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Inside frenzied search for Gabby Petito – TikTok sleuths, reality stars and YouTubers cracking case

Inside frenzied search for Gabby Petito – TikTok sleuths, reality stars and YouTubers cracking case
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When Gabby Petito suddenly disappeared after sharing her travel vlogs online, the internet went into a frenzy discussing her movements. While speculation ran wild, some social media users proved useful in the case

Brian Laundrie went missing after returning home without girlfriend Gabby(gabspetito/Instagram)

The disappearance of Gabby Petito gripped the world and sparked an online frenzy on her whereabouts.

On July 2, 2021, the 22-year-old travel blogger set off on what was meant to be a trip of a lifetime with her partner Brian Laundrie, 23, however she never returned home. The pair, who painted themselves out to be a loved-up couple on social media, were set for a four-month adventure visiting picturesque national parks across the country.




Gabby, who uploaded a diary of travel videos to her YouTube channel, Nomadic Statik, kept her family updated but suddenly all communication ground to a halt at the end of August. Her parents reported her missing on September 11, with her name soon becoming the number one internet search in every state.

What started as a missing persons case soon turned into a twisting saga creating a whirlwind online as an army of internet sleuths set out to solve the mystery of what happened to Gabby, as told in a new three-part ITVX documentary, The Disappearance of Gabby Petito. Adding to the frenzy was the revelation that Laundrie had returned home to Florida in their renovated van at the beginning of September, all alone, before also vanishing.

Internet sleuths became obsessed with tracking down Gabby Petito after she went travelling around the US with her boyfriend Brian Laundrie(via REUTERS)

While cops desperately searched for the pair, hashtags like #gabbypetito and #findgabbypetito racked up hundreds of millions of views on TikTok, and floods of dedicated accounts sprung up, including one called gabby.petito, which had more than 100,000 followers.

Desperate to get the story out, Gabby’s mum made a Facebook page about her missing daughter and encouraged people to share her picture. Inspired by her appeal, a network of internet sleuths started to work together to try and crack the case.

Featured in the documentary is Brent Shavnore, who says the true crime community is “fluid and evolving”. “The cases are updated in real time which gives people the opportunity to dissect information as it comes in and do their own research,” he said, before explaining he first came across Gabby’s name in a ‘van life’ forum.

Internet sleuth Riley Lively, also featured in the documentary, said people turned to her to answer questions online when she started looking into Gabby’s case after finding it “intriguing.” The community of sleuths began pulling information and sharing it. “When it blew up it was all over, everyone started talking about it,” she said.

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Written by Kookloofeed

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