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Finding the missing and unknown: Novel educational approaches to warming up cold cases

Bettels, K., Grimstead, D., Allsop, C., Chaussée, A., Bolton-King, R.S., Sturdy Colls, C., Chapman, B.ORCID: 0000-0001-7518-6645, Keatley, D., Tilley, E., Turner, J., Spence, S. and Marquardt, A. (2022) Finding the missing and unknown: Novel educational approaches to warming up cold cases. Science & Justice . In Press.

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In recent years, students in police academies and higher education institutions around the world have worked together to analyse cold cases including long-term missing persons cases in collaboration with investigators and prosecutors. In 2020, three European organisations, the Police Expert Network on Missing Persons (PEN-MP), AMBER Alert Europe and Locate International, succeeded in connecting these educational organisations enabling them to work collectively on cases and conduct cold case analyses (CCA) across international borders. The International Cold Case Analysis Project (ICCAP) learning objectives were to 1) collect the necessary information about the victim, 2) reconstruct the crime, and 3) investigate trace control.

In a learning objective-based evaluation using Computer-Assisted Web Interviewing, 76 participating students from the German and International ICCAP teams were asked to complete a pre- and post-review questionnaire to self-assess their personal competence development. Participants reported significant increases in competence in all evaluated areas, thus demonstrating that authentic and relevant collaborations can enrich the learning environment, promote the use of professional skills, and provide significant knowledge exchange opportunities between academia and industry.

Drawing on case studies of cold case missing persons' investigations and unidentified found remains, this article shares how university academics, students and community volunteers can work together nationally and internationally to find out what has happened to missing people and how we can more effectively identify the previously unidentified. In so doing, we share the expertise required to progress these cold cases and provide recommendations to support other institutions and organisations in adopting this innovative approach.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Medical, Molecular and Forensic Sciences
School of Law
Publisher: Forensic Science Society
Copyright: © 2022 The Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences.
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