Link seen to video games in prostitute's murder

By Jarrod Booker

A man will appear in court today charged with the murder, rape and kidnapping of a prostitute who pleaded for her life as she was repeatedly run over by a car.

The body of the 24-year-old woman was found in Christchurch's Avon River with her hands bound about 14 hours after the attack in a central city carpark early on Thursday.

Witnesses described someone laughing as the woman was repeatedly run over and then propped up against a brick wall and rammed into.

Her body was then dragged into the car.

Similar scenes are depicted in video games such as Carmageddon, where running down people is the goal, and Grand Theft Auto, where prostitutes can be run down by a car in the player's control.

In a recent episode of the television series, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, a prostitute was deliberately run over and killed and the murder was linked to a video game called Postal.

Herald readers yesterday made comparisons between the attack on the woman and the video games.

One video game player told the Herald the attack on the woman "seems like [it was] inspired from the video game Carmageddon".

"It's a very famous game in which one has to crush other people by his car."

Another said: "Isn't this scenario the kind of thing that the PlayStation game, Grand Theft Auto, requires of players? Perhaps there is a connection."

David Wilson, of the Office of Film and Literature Classification, said he was not aware of any particular link between the video games and violent crime.

But the games were restricted to adults because there could be some harm to society from them.

"There is research to show that people's attitudes towards violence and their reactions to other people can be affected by the game they play."

Yesterday, after several hours of silence, police announced they had made a breakthrough in the case by arresting and charging a 28-year-old unemployed man.

The dead woman was not named yesterday, as police were still trying to contact her family. An autopsy revealed the cause of death seemed to tally with her being struck by a vehicle.

It is believed the woman was dead when dumped in the river.

Detective Senior Sergeant Tom Fitzgerald said the woman did not know her alleged attacker and was not employed by him for sex, but may have been working as a prostitute on the night of the attack.

Initial reports said there may have been two people in the car when the woman was struck, but police said no one else was being sought.

The arrest was the result of sustained detective work.

"It's been long hours. [Police staff] have worked basically straight through since the time of the offence," Mr Fitzgerald said.

Police originally focused on a burned-out vehicle found on the outskirts of Christchurch, but Mr Fitzgerald said it was not the car used in the carpark attack.

Another car, a white Honda Integra, had been seized and was now the focus.

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