More than 100 students from several universities, police academies and law enforcement agencies in Europe and Australia recently participated in the fifth International Cold Case Analysis Project (ICCAP), which ran from December 2022 to April 2023. During the ICCAP, the participants analyzed ten cold cases in three different investigative complexes. The effort was made possible through a partnership with AMBER Alert Europe Foundation and Locate International.

Over 100 students, including those from seven British universities*, with students also living in the US, Murdoch University in Australia, the Austrian University of Innsbruck, and German universities in Bonn, Cottbus, and Cologne, joined forces with the French Gendarmerie, the German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), and the Police Academy of Lower Saxony in the fifth edition of the ICCAP.  

Lead of the ICCAP, Karsten Bettels of the Police Academy of Lower Saxony, expressed his admiration for the students’ work. According to Bettels, European students worked on the cases in the morning, while the Australian students had already finished their contributions. In the evening, when the European students were done, the American students continued to work.

“Several students also expressed interest in working in taking on leadership roles, sharing their experience with other participants in future ICCAPS”, Bettels said.

Results of the 5th ICCAP

The students worked on six missing young women cases and one homicide case that occurred between 1977 and 1986. They analyzed the files of the cases and looked for contradictions in witness statements. Additionally, the cases were compared with other missing persons cases from the wider region as well as with several homicides of young women who were also considered missing before they were found in 1981 and 1982.

In addition, the students analyzed two cases of elderly women who were murdered while traveling on their bicycles in the same region on the same day of different years. They also looked into the murder of a widowed pensioner in 2004, whose body was found several months after the crime. The students presented their findings and 3D models of the crime to investigators and international experts over two days, totaling 13 hours of presentation time.

A case of an unknown man found in the North Sea, analyzed during a previous ICCAP, was presented on Dutch television, leading to more than 30 tips which are currently being investigated.

Future steps in 2023

The next ICCAP will present new challenges to students. The sixth ICCAP, which will take place from May to September 2023, will involve five cases of unknown murder victims using forensic analysis and Investigative Genetic Genealogy (IGG). Students will also develop ideas for finding a victim’s body when the perpetrator has already been sentenced to life in prison. The seventh ICCAP, which will take place from December 2023 to March 2024, will focus on three homicides to investigate, one with a relationship to the UK with a male Scottish victim, who worked in Germany, another with a female Czech victim, who was hitchhiking in Germany. Additionally, there will be changes to the structure of the ICCAP, including networking former students in alumni associations.

*Canterbury Christ Church University, Coventry University, Glasgow Caledonian University, University of Greenwich, Plymouth University, University of Central Lancashire, Open University