News

Michael Rafferty’s picture shows up on dating website

JANE SIMS, QMI Agency

Screen grab of the Plenty of Fish website which features a profile page for convicted killer Michael Rafferty, just months after he was convicted of raping and murdering 8-year-old Tori Stafford (QMI Agency)

Screen grab of the Plenty of Fish website which features a profile page for convicted killer Michael Rafferty, just months after he was convicted of raping and murdering 8-year-old Tori Stafford (QMI Agency)

LONDON, ONT. - 

It’s a photo of a child murderer -- and until Tuesday, it was used to get dates.

A sinister photo of Michael Rafferty, who’s serving a life sentence, appeared on the international dating website he used to troll for women in the weeks before and after he sexually assaulted and murdered eight-year-old Victoria Stafford of Woodstock in April 2009.

On the dating site Plenty of Fish, his image was attached to a profile belonging to “scoobmike,” a man purportedly in Saskatoon, Sask., describing himself as a “non-smoker with athletic type body” who was looking for women between the ages of 18 and 46.

The photo was taken down by Tuesday.

Keith Tomasek, a lecturer teaching social media at London’s Western University, said the use of Rafferty’s photo illustrates the lawless nature of the Internet. There’s nothing to stop people from posting whatever they want, he said.

“It’s the wild west where you can do anything until someone tells you to stop,” Tomasek said.

The web also provides a cloak of anonymity where people can be whoever they want to -- “the power for people to manipulate themselves,” Tomasek said.

“Anybody can be anybody. There’s nothing at all that gives you any sense of security.”

He praised Plenty of Fish’s removal of the offensive profile, saying the move shows it’s monitoring users.

Rafferty’s image was a familiar one, published and broadcast across Canada -- the 31-year-old Woodstock, Ont., man standing with his chin in hand, in front of vertical blinds.

On the website, “scoobmike” says he’s someone who “love(s) to have fun, travel and laugh, listen to music, meet people, dance, watch movie (sic).”

He described himself as 36, six feet tall, and with a high school education. He wrote that he is “caucasian pisces with brown hair.”

He describes his perfect first date as, “Dinner, movie, walk by the river. Talk and get to know one another, Do something fun.”

An anonymous source who contacted QMI Agency about the photo said he contacted Plenty of Fish and both Woodstock and Saskatoon police about the image. When it wasn’t removed, he called the newspaper.

Plenty of Fish spokesperson Shannon Smith said they “diligently monitor our website internally and our users’ safety is our top priority.”

The website is “community-driven” and once the photo was reported it would have been removed immediately.

“Our users report any suspicious activity themselves, and each profile is exposed to thousands of users, so there is no place to hide and these type of profiles don’t stay up,” she said.

Smith said the site’s customer service department would have investigated a complaint and taken down the photo.

A jury convicted Rafferty in May of first-degree murder, kidnapping and sexual assault causing bodily harm. Several women who met him online testified at the emotional London trial.

Stafford vanished in April 2009 on her way home from school. Her body was found two months later in a field near Mount Forest. Rafferty and his former girlfriend, Terri-Lynn McClintic, now 21, were charged with her death.

McClintic pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in 2010.

Rafferty is appealing his convictions.

jane.sims@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @JaneatLFPress

Poll

Do you think Michael Rafferty should be allowed to appeal his conviction?