University students in Leeds have been called on to try and crack unsolved missing persons cases.
Lecturer Kirsty Bennett is launching the cold case unit, comprised of criminology students, in September that will try to identify new lines of enquiry and find people who have been missing for years.
The new project will see students work alongside experts from Locate International, who specialise in cracking unsolved missing persons cases.
Kirsty, who previously worked for West Yorkshire Police’s Homicide and Major Enquiry Team, hopes it will help students put what they have learnt into practice.
She said: “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.”
This model has already been introduced at the University of South Wales (USW) and the University of Central Lancashire.
USW students are working on several high-profile cases, including the case of Damien Nettles, who was last seen 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.”