Second British voice detected in Steven Sotloff beheading video

Published September 10th, 2014 - 06:00 GMT

A second English-speaking voice has been identified in the murder video of kidnapped U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff by Islamic State (Isis) militant ‘Jihadi John’, according to analysts.

A study of the footage has found that the words “Death to them” and “Yeah” can be heard in the recording of Mr Sotloff’s last moments.

A leading audio expert, who was commissioned by The Times to carry out the study, said the faint voice heard in the footage could not have belonged to the militant who appears dressed in black and wielding a knife.

“Some 1.8 seconds after the final words of the speaker dressed in black, a background voice makes a short utterance consistent with the phrase in English: ‘Death to them’,” said the report by the expert, who has reportedly worked for British police forces and the FBI.

It is not yet known whether the second voice belonged to a British person.

The expert also offered fresh analysis regarding the identity of Jihadi John, whose appearance in a previous video showing the beheading of American journalist James Foley in August sparked an international manhunt.

The fighter is believed to be under 30, and English appears to be his first language, with an accent from the southeast. However his pronunciation of certain words, such as locations in Iraq, suggests that his family could originally be from the Middle East.

 “Based on striking correspondences in voice quality, pitch, metrical properties of speech, fluency, lexical choice, accent, and details of pronunciation the speaker dressed in black is highly likely to be the same person on [the two videos],” the report said.

The jihadist’s voice also had some features of “street-talk” or “black British English”, and the lack of pronunciation of the sound “r” could indicate the influence of non-native British English speakers.

Similarities were also found between the Isis militant’s speeches and other Britons appearing in martyrdom videos, suggesting a distinctive style that could have identifiable origins.

“The speech on both samples was fluent, with no filled pauses. [It] was dominated by multiple emphatic stresses,” the expert said.

“These emphasised syllables were found to systematically ‘line up’ with head movements and thrusting actions of knife held in the male’s left hand.”

No evidence of vocal disguise or manipulation was found in the video.

It was reported on Tuesday that British and US intelligence officials are close to identifying Jihadi John.

“They have a pretty good idea of who it may be […] [but] it’s not 100 per cent yet” US law enforcement officials told CNN.

By Helena Williams

Copyright © Independent Print Limited

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