Amanda Todd's parents recall teenager's anguish at recurring social media torment

·6 min read
Amanda Todd is seen in a photograph entered into evidence at the trial of Aydin Coban, who is accused of extorting and harassing Todd. (B.C. Supreme Court - image credit)
Amanda Todd is seen in a photograph entered into evidence at the trial of Aydin Coban, who is accused of extorting and harassing Todd. (B.C. Supreme Court - image credit)

WARNING: This story contains disturbing details and may affect those who have been targeted for sextortion, or know someone affected by it.

"Mom, what are we going to do?"

Carol Todd recalled Amanda Todd's words Tuesday as she took the stand for the second day of the trial of the man accused of extorting and harassing her daughter.

It was November 2011 — less than a year before Amanda Todd would die by suicide. The teenager's parents were divorced, and Amanda was staying with Carol Todd at her home.

"I heard a shriek, and Amanda came running downstairs, and I asked her if there was a problem," Todd testified.

Amanda showed her a Facebook profile for a user named Austin Collins. The picture attached was of Amanda Todd.

"She showed me a profile with an image of her bare chested as the image profile," Todd recalled.

"I remember some form of messaging that came in somehow. It was to the fact that this profile had befriended friends of Amanda, acquaintances of Amanda for the purposes of sharing her image again."

Carol Todd remembered her daughter's questions.

"Why is this happening? She was afraid now again of what it would be like — going back to school," Todd said.

"So she was distressed, and I was distressed."

'I wouldn't know what she was doing'

The scene was one of a number Todd relived on the witness stand as she completed her testimony in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster.

She was the first witness to testify in what is expected to be a seven-week trial. Immediately after her testimony, her ex-husband Norm took the stand.

TELUS Originals
TELUS Originals

Aydin Coban — the man accused of sextorting Amanda Todd — has pleaded not guilty to five criminal charges including extortion, harassment and possession of child pornography.

Prosecutors claim he was the man behind an array of fake social media accounts used to bully the teen into exposing herself in front of a camera from 2009 to 2012, starting when she was 13.

Under questioning from both the Crown and defence, Carol Todd went back and forth in time through the years up to and including her daughter's death.

She was shown pictures of Amanda Todd's bedroom taken after she took her own life, the teenager's laptop and phone sitting on top of a black and white duvet sprawled across her bed.

B.C. Supreme Court
B.C. Supreme Court

Todd spoke about the struggles of trying dealing with a child's access to the internet and social media in a split home; watching troubling images and chat messages appear, trying to have a conversation, then finding herself blocked from Amanda's feed.

"It's like literally turning off access on her social media so I wouldn't know what she was doing," Todd said at one point.

"You only notice it if you try to access viewing, and then you aren't able to see."

1,279 Facebook friends

Under cross-examination, Todd acknowledged that RCMP had advised Amanda to get off social media after the family met with investigators to discuss threats accompanying the posting of graphic images of the teen online.

"Initially she refused, but then with her father's agreement we were able to convince her that she needed to turn it off," Todd testified.

B.C. Supreme Court
B.C. Supreme Court

"Did that last?" asked Coban's lawyer, Joseph Saulnier.

"That lasted for a couple of months and then we gradually allowed her to re-enter her Facebook world," Todd answered.

The defence lawyer quizzed Todd about the huge amount of Facebook friends the teenager had — 1,279 in total at one point.

"She didn't personally know all those people, I take it," Saulnier said.

"No, she did not," Todd replied.

Coban was extradited from the Netherlands to Canada in 2020 to face trial for sextorting Amanda Todd.

The Crown says it expects to call evidence and police witnesses — including Dutch investigators — to prove electronic devices seized from Coban's home contain data linking him to the 22 phony user names and social media accounts that tormented Amanda Todd.

'What did you see when you clicked?'

Norm Todd took the stand in the afternoon. He said he has tried to put events in the time leading up to his daughter's death behind him, and had difficulty recalling the finer details of what happened.

Amanda Todd came to live with Norm Todd in an apartment after he moved out of the family home.

YouTube
YouTube

He said her online life was a "main focus" for her and that "she freaked out" when he tried to cut her access to the internet.

Todd also recalled her showing him messages to prove someone was "stalking her online — the pedophile."

"They were about her exposing herself online or it would be sent out to schools and friends and stuff ... blackmailing her … threatening her," Todd said. "She was scared and kind of panicky … didn't know what she could do about it."

Norm Todd said he also received messages from unknown sources about his daughter, with links to graphic images. He said he clicked on one.

"What did you see when you clicked?" Crown prosecutor Louise Kenworthy asked.

"One of the links showed my daughter exposing herself," Todd said. "Lifting up her top."

On cross-examination Todd admitted that his daughter might have told police she knew she didn't have to do what people told her to online and that she did not feel threatened.

'She stopped going to school altogether'

The court also released copies Tuesday of messages Carol Todd received containing links to graphic images of Amanda Todd.

"Amanda (Michelle) Todd has still been showing herself naked and performing sexual acts on cam-sites and Instant Messengers in front of countless men, total strangers, up until last week," said one, sent in November 2011.

"She is underage (14 years), which means she is willingly producing live child porn."

Carol Todd testified that her daughter stopped attending school in the fall of 2011 after the topless profile picture of her appeared on Facebook.

"She stopped going to school altogether because of the fear and anxiety of being in front of her peers," she said.

On cross-examination, Coban's lawyers suggested that Amanda Todd may have had other reasons for wanting to change schools.

Carol Todd said a traumatic event involving a boy earlier in the fall triggered post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety.

She didn't elaborate on the nature of the incident, but disputed the contention it was unrelated to the messages Amanda was receiving through the internet.

Norm Todd echoed that point, saying Amanda Todd and some friends at school had conflicts related to jealousy which may have played a role in her desire to change schools.

But he said the "number one thing was the pedophile thing."

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