrel Killer" Howard Simmerson who was convicted of murdering mother-of-two Julie Turner, and putting her body in an oil barrel.

He showed that the businessman had sent a text message which had purportedly come from Miss Turner to her partner.

The text said: "stopping at jills, back later need to sort my head out" "Tell kids not to worry. sorting my life out. be in touch to get some things" When Mr Olsson studied the texts he noticed the use of a full stop where a comma should have been.

And he found 23,000 instances of "sort my life out" on Google and just 600 of "sort my head out", which proved to be extremely rare.

Only 17 instances of the two phrases used together on Google made them almost unique. And Simmerson used both phrases when he was interviewed.

Police then seized a letter written by Simmerson which read: "Oh god what a tangle. but she is not getting away with my life." And later they found a letter from Simmerson written a few weeks before Julie's death, requesting a gun.

He was convicted by a jury at Sheffield Crown Court and sentenced to life imprisonment in 2005.

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