Aisling Symes & Psychic Predictions

For the last week national news here in New Zealand has been dominated by the disappearance of two-year-old Aisling Symes. During that time, well-known Australian psychic Deb Webber appeared on television offering to help. The broadcaster, TVNZ, relayed the offer at a police press conference. TVNZ was then criticised in a Dominion Post opinion piece entitled Why psychics should butt out of Aisling Symes case. The opinion piece attracted well over 300 comments, including one from me in which I pointed out that Deb Webber has never provided any useful information in the many cases she has "assisted" with. Overall the comments were (as you'd expect) divided between strong supporters of psychics and strong skeptics.

Today the NZPA reports a scathing attack on Deb Webber by NZ Skeptics chair Vicki Hyde. In a reference to the TV psychic show that features Webber, Sensing Murder, Hyde said "It's not sensing murder, it's sensing opportunity, sensing exploitation and there's nothing worse than exploiting parents who are under such strain and stresses."

Webber had made this prediction: "...she's in a ditch, hole, in West Auckland". Aisling was found last night in a drain, which is not a ditch but does count as a hole. I predict more division over the "success" of this prediction. Followers will claim Webber got it right, skeptics will claim she got it wrong.

Things to consider when judging for yourself:

  • The ditch and drains around the property where Aisling went missing were always the most likely places for her to have gone. There were only ever two possibilities: abduction or the drains. Child abductions are very rare in New Zealand.
  • Webber covered herself by adding the word "hole". How many bodies in this type of case aren't found in some sort of hole? This prediction is very clever because it provides a specific answer (ditch) which has a good chance of being correct and providing the psychic with an impressive "hit", but it also provides a more general answer (hole) to use as a backup in case the preferred answer is a miss. Of course a hole could cover anything from a grave to a hole in a wall. This is a common trick - watch for it in future.
  • It was practically a foregone conclusion that she was somewhere in West Auckland.
  • Sensing Murder has been running for a number of years with several versions in different countries, and has yet to solve a single case.
  • Webber may or may not have had a genuine insight but the point is that she provided no useful information. The case was not helped at all by her contribution.

This appears to be another case of a forensic psychic making a reasonably safe guess and using a tragedy to gain publicity (in this case her current tour got a good plug).


  1. The funny thing about skeptic is that when blind facts are out in front of you, you weasle your way around them. The fact is Deb Webber got it right. She said she was in a “ditch, hole”. And she’s been found in a drain, with a manHOLE as entry. A ditch is a kind of drain according to most disctionaries, for the purpose of “conducting water”. e.g. “A ditch with water can be used for drainage and irrigation”. So excuse Deb for not publically stating the exact millimeter where she lay but she nailed it otherwise. And it was in passing she said it. It can be no coincidence that they had a 5th look down the hole after Debs statements. The ridiculous mental bias skeptics have stops them from seeing facts clearly. It was not an easy thing to predict. We have had several kidnappings in New Zealand over the past few years and all the talk in the media was around that. Fact is fact. She hears things and says what she hear. The statistical chance of her getting the "hits" she does in any 10 minute reading without hearing a voice in her head (i.e. making it up) is in the trillions to one. No one can do what they do by chance. Its statistically impossible. Its not hard to work it out scientifically. The more interesting science to study is actually the bias that stops skeptics from seeing what actually is. Thats fascinating.

  2. Exactly. The family or anyone for that matter didn't give Deb Webber a chance to concentrate and apply her gift. Whatever you think of psychic's it certainly doesn't hurt if you have a small team looking for someone in this way. Instead of 70 police blindly looking everywhere. It was due to the media and the public that blew this out of proportion. If Deb had been in the background, with a small search team they may have just found her a little earlier. It's sad to think that people will stick by a religion or stubborn belief and ignore a child, rather than use any means necessary to find there loved ones.

  3. Ian, I have an exciting business opportunity involving a bridge that you might be interested in.

  4. Sounds like the psychic was more use than the police ... Sceptics are so boring it is easy to be critical from the safety of the nice high fences they perch on!

  5. What is this "gift" of which people speak? Is it the same one that enable Webber to speak to non-existent dead relatives years ago on TV or the one that's failed to help solve a single case in a TV show dedicated to doing just that? She has more than enough of "a chance to concentrate and apply her gift" - so why the failure?

    You think sceptics have excuses lined up but try and explain the monumental failure of SM without resorting to "the usual excuses".

  6. There is so much that no one ones about this case and what has been done behind the scenes i do know the truth and have needed to keep quiet, deb was wrong in more ways then one but my story can not be told.So it is hard for me to hear what people think that was said by her.I am not putting any body down but there is a time and place for information been given with out the media god bless and give courage and surpport to the family may Aisling rest in peace

  7. If a loved one went missing. I would want as much help as I could get even if I didnt believed in psychic's. Wouldnt everyone? It doesnt matter if someone's was wrong or not, there is no harm in looking into what they're saying. As a psychic you cant get everything right.WHO'S PERFECT???

  8. "No one can do what they do by chance. Its statistically impossible."

    Actually, plenty of people do exactly what Webber and other so-called "psychics" do but without any claim to the supernatural. It's called cold reading. Derren Brown, for one, does this sort of thing much more impressively than Webber.

    "The ridiculous mental bias skeptics have stops them from seeing facts clearly."

    You're the one who can't see the facts clearly. To say she "nailed it" is ignoring the evidence. To most people, a ditch is an open-topped channel, but to you and other Webber apologists it's the same as a concrete stormwater pipe. That's ludicrous. A hole is also not a concrete pipe.

    "It was not an easy thing to predict."

    Your justifications prove that on the contrary it was an easy thing to predict. You'd be here posting that Webber was right if Aisling had been found in a shallow grave, a railway tunnel, a basement, a cave, or a crawlspace. That's precisely why she is so vague.

    Also note that in the clip Webber does not say "West Auckland". It's not very clear but I think she says "fallen".

    "I would want as much help as I could get even if I didnt believed in psychic's. Wouldnt everyone?"

    No. Aisling's family specifically said they didn't want "psychics" involved. And I wouldn't either. Why would I want someone who's out to make a name for themselves distracting attention and resources from a proper search? No "psychic" has ever solved a crime or found a missing person. They're just leeches feeding off the grief of others.

  9. I think Webber had predicted where the child was. I agree with the second comment. Why concentrate on the little details about how to find the child? Why not use any and every single means necessary to help the search? Even if it means asking a psychic.

  10. I think that using traditional search methods and policing as well as psychics in this type of incident. Why not try and get help from as many sources possible?