In a surreal court appearance Wednesday, Troy Woody and Mir Islam, the two American hackers accused of killing Tomi Masters in the Philippines last year, were identified by a witness as having dumped a box later found to contain Masters’ body in the Pasig River. The pair, who showed up for their murder trial in Manila with no attorneys present, unsuccessfully attempted to have their trial delayed and were instead appointed representation by the presiding judge. Masters was dating Woody before her death, and the two men have given conflicting accounts of what happened.
BuzzFeed News spoke to Woody and Islam, who were clad in yellow prison shirts and flip-flops, as they sat outside the courthouse awaiting their trial. During the interview, the pair changed their story, yet again, from their previous accounts of Masters’ death. Islam claimed that Masters left for Tagaytay, a resort area south of Manila, the morning before she was found dead. When BuzzFeed News asked Woody when he last saw Masters, he struggled to answer before saying, “I don’t remember.”
Islam attributed the change in explanations to bad advice from their previous attorneys. “Attorneys are bad. They told us the wrong things to say,” Islam, who claims to have studied law in the US, told BuzzFeed News.
Islam, a core member of the hacking collective UGNazi, had previously served several years in federal prison in the United States following a sting in which he was arrested for accepting what he believed were stolen credit cards from an undercover FBI agent. Woody was also a core member of UGNazi, but was a minor at the time and escaped prosecution.
The two hackers were handcuffed and seated next to each other during the proceedings. Woody clutched a bunch of papers, including a letter of termination from their last lawyer and a quote from a new one. The two were previously appointed a public attorney, who quit, and talks in the court implied the pair were difficult to work with. When Judge Rizalina Capco-Umali asked the accused for their legal representatives, Islam responded by asking for more time to look for a lawyer.
The judge in turn appointed a public attorney present in court to represent Woody and Islam and seemed exasperated by the latter’s request. “You are delaying the disposition of this court,” Capco-Umali told the pair over Islam’s objections. She cited efforts made by the witness, the driver who took the two hackers to Pasig River in December, to attend court proceedings.
In a separate interview, the same witness told BuzzFeed News he picked up Woody and Islam at a condominium unit in Mandaluyong City last December. He said the pair booked him through a ride-hailing app after midnight, and the two of them loaded a box inside his car. They asked to be taken to the Pasig River, he said. When they arrived, he said Woody and Islam got out of the car and unloaded the box. He tried to help, the driver said, but Woody and Islam refused. He got back in the car and heard a big splash. “That’s the box,” he thought.
He then dropped them off in front of a mall in Manila, near where Islam was living at the time. The driver, who asked not to be named for this story in fear of reprisal, went to a police station and reported the incident, feeling it was a little off. “In my head, it might be drugs or a kid with harvested organs,” he told BuzzFeed News.
The driver said he took the police to the harbor, where the Pasig River and Manila Bay meet, where they retrieved the box from the water and discovered Masters’ body. He told BuzzFeed News that after the incident, he felt traumatized and was unable to work for two months, after which his car was repossessed. “A dead body was inside my car, and to think I tried to help them carry that box,” he said.
During the proceedings, the witness was asked to identify the accused, and pointed out Troy Woody and Mir Islam. “What did you see, when the box was opened?” the prosecutor asked. “A dead body,” answered the witness. The court, which had previously suffered a flood, then presented a water-damaged photo of Masters. The witness confirmed it was the same person whose body had been pulled from the river.
As the proceedings wrapped up, Judge Capco-Umali set the next trial date for October. Islam in turn asked if they could postpone until November, which she declined. “Be cordial to your lawyers. You do not have knowledge in Philippine law,” she told Woody and Islam.
Capco-Umali also asked an FBI agent in attendance about the defendants' lack of representation.
“The embassy provided them a list of lawyers. I don’t know what’s wrong with those lawyers,” the agent replied. He declined to comment for this story.