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Personal data warning over web forum killing

German murderer used Facebook to feed obsession

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Police have warned against posting too much personal information on the internet, after a German man was today sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering a British computing student he met online.

David Heiss, 21, from Dauborn, near Limburg, developed an obsession with his victim's girlfriend, and used information the couple had posted online to plan his attack in September last year.

"David Heiss was very clever on the internet, and he learned a lot of information about Joanna Witton and Matthew Pyke and others," the BBC reports Detective Chief Inspector Tony Heydon of Nottinghamshire Police as saying.

Matthew Pyke, 20, died of 86 stab wounds in the flat he shared with his girlfriend, Joanna Witton.

"One of the things that's important here is that people need to realise that on their computers there is a lot of personal information that other people can gather. We know that Heiss found out a lot of information about where they lived and where they worked and all sorts of things about their social network that perhaps now with hindsight they wouldn't want him to know," Heydon said.

The killer travelled from Frankfurt to the Nottingham home of 20-year-old Pyke and Witton to carry out a brutal knife attack. The couple met Heiss online via Warcentral.com, a forum devoted to the Nintendo DS game Advanced Wars, which they ran together.

The court heard how Heiss became infatuated with Witton and obsessively visited her Facebook profile. In June last year he turned up at the couple's flat demanding to see her. After he was rebuffed, he spent almost a month in the UK stalking Witton before returning to Germany.

Heiss, who used the name "Eagle The Lightening" online, then returned to Nottingham that August, but was again rebuffed.

His final, murderous September visit was prompted when his increasingly threatening postings drew a ban from Warcentral.com. During the trial, Witton told court: "People throw threats across the internet all the time, you don't take them seriously."

Sentencing Heiss today, Mr Justice Keith said: "The fact that your motive for murder was so bizarre doesn't make your killing of Matthew any the less serious." He ordered that Heiss should serve at least 18 years. ®

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