You may remember hearing about it on the news, but in July of 2008, there was a string of missing person cases out of the University District in Seattle. Twelve people went missing, all of them students at the University of Washington. Their bodies were never found, and no significant evidence was ever recovered. They were all presumed dead, much to the distress of the people who cared about them. Aside from the missing people, though, not much of the case was ever revealed to the public.
That’s what I’m here to remedy. People have a right to know these things.
As of now, the case has gone cold, and all the documents relating to it now sit in the classified file cabinet that SPD employees jovially refer to as “the freezer.”
Investigators had followed several leads, but all of them had arrived at dead ends. They’d quixotically sworn to bring the criminal, or criminals, to “justice,” but when all of their attempts at moving the case forward had failed, they’d backed off like frightened kittens, kicked in the gut.
The most promising lead, however, had been one that showed itself relatively early in the case’s lifespan, around September of the first year.
It turned out that all of the abducted students had owned the same Apple computers; this in and of itself could have been mere coincidence. But further examination by the forensic team showed that every single student had been using proxy servers before the time of their disappearance.
For those who don’t know, a proxy server is an intermediary webserver often used to keep internet activity as anonymous as possible, disguising I.P. addresses (which, again, for those who don’t know, are essentially unique series of numbers given to each computer connected to the internet). With basic knowledge and just a bit of hacking skill, it’s possible to find someone’s exact location by using their I.P. address alone. Proxy servers operate with separate I.P. addresses, usually with locations far away from their users.
So, the students were using altered I.P. addresses. But why? Were they hiding from someone? Proxy servers are, after all, the best way to hide yourself over the internet.
As the forensic team continued to garner information from the abducted students’ hard drives, more and more similarities were found. Some of them certainly could have been coincidences, but others, there was frankly no way.
This is a segment of a report typed up by the computer forensics team, detailing the similarities between the twelve laptops:
•All computers installed with the web browser Google Chrome.
•All computers using iTunes, each with approximately 50 GB of music
•All computers using proxy servers
•All proxy servers appear to have I.P. addresses based in Iceland
They were all using proxies based in Iceland. Which was odd. But the report didn’t end there. It continued.
•All computers have Microsoft Word installed, though there appear to be no documents saved in the documents folders of any the computers
That’s normal enough. Lots of people save their documents in folders on their desktops or on other drives.
•Desktops on all computers are devoid of files and icons, except for a document that appears in the center of all of them, titled, “LÍTA Á BAK.” The document has no text.
That’s where it begins to get very strange. “Líta á bak” is Icelandic, meaning something like “look back” or “look behind you.”
•It appears the file on the desktop is the only document saved anywhere on all twelve computers
Once is a coincidence. Twice is also a coincidence. But twelve times? The exact same empty document saved in the same place with the same title? It’s impossible. But clearly not so impossible that it’s, well…impossible.
The report continued for a bit after that, but with nothing nearly as significant.
When the keyboards were dusted for fingerprints, none of them matched up; there was nothing linking them other than the documents.
The forensic specialists were spooked by the findings, but none of them reported any suspicious or “paranormal” activity afterwards.
The Iceland-based proxy servers and documents with titles in Icelandic led investigators to seek other connections between Iceland and the missing students. They went to their parents, probably hoping to find that all the students had relatives in Iceland, or something; they needed to solve the case. But of course, none of them had any apparent ties to the country—no relatives, no friends, nothing. The investigators had questioned dozens of people, but had found nothing of worth. It was beginning to seem hopeless.
That was, until a year later, in July of 2009, when the Iceland National Police in Reykjavík reported a string of missing persons, gone without a trace. This was it; this was what the SPD needed. They eagerly contacted the office in Reykjavík, and arranged a meeting, hoping that the cases would somehow match up. Seattle investigators flew overseas.
And the information they found was, simply put, terrifying.
Twelve people in Reykjavík had gone missing, all of them students at the University of Iceland.
They all had Apple computers.
They all used proxy servers.
The proxies’ I.P.s were based in Seattle.
They all had Microsoft Word installed, but only one, empty document saved on their empty desktops.
Can you guess what it was titled?
“LÍTA Á BAK.”
When both investigation teams shared their information, things finally looked bright, for both cases. This was obviously the work of the same criminal mastermind; it had to have been. They were going to catch whoever, or whatever did this; it was all in the name of justice…even when there weren’t any bodies to be found, and for all they knew, the missing students could all have been alive and well and peaceful.
The rush of optimism ended after a few days, when the forensic team in Iceland dusted the computer keyboards, only to find that none of the prints matched. The SPD agents, although disappointed, weren’t surprised.
Once again, it was hopeless, like so much else.
There was still no suspect. There was still no evidence to convict. There was just a bunch of very, very creepy not-so-much-coincidences. Twenty-four of them, to be exact.
Nothing more. And certainly nothing less. The leads led nowhere.
The search for what happened to the students became a joint investigation between the overseas offices, but there were never any more significant leads. The cases, or just singular case now, had gone stagnant. And after months and months and months of dwindling tenacity, both the SPD and Iceland National Police finally put the case on the shelf in July of 2012.
Cold. Frozen. Barren. Tundra.
It was over. So much for “justice.”
Since then, both police departments have tried to forget the case. It’s become a hollow memory, one no one likes to think about. Understandably.
And that’s all there is to the case, really. I’m writing this now because I’m pretty bored, and I figured it was interesting enough to let you know about. I need to go take a shower now.
However, before I go, I’d just like to make sure you realize how difficult it was to brainwash the students by getting them to read my stories. Humans are very perceptive when it comes to things like that. Their meat was worth it, though. Very tender and delicious.
But I’m still a bit hungry.
Líta á bak.