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Facebook could be key to solving case of missing teen

Toronto police and Crime Stoppers say they have developed “special tools” to help them break the Mariam Makhniashvili case.

Toronto police and Crime Stoppers say they have developed “special tools” to help them break the Mariam Makhniashvili case.

Yesterday marked the first anniversary of the Toronto teen’s “suspicious disappearance” while on her way to school. Since then, all traditional leads have gone cold.

Enter Facebook.

Police have partnered with computer experts both in the U.S. and Canada to produce a Facebook “Leave a Tip” tab on the local Crime Stoppers Facebook page and the international page. The IP address of the person leaving the tip is protected under Canada’s privacy laws, so the tipster can remain anonymous, police say.

“Anybody in the world can now download a tab called Leave a Tip onto their Facebook page,” said Toronto police social media officer Scott Mills.

“Somebody has made a page, Help Find Mariam Makhniashvili, and they have already installed a Leave a Tip tab on their page. And I don’t even know who they are.”

By the end of news conference that person had already uploaded the news conference to YouTube and embedded the video onto their Facebook page.

“This stuff works and it works fast. This is the first big case we’ve tried to engage this with,” Mills said.

Mariam, then 17, disappeared on her way to Forest Hill Collegiate in the Eglinton Avenue and Spadina Road area.

Mariam’s father, Vakhtang Makhniashvili, recently told the Toronto Star that he believes his missing daughter is dead and says “the possibility that she’s alive is quite slim.” Police today assured the couple that they aren’t giving up.

The case got some help when Mills encountered a Nova Scotia computer expert by the name of Jeff Brown, who helped design the Leave a Tip tab. Brown, who runs his own firm called Alpha Computer Consulting, wanted to help Crime Stoppers solve crimes and disappearances.

But police say their biggest worry now is how to process all the encrypted tips that will come in.

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