Extracting witness evidence in “cold case” investigations: what we know and what we need to learn

Heather L. Price, Kirk Luther, Wayne Thomas, Fiona Gabbert, Lorraine Hope

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Despite advances in forensic sciences, there is a significant increase in the number of cases that remain unsolved—cold cases. Cold case investigations present numerous unique challenges above and beyond those of typical (i.e., timely) investigations. In cold cases, witness memory is likely to be weakened substantially due to the historical nature of the incident (e.g., the victim of historical sexual abuse) and subject to interference from different sources (e.g., conversations with others and previous interviews). Despite the numerous and challenging barriers present within cold case investigations, researchers have not systematically explored the barriers faced by cold case investigators or the best ways of obtaining detailed and accurate information from witnesses and victims of cold cases. Solving cold cases can prevent perpetrators from committing further crimes, help bring peace to the loved ones of deceased victims, and communicate to living victims that they are not forgotten. Our goal is to generate interest in a program of rigorous experimental and applied work in this neglected field. We also aim to provide preliminary resources and practical considerations for cold case investigators based on current best practices.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Police and Criminal Psychology
Early online date6 Apr 2024
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online - 6 Apr 2024

Keywords

  • cold cases
  • memory
  • investigative interviewing

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