FROM Tinder hook-up to chilling selfies to a horrifying death recorded on a mobile phone.
In the space of just a few hours, New Zealander Warriena Wright went from happy, independent young woman to the passive, scrutinised subject of a high-profile murder trial.
Her screams are now engraved in the memory of anyone touched by the tragic case, in which Gable Tostee was yesterday acquitted of all charges after a nine-day trial at the Brisbane Supreme Court.
The story has gripped the nation, and for good reason: it is the archetypal modern-day murder case, in which every facet of our fast-paced, tech-driven, instantly gratified lives are under interrogation.
‘CAN YOU BE A FREAK IN THE SHEETS?’
Wright, 26, was in Queensland for a wedding and a couple of weeks of solo travel when she met the 30-year-old carpet layer on Tinder, and he rapidly started sending her suggestive messages. It’s an unremarkable exchange in this day and age, albeit one that the more traditionally minded lament as a sign of dangerous promiscuity among today’s youth.
Those people might feel justified in their fears after Wright’s short life was brought to such an abrupt and gruesome end.
While technology has simply added another dimension to hook-ups that have been going on from the Summer of Love to the nightclubs of today, we no longer see the person we’re flirting with face-to-face.
We have no opportunity to see their body language because we are separated by the distance of a handheld device.
Maybe we’re in the Winter of Love.
“I’m a pornstar after a few drinks!” Tostee told Wright. “Can you be a freak in the sheets?”
It was a dark portent of what was to come, a highly erotic and often violent encounter that reflects the explicit images that are freely available on our computers and those same devices today, pushing us to desire ever more intense experiences to get the same buzz.
Tostee had previously boasted about his sexual prowess on bodybuilding forum Bodyspace, rating women and describing how he had freaked one Tinder date on his balcony by “manhandling” her, causing her to flee the apartment and delete him from the app and Facebook.
While his casual attitude to sex didn’t kill Warriena Wright, it is part of a culture where encounters are casual and anonymous, binge drinking is a mundane occurrence and image is everything.
DATE WITH DESTINY
Almost every moment of that fateful night can be heard or watched thanks to the recording devices that invisibly track our movements every day.
CCTV footage shows Wright and Tostee meeting on the streets of Surfers Paradise, where he lived and she was holidaying. It shows them walking without touching each other, entering a bar and then instead buying some beers and heading up to his 14th-floor apartment in a lift.
Then we lose the visual, but we have the three hours of audio recorded on Tostee’s phone that was heard by the jury — a crucial piece of evidence that proved he was not on the balcony when she fell, and gives us an all-too-vivid insight into what went on that night.
Apparently, Tostee made audio recordings of many of his dates.
We hear the muffled sounds of a struggle, Tostee accusing Wright of attacking him and making the disturbing threat: “You are lucky I haven’t chucked you off my balcony you goddamn psycho little bitch.”
We hear Wright mumbling almost incoherently, drunk and confused from copious amounts of vodka.
“I want to go home, just let me go home,” she begs.
“I would, but you’ve been a bad girl,” he replies.
Worst of all, we hear her agonised screams of “No, no, no!” just seconds before she plummeted to her death. The screams that woke up neighbours, and that the jury listened to over and over in court, trying to decide whether it was an irrational thinking that led to her death, or abject terror.
Wright, like so many other young women, made her own record of the night. The blurry selfies that the couple posed for on the very balcony where she died, Tostee topless and Wright pulling silly faces, but at times looking heartbreakingly vulnerable. Wright sent some of the photos to her sister Reza on Facebook, writing: “I found Australian sam winchester [a character from TV series Supernatural] ... drinking with him ... woot.”
After she’s gone, there is an eerie postscript — spooky CCTV footage of Tostee, now dressed and alone, leaving the apartment and heading out to eat a pizza on a bench.
He makes an unanswered call to a lawyer, dials Wright’s number, and rings his father about what he calls “a bit of a situation”
The 30-year-old tells his dad: “She kept beating me up and whatever and, um, I locked her out on the balcony and I think she might have jumped off.
“There’s a million cops around my building, I’m f***ed.
“I don’t know what to do. I didn’t cause this, I didn’t push her or anything.”
That’s the conclusion the court made too.
But the case can only leave a bitter taste in the mouth. Her mother Marzabeth Tagpuno Wright was not in the courtroom when the harrowing tape of her daughter’s screams was played — but later unexpectedly heard it played by a media outlet.
The whole world, and an expressionless Tostee, heard recordings of Mrs Wright’s beloved child on her final, hedonistic night of violent, kinky sex.
There are no secrets any more. We are complicit in our own loss of any privacy.
We are followed for our supposed safety, and we expose our own lives on social media. None of us stop to consider that one day every picture we took, every word we typed and every element of our character could be dissected and dragged through the mud, creating that popular neologism: “victim blaming”.
Was Warriena Wright incapacitated by alcohol, violent, addicted to hardcore sex, emotionally and mentally unstable?
Or was she a sweet, fun, animal-loving young woman who will live on in our collective memory as a modern-day cautionary tale to make us stop and shudder as we career down the same path.