Glasgow Caledonian University’s cold case unit was established last year and has seen criminology students put theory into practice
From the clothes a person wears to the words in the newspaper – here are important clues that could hold the key to solving the puzzle of who is an unidentified body.
There are currently over 1,000 cases of unidentified remains on the UK’s National Crime Agency’s Missing Persons Database, with investigations ongoing to try to identify them. .
Among those who are eyeing such cases is the newly established cold cases unit at Glasgow Caledonian University.
What are Cold Shell Parts and what do they do?
The unit was founded last year and is made up of criminology student co-directed by Dr. Maureen Taylor and Professor Lesley McMillan.
The group, working on a professional basis, consisted of 11 students who reviewed and investigated cases that put the theory they had been taught in class into practice.
GCU is the first university in Scotland to develop a cold case unit, in partnership with Locate International. Dr. Taylor said the students were recruited through a rigorous process.
Talking about the work they do, she said: “We work together to review and investigate cold cases, involving missing people and unidentified bodies.”
Currently, the team has seven cases of unidentified remains found mostly in Scotland, although they do have two British cases with links to Scotland.
Dr Taylor added: “We have established a good relationship with Police Scotland’s National Missing Persons Unit.”
Their work has led them to seek out experts in a variety of fields including forensic anthropology, forensic oceanography, genealogy, health and social history.
What is Locate International?
A company of public interest, bringing together former detectives, other professionals and the general public to review cases of missing and unresolved remains.
It has also developed a partnership program with universities to help improve historical cases.
The talent development program allows students to participate in real-life cases alongside professionals.
Locate International co-founder Dave Grimstead said: “We act as a support to police and families.
“A lot of the time, as you can imagine when cases remain unsolved for a long time, we can gather former detectives with student teams and look at all the opportunities. to look at cases, whether it’s an expert in intelligence research. or merely revisiting the case and trying to find new directions forward.”
How do students do their work?
Among the cases the GCU unit reviewed was that of a woman whose body was found on November 22, 2006. She was found on a beach in Port Logan and is believed to have been in the water. up to six months.
The team’s research has led to a new appeal with a sought-after new facial reconstruction method produced by the Facial Laboratory at Liverpool’s John Moores University.
Speaking about how they continue to review a case, Dr Taylor said: “At the start of a case, students gather all the information they can find using open sources, to identify identify what is currently known, to identify information gaps or discrepancies and develop potential lines of requirements.
“They are then tasked with taking actions and reporting back to the team. Along with helping move cases forward, it’s a great learning experience for students who might become future investigators. They learn and develop research and investigation skills and have demonstrated perseverance, determination and critical thinking skills. We were impressed with their innovative ideas and novelty.”
Dr Taylor says they draw on expertise from those within Locate International and outside on each case. Often, the circumstances are so different, they can end up fulfilling a wide range of requests.
Professor McMillan added: “What we’re doing is bringing in an additional resource, another eye for a fresh look at a case. We have the time and energy to look in depth and explore all sorts of possibilities.
“Some of these may be rabbit holes that may or may not lead somewhere, but they are all worth exploring to see if we can find something that helps identify someone.
“We may be able to find the piece that led to the case being solved, but even if we don’t, we hope we will add more pieces to the puzzle so maybe in the future when some information is available. or other intelligence to the Police. Scotland, it might make more sense in relation to the sections we’ve added.
“For many of our cases, we’re going back in time to try to understand how someone ended up there and what clues they might be. There is often research into areas of social life and history including traffic and travel, health conditions, bands and people’s personal effects such as newspapers and Swiss army knives. We explore all of these avenues to try to find information that can help us determine who they might be.”
What work did the students do in the Port Logan case?
The information available on the Port Logan Woman indicates that she is between the ages of 30 and 50, of lean build and between 4ft 11in and 5ft 4in.
She is wearing black Bay Trading size 10 pants, a white BHS size 34c bra, and tan tights.
“Students reviewed the available information about the Port Logan Woman and developed several lines of inquiry around her attire and where she was found,” said Dr. Taylor. They consider how she might end up on the beach and where she might get in the water.
“For example, did she swim and drown, did she get out of the boat, did she walk or jump into the sea or land in a river? Is this an accident or suicide? The team identified several hypotheses.
“They also consulted with local drift orbital experts and cross-matched databases of missing persons from the UK and abroad. Our intention was to develop a new media to solicit information but with a more targeted focus, so the team curated a list of possible locations where the woman might have been. come or stay, either as a resident or as a visitor.
“The area is a popular spot for visitors, but we also looked at a further area where she may have entered the water. An important part of this call was to consider a new facial reconstruction using advances in existing technology. We consulted with expert at Liverpool John Moore’s FaceLab and a new image has been released. ”
What are some other cases where they have worked?
The team’s cases ranged from bodies found in 1972 to 2011, from the case of a man, known as the Balmore man, found on October 16, 2011. , just outside Glasgow in a wooded area.
The team is also looking at cases in the extreme north of Scotland, Edinburgh and Dumfries and Galloway.
The British cases come from Northumbria and Derbyshire.
Professor McMillan said: “The cases are very different. Some are apparent suicides while others are unclear how the person lost his or her life.
“Our cases span from 1972 onwards and some of these predate forensic techniques such as DNA. In some cases, we don’t have a photo of the deceased or a photo of the deceased. In some cases there is very little information to work with but we look at every opportunity to try to identify people.”
Their research can sometimes take an interesting turn, such as the study of a man found at Burnside plantation in Dumfriesshire on 20 December 2010. His estimated date of death is November 13 of that year – but a puzzling object was found nearby, a copy of an Italian Newspaper from four months before his death.
Dr Taylor said they spent time trying to find out if it had any clues to his identity.
“Our students were able to find and access a hard copy of the newspaper at the British Library and, using volunteers at Locate, were able to translate it into English to see if it had any problems,” she said. no sign of that man, why. he was found where or why he may have taken his own life”.
Professor McMillan added: “Why should someone who died in the woods in Dumfries and Galloway have a copy of an Italian newspaper from four months ago? Is it because it makes sense to him, he keeps it for practical purposes, because he’s going to pack something in it, or maybe it was never his in the first place. These are the things we have to investigate and try to find the cause.”
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https://www.nationalworld.com/news/uk/the-cold-case-team-trying-to-solve-mystery-of-unidentified-remains-including-the-port-logan-woman-3520623 The cold case team is trying to solve the mystery of the unidentified remains – including the Port Logan woman