A Geelong man says he is living in fear after being wrongly identified as a vicious rapist behind one of the most horrific sexual assaults in the city’s history.
David Ellis says he was horrified when friends contacted him to tell him his picture had been published by the Herald Sun, along with a caption that incorrectly said he was Little Malop Street rapist Luke Benjamin Gill.
However Geelong Broadcasters now understands the error was made by Google, and the incorrect image did not appear on any of Newscorp’s platforms.
Gill was released from prison last week after serving 17 years over a brutal and sadistic attack on a young woman in the Little Malop Street mall in 2006.
On Tuesday Mr Ellis’ image began appearing in Google searches for Luke Gill, along with a caption that incorrectly stated the man in the picture was Mr Gill. Mr Ellis has no connection with Gill or his evil deed.
It was not immediately clear how Google’s image search picked up the incorrect image or how it added Herald Sun branding, giving the incorrect impression that the picture and caption had been published by the newspaper.
Mr Ellis told Geelong Broadcasters he now fears he will be targeted by vigilantes who wrongly believe he is Luke Gill.
“I was absolutely shocked, my whole body started shaking,” Mr Ellis said.
“At the moment I haven’t left the house, this is the sort of thing that you can be beaten in the street, or worse.”
He said he contacted the newspaper as soon as he was made aware of the mistake.
The 2006 attack was described by police at the time as the worst they had seen in their careers.
The victim was so severely injured she spent weeks in hospital fighting for life.
Gill went to extreme lengths to try to avoid capture, including using a hot barbecue to burn off his fingerprints.
The victim survived but says she still lives with the scars.
This week she said she was angry at the lack of support provided for sexual assault victims and that while her attacker is now free, she must live with the consequences of his actions.
Mr Ellis said the image in question was taken for a recent story in the Geelong Advertiser.
He said the blunder could effect any business dealings he has in the future, but his immediate concern is for his physical safety.
“How long do I have to walk around looking over my shoulder because of this? It could be something that haunts me for the rest of my life.”
He said comments he has read online since the story was published have added to his fear.
“People are scouring the internet loooking for images of Luke Gill, there are comments such as ‘c@#t needs a bullet’, ‘put him down like a dog’ or ‘I hope he gets a broomstick sideways’.
“So there’s certainly people wanting blood and I’m certainly worried for my life.”
Geelong Broadcasters is aware of a number of occasions in which Google’s image search has linked incorrect images to major newspapers. It’s understood Newscorp has asked Google to rectify the ongoing issue.