Cold Case Investigation Team
No unsolved murder or rape case is ever closed by Essex
In January 2011 the Essex Police Cold Case Investigation Team
was introduced as part of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime
Directorate. The team investigates historical murders and
serious sexual assaults in Essex that have so far not been
The team are based in Brentwood and consists of a Detective
Sergeant, four Detective Constables and an Investigating Officer.
They work closely with forensic scientists to re-examine slides and
samples from crime scenes using advances in forensic
DNA was first used in the late 1980s when considerable
quantities of blood, saliva, human tissue or cells were needed to
build a profile. Since then huge advances in technology mean
forensic experts can now extract DNA from tiny quantities of bodily
fluids, hair and skin cells that are almost invisible to the human
Detective Sergeant Jo
Williams, from the Cold Case Investigation Team said: “The fact
that a perpetrator wasn’t identified years ago doesn’t mean they
won’t be identified now.
"Cases that don’t initially lead to the identification, arrest and
prosecution of an offender are regularly reviewed and any new or
advanced forensic techniques available to us now are applied.
"We’re always keen to receive any information that could give us a
new lead on a historical case. Offenders who thought they had got
away with their crime in some cases for many years should be aware
that we may come knocking on their door.”
Re-investigating historical cases often means meeting victims
and/or their families many years after the crime was committed, and
although this can reignite painful memories, it can also be of some
comfort to know that their case has never been closed. The welfare
of victims and their families is always paramount and the team
includes specially trained Family Liaison Officers (FLOs) who offer
support and guidance to those affected by such crimes.
Offenders who thought they had got away with their
crime should be aware that we may come knocking on their
Ds Jo Williams
“Re-launching an investigation begins with the team gathering
statements and documents obtained at the time of the crime and then
contacting Forensic laboratories to collect archived reports,
retained clothing and forensic slides and samples,“ said DS
Although officers on the Cold Case Investigation Team aren’t
scientists, part of their role includes keeping up to date with
advances in forensic technology.
Working closely with experts they look at evidence collected at
the scene of the crime and assess whether new techniques can be
used to identify DNA from the offender from microscopic
If the DNA profile of the perpetrator is identified then this is
compared against samples retained on the National DNA
“New samples are being added to the database all the time and if
an immediate match isn’t made, samples are retained in the hope of
an eventual match,” said DS Williams.
There are currently DNA samples from more than 5.5 million
individuals from England and Wales on the database. Since its
launch in 1998, more than 300,000 crimes have been detected across
the country with the help of the database. Between April 1, 2011
and December 31 2011, the database produced 89 matches to murder,
412 to rape and over 22,000 to other crime scenes.
fact that a perpetrator wasn’t identified years ago doesn’t mean
they won’t be identified now.
Ds Jo Williams
In November 1978 the body of 63 year old Norah Trott was found
behind a pub in Rochford shortly after she was reported missing by
a friend. She had been sexually assaulted and died from head
injuries but, despite a detailed investigation, no one was
convicted of Norah’s murder in the years that followed.
Almost 25 years later, in 2003, a review team revisited the case
and as a result of advances in forensic technology a DNA profile
was successfully obtained from samples taken from the crime scene
at the time of the murder. It became clear that DNA was present
that did not belong to Norah.
The DNA was compared to samples held on the National DNA
Database and it wasn’t long before the database identified that DNA
from 49 year old builder Wayne Doherty matched the DNA left at the
scene of Norah’s murder.
Doherty had previously been arrested for drink-driving and his DNA
had been taken and entered onto the Database.
In October 2004, Doherty was arrested in Guernsey on suspicion
of the murder of Norah Trott and in 2005, 27 years after murdering
her, Wayne Doherty was found guilty and jailed for life.
Offenders may think they have got away with their
crimes but with forensic techniques developing so rapidly they
should be looking over their shoulders.
Ds Jo Williams
When someone is murdered their family deserves answers and
knowing the person responsible has been brought to justice may give
them some closure and a chance to be able to move forward with
their lives. The police have a duty to them; to the victims who had
their life taken away and to the public to ensure that the
perpetrator is found and brought to justice.
In December 2010, a man from Colchester was jailed for six years
after being found guilty of raping a woman in the town six years
A woman had been followed, assaulted and raped by a man who had
asked her for directions but her attacker was not identified
despite a thorough investigation.
Four years later the case was reviewed and again because of
forensic advances a DNA profile of the rapist was able to be
developed and added to the DNA Database.
A year later former accountant Peter Hull was arrested for
unrelated offences. A sample of his DNA was taken and it matched
that of the rapist.
Six years after her ordeal the woman was finally able to see her
attacker put behind bars when he was sentenced to six years
samples are being added to the database all the time and if an
immediate match isn’t made, samples are retained in the hope of an
Ds Jo Williams
“Crimes of this nature are rare and unsolved cases are never
closed. We would always encourage victims of rape to come forward
where appropriately trained officers will be available to support
them,” said Ds Williams.
“Forensic collection and analysis is better than at any time in
the past. It’s improving all the time and specialist officers will
be on hand to support you.
“Offenders may think they have got away with their crimes but
with forensic techniques developing so rapidly they should be
looking over their shoulders.
“We will do everything we can to identify those responsible and
bring them to justice.”