Kirsty Bennett, Lecturer in the Leeds School of Social Sciences, is launching the cold case unit at LBU from September to help victim’s families by potentially identifying new lines of enquiry.
Working alongside Locate International - a community interest company set up to help the families of missing people - students will be looking for opportunities to progress police investigations by reviewing long-term unsolved missing person cases.
Kirsty, who previously worked at West Yorkshire Police after joining the homicide and major inquiry team as a civilian, said: “We almost have this tendency as a society to focus on the cases that are pertinent at the time, but we tend to move on quite quickly.
“It’s really important to showcase that we should not forget these cases and we owe it to the victims’ families to do something.
“In working on these cold cases, our students are providing a service to the families of the missing, looking for opportunities to progress the cases that might not otherwise get the focused attention that they need.
“We are also offering first-hand experience that very few students have, a chance to connect with experts in the field and police officers. They have the opportunity to lead their own investigation teams, mentor other students, and collaborate on research projects.
“This isn’t a promise that we are going to solve the case, it’s to offer families and police forces the opportunity for other people to have a look at the case in different ways, do a review, and potentially offer a new line of enquiry.”
Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children are reported missing to the police each year, many of which garner media attention.
The UK National Crime Agency statistics for 2018/2019 shows in England and Wales there were a total of 320,715 reported missing incidents.
The statistics for 2018/2019 also recorded that 4,054 missing person cases in England and Wales have remained unsolved for more than 12 months.
LBU will essentially act as a hub for Yorkshire, also attracting specialists from their local communities to work in collaboration with students and Locate International to progress the cold cases.
This model has already begun with students from the University of South Wales (USW) and the University of Central Lancashire.
One of the cases that USW students are reviewing is the disappearance of Damien Nettles, who was last seen in Cowes on the Isle of Wight in November 1996 when he was 16 years old.
Dave Grimstead, Co-Founder at Locate International, said: “A year ago, we listened to Kirsty Bennett’s presentation about years of research on unsolved missing person cases at the International Conference on Missing Children and Adults.
“The conference inspired us to find a way for teams of students to take on real world challenges working side by side with specialists on unsolved missing people cases.
“Locate International have worked with a small group of universities to develop a model to provide support for investigations of long term unsolved missing people cases, for both families and police.
“It is a real privilege for us to collaborate with Kirsty and Leeds Beckett University to turn research into action that is of real value to the public.”