Images: Hannah Siegrist 

Morgan Marquis-Boire: How a Sexual Predator Thrived in New Zealand

Throughout the 2000s, Morgan Marquis-Boire was a celebrated hacker, minor celebrity, and integral member New Zealand's goth community. He now stands accused of raping or assaulting multiple women. But how was Morgan able to prey on women for so long? ​

|
Jan 22 2018, 2:22am

Images: Hannah Siegrist 

Content warning: this article contains extensive discussion and description of sexual violence and rape. It may be highly triggering or disturbing for some people.

In her West Auckland home, Tove Partington is folding her washing.

Floral sheets, pastel towels, a pile of pyjamas for her young son. The last two months have been hard, but life goes on. She tidies, puts away a bulbasaur soft toy, organises gigs for her friend’s band, makes a time to get another tattoo.

It’s taken almost a decade years for her story to be believed. Nine years ago, Tove says she was violently raped by Morgan Marquis-Boire.

There’s a photograph of them together that very evening, from Facebook, dated to 18 October 2009. It was taken and uploaded that night from The Church: the monthly Sunday-night goth gig. Sitting on the tiles of Auckland’s Saint Kevin’s Arcade, Tove rests her head against the distinctive wood paneling of Whammy Bar.

In the photograph, she is leaning sideways, knees tucked up to her chest. Her eyes are closed, and there is the slightest hint of a smile on her face. A cigarette dangles from her left hand. Next to her, Morgan Marquis-Boire looks straight down the barrel of the camera.

In the photograph, Tove is deeply intoxicated—close to unconscious, she says, but relaxed.

Morgan and Tove had had an argument earlier in the evening. He was back in town from Zurich for a few months surrounding his birthday. Morgan had been pushing her to leave the bar and sleep with him—they’d had a casual relationship when he was back in New Zealand, and had slept together on and off over the years—but she’d said no.

She had given birth to her son almost a year and a half earlier. Tonight, he was staying with her mother, and this was one of her rare childless nights out, to party, drink, and dance.

“I was tired, and I had a new child, and I was like no, I’m not doing that,” she says.

She didn’t mention it during the argument, but she had also begun to develop some doubts about Morgan. In the back of her mind she recalled that years previously, when she’d gone home drunk with him, she had woken up to Morgan having sex without her consent.

They argued in the hallway at Whammy Bar. But then Morgan’s behaviour appeared to switch. He calmed down, and turned on the charm. The bar was emptying out, but he invited her down for one last drink. She agreed.

“He started making up with me. Like: ‘Oh, you’re like a little fluffy bird, you’re so cute when you’re angry’. He started kissing me, trying to make me laugh,” she says.

They were in the corridor at Whammy, to the left of the stage, by the entrance to the toilets, when Morgan asked for one last kiss, and pulled her into the bathroom.

Then Tove says, he pushed her into the cubicle and locked the door behind them. He grabbed her by the hair, smashing her head against the side of the toilet cubicle. Dizzy from the blow, she thought maybe he’d shoved her by accident.

“I turned around and I was like, ‘What the fuck?’” Then, she saw his face.

“And I was like oh, fuck. He’s going to kill me.”

Morgan grabbed her by the neck and hair and pushed her against the wall, Tove says. He punched her in the back of the head. Then he pulled down her stockings, and began sodomising her.

“I was crying and asked him to stop as it was hurting me,” she says. “He did not stop and began choking me. I tried to scream but I was struggling to breathe.”

When he was finished, he pulled up her stockings, and pulled down her skirt.

“He pats me on the ass and says, 'You’re such a good girl.'”

Tove could barely walk after the assault. She was still dizzy from the blows to her head. She was bleeding down her legs. She believes her rectum was torn.

“He half-carried me out, and everyone looked. And he just sort of smirked, you know, ‘she’s had a bit much, I’ll put her in a taxi. And I got in a taxi and I went home, and sat in the shower for hours.”

It was several years before Tove told anyone what had happened to her. She did not go to the police.

“I’d supported women through the process [of reporting sexual assault] before.” She assumed the fact that she was intoxicated and had had a consensual sexual relationship with Morgan in the past would undermine her credibility. She imagined going up against Morgan in court: highly articulate, highly educated, financially well-resourced from his work in infosec.

“Look at me, I’m a broke single mum,” she says. “I felt like there was nothing I could do.”

“He was so charming and so good looking,” she says. “A guy like that doesn’t need to rape girls. Why would he rape you, when he could have anyone?”

Marquis-Boire speaks at a conference. Image via Flickr

Morgan Marquis-Boire was New Zealand’s highest-profile contribution to the infosec world.

Parented by two university literature professors, he graduated with a Bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Auckland. Young, brilliant, handsome and charismatic, he started out as a hacker in Auckland’s small infosec scene. By 2008, Morgan was working for Google in Zurich, Switzerland.

Throughout the late 2000s, his star continued to rise: a talented speaker, he became particularly well known for his progressive politics and work in human rights. His work landed him coverage in the New York Times and Washington Post. [Full disclosure: Morgan Marquis-Boire featured on an episode of VICE HBO and Cyberwar on VICELAND, the television channel connected to this publisher. The episodes screened in New Zealand before the sexual assault allegations against him became public.]

In 2014, he became director of security for First Look Media and a writer for The Intercept; as well as an adviser to the Freedom of Press Foundation. Up until late last year, he was working for University of Toronto’s high-profile research centre, Citizen Lab.

In a 2014 profile in the New Zealand Herald, the reporter notes that he is “guarded about his private life, extending even to his youth in Auckland as a prominent goth DJ. He says of his past: ‘I'd rather keep that private.’”

And keep it private he did: it wasn’t until 2017 that allegations of sexual assault against Morgan were made in public, and reported on in the United States. Late in the year, Citizen Lab issued a public statement saying they were informed of a sexual assault allegation against Morgan at an event associated with them in 2014, and were cutting all ties with him—formal or informal. But for around eight years, even as rumours circulated about predatory behaviour, he was a prominent, popular member of New Zealand’s tight-knit Goth scene.

Back in New Zealand, the community now faces a reckoning: how did a predator thrive for so long in their midst? Why weren’t the women speaking out a decade ago believed? And what caused the group for so long to celebrate and accept a man casually nicknamed 'Rapey Morgan'?

***

“I felt that we were all complicit in this. Everybody knew and we said nothing and we did nothing."

Almost ten years before Tove was raped in the bathroom, Todd,* now in his early forties, was at his Auckland flat as a group of friends from the goth scene recovered from a party the night before.

It was the winter of 2000, and they’d been partying at the Beam Bar on Victoria Street—a frequent hangout for the group. The Beam held semi-regular Goth nights, where those higher-up in the scene would play dedicated sets. Morgan was a regular organiser of the goth DJ nights, and today he was back at the flat, regaling the group a tale from the night before. “He’s basically the next day boasting, skiting, laughing, about this event to people,” Todd says.

The story went that Morgan had been hanging out with a young woman, and they’d become engaged in some sort of sexual contact or flirtation in the toilets of the bar. Then, the interaction had shifted. “He’d bent this woman over, and I suppose maybe she was expecting intercourse? But not anal intercourse, and that he had just forced that upon her.”

Seventeen years on, Todd struggles to recall the precise words Morgan used, but the story itself remains clear. “It was clear and explicit that that was what had happened. That there had been what had begun as consensual sexual activity between he and this woman in the toilet of the bar but then he had, without consent, anally penetrated her.”

For the group hearing the story, the response wasn’t shock.

“I remember a general atmosphere of: it was treated as a joke,” Todd says. “In the same way that he sort of boasted about it, everybody else discussed it as sort of a titillating conquest.”

“It wasn’t treated with the sort of gravity that you might expect.”

Todd wasn’t in Auckland for much longer—he left the city a few months after that conversation, and put it out of his mind. But when he heard Tove was making near-identical allegations about an incident occurring almost nine years later, the scene flooded back. As an adult, he’s spent time grappling with the memory, turning the events of that day over and over in his mind.

“When I look back on it now I think maybe we didn’t really conceive of it as we should have. Now, I can’t conceive of why I didn’t think…” he trails off. “I mean it did concern me, it did disturb me. But everybody else was laughing about it. I mean, this is a pathetic excuse, I just kind of felt like...” He sighs, pauses. “I guess I second-guessed myself, like maybe it’s not that big a deal? I think I felt a little bit of fear of repercussions if I’d said or done anything about it. I don’t want to rabbit off a lot of excuses but in terms of trying to comprehend the pervading attitude, it was something like that.”

The incident Todd heard described was in 2000: early-on in the timeline. He now sometimes wonders, if it had been thoroughly condemned at the time, whether things might have turned out differently: if the assaults on women like Tove, all those years later, might have been avoided.

“I felt that we were all complicit in this. Everybody knew and we said nothing and we did nothing.“

“We had the opportunity, we knew, we saw this at its earliest onset,” he says. “And so obviously there’s a lot of guilt that I feel over that—and I’m sure there must be others, who realise we are in some way morally culpable. That's been my overwhelming impression, and just like shocked at the extent of it all. I guess I preferred to imagine it was an isolated incident. It’s quite hard to put into words exactly. The resounding thought that goes around in my head was ‘We knew and we didn’t do anything about it’.”

***

The phrase “missing stair” has gained some internet currency in recent years. Picture an old house, where a single step in the staircase has fallen through. It’s no-one’s individual responsibility, so it never gets fixed. After a while, the people who live in the house just step over it automatically. They adapt. Eventually, people are so used to it they don’t even notice a step missing.

The term first popped up in the kink community, used as a way to reckon with how groups can sometimes deliberately ignore or even facilitate predatory men in their midst. Victoria University cultural studies lecturer Carol Harrington teaches about sexuality, culture and violence. Harrington says there’s a variety of behaviours at work when a group fails to condemn a predator. Bystander effect has been well documented: individuals are less likely to offer help to a person in distress if they see others aren’t helping. The Milgram experiments—designed to explain the behaviour of ordinary Germans during the Holocaust—demonstrate how most people fall into line when a person in a position of authority tells them what to do, even if violence is involved.

“I see that as related to broader social dynamics, where people obey authority and don’t want to challenge them,” Harrington says.

"The language people use is incredibly important… They have an idea of what a rapist is and that doesn’t fit the idea of that guy, and so there’s a disconnect. They know he raped someone but they don’t see him as a rapist."

There’s also the fact that people generally are surprisingly poor at recognising rape for what it is, says Harrington. Studies indicate that if the word “rape” is swapped for phrases like “forced sex” or “non-consensual sex”, people are far more likely to admit to the behaviour and less likely to condemn it. There’s a kind of cognitive dissonance that goes on: “The language people use is incredibly important… They have an idea of what a rapist is and that doesn’t fit the idea of that guy, and so there’s a disconnect. They know he raped someone but they don’t see him as a rapist.”

Those dynamics, she says, would be particularly present in a group where there were clear hierarchies; if people observed that others were doing nothing; and especially if behaviour went un-sanctioned by those higher up in the group. The behaviour could be particularly prevalent if the person in question was a popular authority figure.

***

Reznor*, now 35, also got to know Morgan between 2000 and 2002, his final years of University. When he first started spending time with the goth scene, Morgan was something of a personality, Reznor says. The goth crowd was fairly hierarchical, with those at the centre known as the “elders”. While Morgan was too new an addition to be a true elder, he’d become part of the inner circle, and was instrumental in organising the DJ nights and other social events the scene revolved around.

“He was a person you really wanted to get in cahoots with,” Reznor says. “The person you wanted to be around or at least know and be acknowledged by… definitely someone that you’d buy a drink and try and get friendly with. He was the guy you wanted to be mates with.”

Reznor and Morgan’s relationship soured around 2003, close to his 21st birthday, when the latter made a move on Reznor’s girlfriend at a party. He punched Morgan in the face, and the friendship ended. He says it was around that same time, mid-2003, that the nickname “Rapey Morgan” started to really circulate.

“Of course [the nickname was common],” he says. “I’ve probably used it myself a few times. I’m definitely not the only person.”

“People didn’t even bat an eyelid,” he goes on. “You know when a nickname is used, and people are taking the piss? Or using it like in a situation where you’re having fun with someone? It wasn’t one of those. It was more, it meant exactly what it meant.”

"I don’t know why no one actually spoke out. I think people did try and speak out actually, a few of them did, whether or not they were listened to or not I don’t know."

He finds it hard to pin down a precise timeline now, but Reznor believes he first heard the story about Tove’s assault six years ago, around 2012. He didn’t know her well at all, and heard the barest outline.

“At that stage it was sort of like, I heard about it but I didn’t actually really know Tove at the time. I knew who she was, sort of like an acquaintance, we’d bump into each other, that sort of thing but we didn’t really know each other at that point. I just heard about [the] bathroom incident.”

He goes on: “He like, forced her to have anal sex with him - that’s what I heard anyway. I think it was at the Whammy Bar? I don’t know whether it’s still called that. At Kevin’s Arcade? From what I remember that’s where it was.”

But over the years he heard other stories of specific women who have said they had been assaulted by Morgan: “Three that I know, off the top of my head.” The stories sometimes presented as rumours or whispers. Reznor says he didn’t know how much to trust what he heard—but now regrets not doing something more.

“I don’t know why no one actually spoke out. I think people did try and speak out actually, a few of them did, whether or not they were listened to or not I don’t know. And because of the scene… He was sort of someone that people looked up to. If you wanted to throw yourself further up the ladder, then you sort of had to bow down to him, so to speak.”

"It felt like the most important thing in the world. That community. Being part of that scene. But because it was so hierarchical, the gatekeeping was so intense, you felt like you’d been accepted, but also like that could be rescinded at any moment."

In a meeting room above Karangahape Road, just a few hundred metres away from Whammy Bar, Emma’s* hands are shaking. She picks up the phone, looks at the photograph of Morgan and Tove outside the bar. “Sorry,” she says, covering her face. “I’m sorry. Just, I know that look.”

She places the phone face down on the table. “He looks like he’s smiling, but you can see the rage.”

The camera on Emma’s own phone is covered with masking tape. She knows Morgan’s hacking skill-set, and sometimes still worries about the possibility he might be watching.

Emma had dated Morgan, and says he was often sexually coercive when they were together. But when they broke up, she tried to maintain the friendship. “I know that sounds crazy, but I guess that just speaks to my state of mind at the time,” she says. “Most people in the goth scene, we weren’t popular, didn’t have big social lives. And then you get to university and found the scene and,” she pauses for a moment. “We created a family.”

“It felt like the most important thing in the world. That community. Being part of that scene. But because it was so hierarchical, the gatekeeping was so intense, you felt like you’d been accepted, but also like that could be rescinded at any moment. So keeping on civil terms with people like Morgan was important.”

Despite the fact they weren’t together, he was openly jealous of new boyfriends, and would often try to pressure her to come home with him, she says. At times, he’d become violent, once attacking her with a cane, and on another occasion threatening to kill her, pushing her to the ground and trying to drag her into a taxi. [VICE spoke to two witnesses independently who were present that evening and saw Morgan’s assault on Emma and its aftermath.]

While his violent attacks on her weren’t 'sexual assaults' as such, Emma says in some sense they were: both times, Morgan became enraged and attempted to physically beat her after she denied him sex.

“That’s something I want to be very clear about: both times, these two violent assaults, were because I had refused to have sex with him. That’s the reason why.”

Emma was also one of the first women to whom Tove hinted she’d been assaulted, in around 2011. The two were socialising at a flat when Tove saw a Facebook event mentioning Morgan was back in town. She began to panic, then looked up and says she saw Emma had turned completely white. “We just looked at her, and it was like this moment of recognition: you too, huh?”

Nikki became Tove’s flatmate and close friend in 2011, and she also confirmed observing the conversation. “Emma had come round with her partner at the time. I remember I was talking to someone else, and I turned to talk to Tove, and she was like, going through social media blocking him on everything, and Emma was just sitting there kind of white,” Nikki says. “Tove was clearly upset, Emma was visibly upset.”

Nikki says over the years, the full picture of what had happened to Tove took time to emerge. “Initially, I knew that she’d had unconsensual sex, and it had been rough, with Morgan,” she says. Tove later, sometime between 2011 and 2012, confided in Nikki that she’d been anally raped.

***

Rajneel Singh, 39, is a New Zealand filmmaker, director and producer who was involved in the New Zealand Goth scene from 2001 to 2005.

He says it was well known that Morgan would take women into bathrooms for sex. Singh can specifically recall two occasions, at the K Road Ballroom, where he’d actually seen Morgan take young women into the bar’s bathrooms.

At the time, he assumed those encounters were consensual. It’s hard to say in hindsight whether those encounters seemed ‘off’, he says—it’s not necessarily unusual for people to leave a bathroom stern-faced. “I guess generally the state was… he would be blind drunk, barely standing. And the women would be very, very quiet.”

On both occasions, the women weren’t people he recognised: he assumed they were either visitors to the scene, or returning after having been away. He never saw either of them again. But later, he heard rumours that some of those sexual encounters were nonconsensual. “People were basically saying, ‘You know that girl that Morgan took into the bathroom a few of weeks ago? Morgan anally raped her, and, you know, she’s complaining.”

Singh began keeping his distance from Morgan. In winter of 2004, Singh was close friends with Emma, and they were flatmates. It was a Friday or Saturday night, he says, at around one in the morning, and he’d just gone to bed when he heard crying out the window. “I could hear this high pitched, hysterical crying, getting louder. I thought maybe it was some drunk girl walking past the house upset, and I got up to go down to the door,” he says.

As he got up, Emma burst into the room, soaking wet from the rain, slammed the door and used his chair to barricade it. “She was screaming, ‘He’s going to kill me, he’s going to kill me,’ and I was like who, who’s going to kill you?” Gradually, Singh began to calm her down. “She was terrified that Morgan was in a cab right now coming over to hurt her,” he says.

Emma gradually managed to recount to Singh what had happened: that she’d been out for drinks with Morgan and two friends, when Morgan had begun pressuring her to come home and have sex with him. She’d refused. He’d begun trying to push her into a taxi, and when she resisted became enraged, pushing her to the ground and screaming threats as the other two friends attempted to hold him back. [VICE independently verified this story from another person who was present and witnessed the assault.] Emma was still bleeding from the assault, Raj remembers. “Her legs were cut up from her fall, and from the zippers on her boots slicing her skin—which she didn't notice at the time because she was so terrified.”

“At that point, I basically turned on the guy,” Singh says. He stopped engaging with him, and began warning others about Morgan. Then, he says, the scene began to close ranks. “I was initially taken aside by a couple of people and bought coffee to have a friendly chat—and basically told everything I’ve heard is a lie, and it’s not true, and he’s a lovely man and you just don’t know him, you shouldn't listen to the lies.”

When he continued, he and Emma’s social lives in the group began to peter out. People stopped contacting them. They stopped being invited to parties and gigs. By 2005, he says, they were cut off, and he’d basically stopped engaging with the Goth crowd at all.

***

Sam, now in his mid-30s and working in the IT sector, had a brief relationship with Tove in 2011, and says she confided in him at the time that Morgan had sexually assaulted her.

“She had talked about how he had pushed her into a bathroom and forced himself on her,” he says. “She said it was in Whammy, I think. She didn't get into detail about it—she was pretty sort of emotional about it at the time.”

In hindsight, he says, “I know exactly why this [allegations coming out] didn’t happen sooner.”

Again, he believes it was a matter of social hierarchy, which placed Morgan and his friends at the top. "Every time this stuff would come up, that circle of friends would be very quick to ostracise anyone who said that sort of stuff about Morgan.”

“I had witnessed that personally,” he says. One girl he knew began railing against Morgan in around 2007, and found herself immediately cut off. “She tried to come forward and she was ostracised so badly that she left, she just left the city.” He pauses.

“It was literally easier to leave the city, than to come forward about it.”

Marquis-Boire demonstrates his hacking ability in an interview. Image: Youtube

Marquis-Boire’s skills presented another source of fear for his victims, and for those in the community considering coming forward.

“He also had a lot of power with his IT and hacking skills,” Todd says - people who knew him knew he could take control of their websites or phones if he so desired. “He had the ability to fuck things up for people, and made it known that he had that ability.”

In a video interview Marquis-Boire conducted with VICE in 2016, he sits in front of his laptop, running through the security breaches he’s able to manipulate. Remotely, he commandeers the phone of a reporter based in Pakistan, downloads his current location, lists of everyone he’s called, his email inbox and web browsing history. He plays a few recordings of the calls, switches on the phone’s camera, and demonstrates using the phone’s microphone to record conversations even when it’s not in use.

“It’s sort of like reading someone’s mind,” Marquis-Boire says. “Because you can see what they’re thinking while they’re on the internet.”

Later, he became prominent in the press again for his work researching “spouseware”: commercial spyware used by members of the general public to spy on each other, which is increasingly a feature of domestic violence or abuse cases.

But by early 2017, most of Marquis-Boire’s online activity had begun tailing off. His Twitter activity had ceased by June. His Facebook profile was still up on Monday 15 January, but then was pulled down by Thursday. In screenshots taken by VICE before the account disappeared, he’d ‘liked’ a meme with the words: “We cannot transform ourselves by sharing quotes, we can only transform ourselves by sodomy.”

***

Almost a decade on from her assault, the aftermath of Morgan’s attack still ripples through Tove’s life. She has obsessive compulsive disorder, and around a year after the assault, her symptoms were chronic. She couldn’t leave the house without checking: phone, keys, wallet. Some days she’d get stuck at the door, unable to leave, checking over and over again: phone, keys, wallet. She began suffering panic attacks. She’s a chronic pain patient, and wonders if some of her symptoms are relics of that assault. She struggles to trust people.

It’s also the small things, she says. After that night, she was determined to return to Whammy Bar, to keep seeing her favourite bands and reclaim the space. Now, she goes to the bar semi-regularly, but she still can’t jump into a taxi outside Saint Kevin’s Arcade. She walks down the road to catch one instead. Small things, like how she doesn’t wear t-shirts or high cut shirts that cling to her neck. “Any high cut shirt that touches my neck. It reminds me of his hands around my throat,” she says. “All these years later, I can put a t-shirt on and start panicking.”

She remains afraid of his ability to hack into her web presence, to find out where she is at any given time. She’s recently installed a security camera.

“I’m always scared of how much reach he has, and the repercussions,” she says. “I really thought he was going to kill me that night. And sometimes I wonder,” she pauses. “I know he will be furious about this coming out, and I wonder about what his reach is, what his resources are, whether he’d still come for me.”

But despite the fear of reprisals, she is happy that the story is being told, and that other women are now coming forward.

“He wanted me to be scared so I wouldn’t talk, and fuck that, I will talk. They get away with it because of silence. I will never shut up.”

“As much as this affected me, I survived. It changed my life but it didn’t destroy my life. I’m living my life, I’m happy, I survived and I came out stronger. But not everyone does. I wonder how many are out there: women didn’t have the luck, the support to make it through."

She wonders about those random, anonymous women who were new entrants to the scene. The women who came to one or two gigs, and weren’t seen again. Young women who she heard rumours about, but no-one really knew.

“I wonder about what happened to them,” she says. “I hope they’re ok. I hope they know they’re not alone, that we know what happened. That we believe them.”

VICE reached out to Morgan Marquis Boire through multiple avenues for response to the allegations against him. He had not returned comment by time of publication.

*Reznor, Todd, Nikki and Sam are pseudonyms adopted as the interviewees feared employment or hacking-related repercussions as a result of having their names published. Emma has adopted a pseudonym to protect her privacy.

Need to talk?
Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor

Rape Crisis – 0800 883 300

0508MUSICHELP - free counseling specifically for members of the NZ music community

Lifeline – 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE)

Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

Healthline – 0800 611 116

Samaritans – 0800 726 666

If you’d like to report a sexual assault to the Police, you can dial 111, or contact your nearest police station. There is no statute of limitations in New Zealand, and you can report a historic sexual assault at any time.

More VICE
VICE Channels