Warning: This story contains disturbing content
A mother and father in Calgary are reeling after discovering that a stranger took photos of their young daughter from the family’s social media accounts and, according to police, used them to convince others that he is a single father who is struggling financially.
Brian Keith Strachan, also from Calgary, has been taking pictures of the girl for about eight years and posting them on his own social media accounts, claiming that he has been raising her since she was born. The girl is now eight years old.
He even gave her a fake name: Amanda.
Someone tipped off the family after seeing the girl’s photo online last week.
Breaking: is not using the family’s last names to protect the girl’s identity.
“I’m just in shock and sickened that this guy has this stuff… I was just in disbelief,” her father, Kenny, said in an exclusive interview.
“It’s sickening, heartbreaking,” said her mother, Tamara. “I just wasn’t sure what to do. It was like we never wanted our daughter to leave our side.”
The family provided Breaking: with dozens of images from Strachan’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts, which have now been locked or deleted.
They show the girl from when she was a toddler to a few days ago.
In one, the girl is about two years old and wearing a Wonder Woman costume.
Strachan’s post, supposedly voiced by the young girl, reads, “If I grow up to be half the person your father is, then I will consider my life a success.”
In another, she wears a graduation hat and gown after graduating from kindergarten.
That post says, “If I can teach my 8-year-old daughter Amanada how to make money, I CAN AND WILL TEACH YOU.” It is not clear what exactly Strachan proposes to teach.
On Facebook, Strachan says he is “single, has never been married and has no biological children”. He says he became the girl’s guardian after “she was born to a 14-year-old girl who made a mistake in life.” He says he stepped in to raise “Amanda” so her mother could stay in school.
There are also a number of posts where he describes the financial problems of a single father.
Breaking: also learned that Strachan would participate in fundraisers for abuse victims, telling participants and organizers about his young daughter and how they needed money for gas, groceries and more.
“He showed us[pictures of the girl]on his phone, and of course all over Facebook. That’s what’s really mind-boggling about all of this… it just left us speechless,” said John Graham, the president of one of those organizations, Against All Abuse.
The girl’s family became further alarmed when they learned of more than a dozen messages on a chat website – by a man calling himself Brian Strachan – describing in disturbing detail how he undressed and put a diaper on his alleged daughter.
It’s a common situation, says Acting Staff Sgt. Shelby Stewart, lead investigator on the case with the Calgary Police Department. What’s not unusual, she says, is for photos online to be used for unintended purposes.
“I think we’re starting to see more of this, especially as social media progresses and it’s become significantly more common over the past 10 years,” she said.
Strachan is charged with fraud under $5,000 and two gun offenses – for unsafe storage of a firearm and unauthorized possession of a firearm.
The police seized a computer, telephone and gun at his home yesterday. Investigators are now going through the electronics and say there may be more charges to come.
As for the girl’s family, they thought their social media photos were protected from strangers, but after that happened, they discovered that some of the security settings were not what they thought.
“I thought I was being private. And so we’re not going to post now. It clearly still has pictures of our family on it, but we’ve closed ourselves off to friends only.”
Police advise families to check their privacy settings on all forms of social media.
Strachan did not respond to calls for comment from Breaking:. It is unknown if he has a lawyer. He has been released and is due to appear in court on August 9.