Disgraced Brazilian war photographer may be hiding in Australia
In a story straight from a Hollywood film script, a Brazilian war photographer outed last week as a fraud has now literally vanished - as it was revealed his identity is completely unknown and he may in fact be hiding in Australia.
In the digital world 32-year-old Eduardo Martins, from São Paulo, Brazil, seemingly had it all: poster-boy good looks, an amazing instagram portfolio followed by 120,000, a steady income from agencies including Getty and Zuma, and an enviable client list including Al Jazeera, Deutsche Welle, Wall Street Journal, and BBC Brazil.
But last week his perfectly curated story began to unravel.
It started when war photographer and Waves site columnist Fernando Costa Netto, who had an online friendship with Martins and had published, a month earlier, an article interviewing him, was contacted by media outlets.
By almost every standard, Martins' story was remarkable - a leukemia survivor at the young age of 25, a keen surfer, and most importantly, a war photographer of considerable talent.
Costa Netto says after he published the profile a number of media outlets began asking questions about Martins and raising concerns about his legitimacy.
Meanwhile, the story had caught the attention of photographer Ignacio Aronovich, also from São Paulo. He read Costa Netto's profile and decided to take a closer look at his images.
He noticed in one set of Martins' photos, which portrayed other photographers, there were shutter buttons on the left side of the camera, the opposite of most cameras which feature the shutter button on the right.
He realised that the photos were inverted and mirrored, and once he performed a reverse image search on google, was able to find the true author of many of the photos: the photographer Daniel C. Britt.
Aronovich then posted on his Facebook page this comparison between the original and manipulated images:
Meanwhile, following the enquiries by media, Costa Netto apparently warned his virtual friend 'Martins' on WhatsApp that inquiries were being made. Immediately, Martins deleted his Instagram account, as well as his website, before finally writing to his friend Costa Netto:
"I'll delete everything online, including internet. [sic] I want to be in peace, we'll see each other when I get back. For anything, write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. A big hug. I'm going to delete the zap. God be with you. A hug."
According to an investigative report filed by a team of journalists for BBC Brazil, it was contributor Natasha Ribeiro who sounded the alarm when approached on the internet by Martins.
Although the organisation had earlier published a feature on him, according to the BBC report, Ribeiro distrusted what he was telling her.
"The distrust increased when, in Iraq, amid the war scene that Eduardo claimed to portray, Brazilian journalists realised he was not known there," BBC Brazil reported.
"No one, among authorities and non-governmental organizations in Syria or Iraq, has ever seen or heard about Eduardo Martins."
Following his message to Costa Netto, nothing has been heard from Martins. Today it was revealed the images he used of himself were actually those of 32-year-old British surfer Max Hepworth-Povey, who learned his image was being used by Martins through a friend.
That friend sent him a link after seeing BBC Brazil's investigative report about the fake photographer.
In an interview with BBC Brazil, Hepworth-Povey said "I was relaxing, having some wine, when a friend contacted me saying that someone has stolen my identity in a kind of a prank on the internet."
Meanwhile more has come to light about Martins subterfuge - with BBC Brazil's expose revealing as far as is known, nobody has ever seen him, personally or even on live video chats.
BBC Brazil's investigation uncovered five women who were his virtual girlfriends and none of them had met him, and Martins webpage, now deleted, was hosted anonymously with a company in Florida.
There are also no records of any payments from either Getty or Zuma to Martins, and BBC Brazil and Vice have confirmed they never paid him for contributions either.
So, is this the perfect crime? And is Martins hanging out in a van just down the street? We would love to know.