For four months, more than 85 students from eight British universities* worked together again with the Australian Murdoch University, the German Universities of Bonn and Cottbus, the Northern Macedonia University of Skopje, the French Gendarmerie, the Universities of Applied Science of the Police Saxony-Anhalt, the Bundeskriminalamt and the Police Academy of Lower Saxony on four cold cases of homicides and missing persons cases as part of the fourth International Cold Case Analysis Project (ICCAP). 

Networking with AMBER Alert Europe, the PEN-MP and Locate International is an important building block for establishing this unique project worldwide.

“It is really great to see how, in addition to the universities with their forensic, psychological, and criminology faculties, more and more police training institutes are expressing interest in participating,” says Karsten Bettels from the Police Academy of Lower Saxony, who is responsible for organising the course as well as its content. “A total of 35 police students from France, Germany, and Northern Macedonia participated in the fourth ICCAP.”

At the end of the ICCAP, the findings were presented to the investigators responsible for these cases and to cold case and missing persons units from Europe.

Proposals on forensic issues as well as media strategies were again presented in the cases. In one case of an unidentified victim of a homicide, photographic facial reconstructions and aging images of the man were created in order to carry out publicity measures based on the result of available isotope analyses in other European countries where the murder victim had lived in the past.

Also, in other homicide and missing persons cases, suggestions for further interrogation strategies were presented after analysing the files and identifying inconsistencies.

Bettels: “It is also to be noted that the results and proposals of the students in ICCAP are increasingly being carried out in parallel with investigations by the cold case units and public prosecutors’ offices, or are even being integrated into current missing persons cases to work out concrete proposals.

The “Gentleman John Doe” Case – new investigative approaches

There are also new lines of investigation in the case of the unknown dead man from the North Sea from the second ICCAP, the “Gentleman Case”. Through an isotope report, it was determined that the man had spent many years of his life in Australia, in addition to the established relations with Great Britain. A subsequent media strategy in Australia, involving Murdoch University, also led to an interesting missing person lead. A matching of the cases is currently taking place between German and British investigators involved.

Further steps in 2022

For the fifth ICCAP, which will take place from December 2022 to March 2023, the students will face further challenges: they will have to analyse several missing person cases of young women from the 1970s and 1980s to collect arguments for or against a series context as well as to analyse two homicides of women and homicide of a man who was first a missing persons case in order to check a set context.

For the first time, the law faculty from the University of Cologne will participate in the fifth ICCAP.