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Cold Case Investigation Team

No unsolved murder or rape case is ever closed by Essex Police.

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 solved.

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 technology.

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 eye.

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.

Essex Police Offenders who thought they had got away with their crime should be aware that we may come knocking on their door.Essex Police
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 Williams.

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 samples.

If the DNA profile of the perpetrator is identified then this is compared against samples retained on the National DNA Database. 

“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.

Essex Police The fact that a perpetrator wasn’t identified years ago doesn’t mean they won’t be identified now. Essex Police
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.

Essex Police Offenders may think they have got away with their crimes but with forensic techniques developing so rapidly they should be looking over their shoulders. Essex Police
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 earlier.

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 imprisonment.

Essex Police 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 Essex Police
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.”

 

 

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