University of Winchester joins international criminal cold case project

26 Apr 2021
man filming with video camera

Students from the University of Winchester are working with a team of international experts to revisit historical unsolved crimes as part of a unique project investigating 'cold cases'.

The move follows the establishment of a new Cold Case Unit at the University, which sees students studying on forensic investigation programmes undertake cold case investigations supported by the academic team. The Unit aims to help students understand the many practical challenges of cold case investigation.

For some years, students have been introduced to the analysis of cold cases and long-term missing persons cases at and universities police academies worldwide. Now, the Police Expert Network on Missing Persons (PEN-MP), AMBER Alert Europe and Locate International have succeeded in connecting educational organisations working on these cases with one another across national borders for the first time.

Involved in this unique project are the Police Academy of Lower Saxony from Germany (Polizeiakademie Niedersachsen), where cold case analyses have been taking place since 2014, as well as the universities of Winchester, Staffordshire, South Wales, Leeds Beckett, and Central Lancashire in the UK and Murdoch and Newcastle universities in Australia.

The international collaboration aims to support students and young police officers to establish a close link between theory and practice in cold cases. It also enhances their investigative mindset by drawing on and learning from students from a variety of disciplines, including criminology, policing, forensic science, psychology, forensic archaeology and anthropology.

University of Winchester students studying BSc (Hons) Forensic Investigation, BSc (Hons) Forensic Science and BSc (Hons) Cyber Crime and Forensic Investigation are involved in the international cold case investigation under the supervision of Anna Chaussée, Senior Lecturer in Forensics in the Department of Applied Social Sciences, Forensics and Politics.

After being given a theoretical introduction to the basics of cold case analysis - in particular in understanding the victim and the crime scene - four multidisciplinary teams from the participating academies and universities, consisting of forty-five students, are now analysing an attempted homicide of a child and a long-term missing person's case.

"The Forensic Investigation team at Winchester pride ourselves in providing innovating ways to enhance the student experience," said Anna Chausseé.

"Part of that endeavour is seizing opportunities for students to work on cold cases. Not only does this allow them to apply what they have learned in the classroom to real cases, but it also means they understand the competing pressures of actual casework. Our students are taught by those with practitioner backgrounds and there is no substitute for the realities of investigative work."

Ingrid Hoff, studying BSc (Hons) Cyber Crime and Forensic Investigation, said: "It has been such an amazing experience to be able to take part in an international cooperation like this. As a student who wants to get a job within criminal investigation, there is no doubt that this has been a unique opportunity to gain more experience for further employment."

"So far, being part of the UoW Cold Case Unit has been wonderfully exciting. The opportunity to work with different universities across England, Germany, and Australia has been incredible and no doubt provides a good foundation career-wise," said Oshina Ann Jose, also a student on the BSc (Hons) Cyber Crime and Forensic Investigation degree programme.

Results from the investigation will be made available to the investigating authorities responsible for cold cases in Germany. The public prosecution offices, including the Public Prosecutor's Office in Verden (Germany), which provided the cases, attach great importance to having well-trained young academics in the police, and hope that this will lead to more institutions working together on cold cases internationally.

In addition, the outcomes of the cold case analysis project also serve as an incentive to set up similar fixed structures to be established from 2021.

The University of Winchester has a state-of-the-art forensics lab which was opened in 2019 by Poirot actor David Suchet, who received an honorary doctorate for services to acting from the University in 2017.

Oshina and Ingrid have written a blog describing their experience working on the international cold case project, which you can read at this link.

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