We are working with the universities of South Wales and Central Lancashire, to deliver a talent development programme. Teams of students take on real world challenges working side by side with specialists on unsolved missing people cases. We provide the opportunity for applied scholarship that goes well beyond the university and which is very much in the public interest.
Michael Arntfield is a professor at the University of Western Ontario, and describes this type of approach as at “the forefront of the ‘new’ criminology, which is highly interdisciplinary, publicly relevant, technologically and socially progressive, and fully actionable in the real world.”
Real world challenges are at the heart of our talent development programme.
Dr Cheryl Allsop, whose research focuses on cold case investigations and missing people, set up the project at USW to help the families of missing people whilst providing students with an opportunity to put the theory that they are taught in class into practice and learn additional investigative skills. Dr Allsop said: “We want to develop successful students, who can demonstrate leadership in their profession and promote active citizenship. 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. I am extremely proud of the professionalism and commitment our students devote to these unsolved cases and the work they are doing to develop the programme.”
One of the cases that the 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.
Damien’s mother Valerie said: “My son vanished from the face of the earth on 2 November 1996. Families of missing people should know that everything possible is being done to find their loved one. Many families do not have this basic reassurance. I believe that Locate and the teams at Lancashire and South Wales have found a way to help our family. I hope it will grow to help many more families. I am grateful to those giving their time to help and hope that more people will join the teams this year.”
Leah Reed who has just completed her BSc Criminology and Criminal Justice degree at USW and will be starting her MSc in Global Governance in September 2020 is the Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) on the case. She said: “This has allowed me to develop my skills outside of my degree, gain first-hand experience of working on an investigation and see how a fresh pair of eyes and relevant experts can progress investigations such as this one. I am incredibly proud to be a part of such a dedicated team and am grateful to be supported by Cheryl, the Locate team as well as the Nettles family. I am hopeful we can make a positive impact on this case and eventually grow as a team to help more families in the future.”
Rachel Drennan, a BSc (Hons) Criminology and Criminal Justice student at USW and a Special Constable with South Wales Police in Pontypridd, is the Deputy SIO working on the case. She said: “Being able to help families of long-term missing people by applying our analytical skills and knowledge to the cases has been a privilege. With the support of our mentors we get the chance to gain experience for the future and hopefully provide some answers for families such as Damien’s. As this is the career path I am interested in, I am grateful to be part of such an enthusiastic team and look forward to developing our skills further.”
Ian McKim, Head of Criminology at USW said: “Seeing the determination of the team’s investigation and the work being undertaken, is so rewarding. I have been particularly struck by the meticulous research they have delivered during the past few months – it has been outstanding.”
At UCLAN the team are supported by Locate intelligence specialists who also provide the opportunity for high level training in open source intelligence techniques. Wendy Marsh, who is finishing her MSc Cybercrime Investigation at UCLAN, is leading forensic computing and forensic science student volunteers Samantha Blakey, Natalie Jones, Damon Hall, James Kelday and Matthew Livesey to search for any information regarding Damien Nettles and development of the Locate Active Search project.
Twenty-year-old Damon, a former St Cecilia’s RC High School and Preston’s College student, commented: “I decided to sign up for this exciting and important project because it seems like a good way to use my computer skills to help make a difference and help others. It’s also something I’m really interested in doing as a career so I’m thankful to be getting experience of this nature while trying to help a family get answers.”
John Dempsey, UCLan’s Digital Safety Advocate and course leader for forensic computing, said : “Not only is this a really valuable programme in terms of helping the family of missing children, it is also giving students a real-world investigative experience, working with teams from other universities and the Police, but also that feeling of doing good within a horrible situation. I am really proud of the team; they are really helping to design the procedures and structures needed to roll out this programme across the UK.
Ian Allison, UCLan’s Executive Dean of Faculty of Science and Technology, added: “This is an excellent initiative that is making a real difference to people’s lives. We are really proud of what our students are achieving. This work shows how important it is that students develop their interdisciplinary and leadership skills in this programme.”
Working with leading educational institutions and the police service we are providing opportunities for professional and organisational development in the UK and abroad.
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We offer a free and independent review and investigation service for the families of missing people. Our team of specialists in unsolved murder and serious crime investigations apply innovative solutions to advance missing people cases.
Active Search collates all unsolved missing or unidentified people in the UK and Ireland. Our highly interdisciplinary team work together to ensure information is gathered, analysed and turned into action to help solve missing and unidentified people cases.
Local knowledge can be one of the greatest assets in missing people cases. We have developed a model that involves working with volunteers from the local community to harness their knowledge and help advance the cases we are working on.
We are working with the universities of South Wales and Central Lancashire, on a talent development programme. Teams of students take on real world challenges side by side with specialists on unsolved missing people cases.