New cold case homicide hub launched

Victoria Police is today launching a new online tool designed to source information from the community to help solve cold case murders.

The purpose-built hub is located on the Victoria Police website and will hopefully bring increased public attention to some of the more than 200 unsolved deaths currently sitting within the Homicide Squad’s files.

An initial five cases are featured on the hub, with two new cases to be added each month.

Each case package promoted on the hub – the first of its kind in Australia – includes background on the investigation, a photograph of the victim and a personal appeal from the investigator to the public for information.

A link to Crime Stoppers has also been provided at the bottom of each case so information can be reported directly, easily, and confidentially to police.

While many of the cases have been highlighted in the media or subject to public appeals from police over the years, this is the first time a dedicated multimedia website has been established by Victoria Police to give the community easily accessible direct information on unsolved murders.

The approach is based on a model used by the Toronto Police Service in Canada, which Homicide Squad officer in charge Detective Inspector Tim Day observed first-hand during his 2018 Churchill Fellowship.

Over the past 20 years the Victoria Police Homicide Squad has maintained a solve rate and a conviction rate well above 90 per cent, a rate that eclipses most police forces across the world.

However, with unsolved cases from as far back as 1951 remaining on the Homicide Squad’s cold case books, Victoria Police has recognised the need to continue to innovate and draw on information from the public, to solve these ever increasingly complex crimes.

Detectives are hopeful that the hub will lead to members of the community coming forward with new information on the featured cases, which may potentially lead to some of them being solved.

The featured cases have been chosen as police strongly believe they can still be solved and the offenders held to account.

The first five cases on the hub are as follows:

• The fatal shooting of 34-year-old Jane-Thurgood Dove outside her Niddrie home on 6 November, 1997;

• The murder of teenagers Fiona Burns and John Lee, who were last seen hitchhiking between Adelaide and Melbourne in October 1990;

• The brutal assault of Samantha Mizzi in St Kilda on 30 March, 1994;

• The death of 42-year-old Christopher Phillips at his Cheltenham home on 1 May, 1990; and

• The fatal shooting of Christos Saristavros in the car park of a licensed premises in Box Hill on 22 October, 2000.

Anyone with information about any of these cases is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or submit a confidential report at www.crimestoppers.com.au

Visit the Homicide Squad Cold Case Hub at https://www.police.vic.gov.au/cold-cases

Quotes attributable to Victoria Police Acting Deputy Commissioner Robert Hill:

“These are some of the most serious and violent crimes in the state, which cause significant harm to our communities – and long after they have faded from newspapers or TV bulletins, our investigations continue.

The homicide rate in Victoria is relatively low and has been steady for some years, and we have a dedicated team of highly skilled and experienced investigators focused on solving those matters.

However, there is a small number of unsolved cases each year, where we’re not able to provide answers for grieving families or see them receive the justice they deserve for the loss of their loved ones.

We recognise that there is a need to make sure that information on our unsolved investigations remains easily accessible to the public to give them the greatest possible opportunity to be solved, which is why we’ve developed this hub.

It’s about providing a single source of truth and also reaching people who don’t watch the news or pick up a newspaper anymore. Many people are now on social media and we need to particularly leverage that medium to assist us in investigating these cases.

One of the things that was reinforced to Tim during his Churchill Fellowship was the high amount of community support we have for investigations in Victoria – cases are regularly and routinely solved thanks to the information and assistance provided by members of the public, and this is not always the case in other parts of the world.

We are hoping that these cases and the ones you will see in coming months, receive the same kind of support from our community.

I can assure you that none of the victims in the cases you will see on this website have been forgotten – not by police or by their families and loved ones.

This hub is a first for Crime Command and the Homicide Squad and allows the public to hear directly from investigators. I’m confident that we will see information coming in directly as a result of re-publicising these cases and hopeful that we will be able to get results.”

Quotes attributable to Detective Inspector Tim Day, officer in charge Victoria Police Homicide Squad:

“My detectives see first-hand the deeply devastating and lasting impact on the families, friends, colleagues and neighbours of homicide victims.

Many people may think they know these cases inside out from what they’ve seen on the news or heard in podcasts. The point is, if you’re not the Homicide Squad investigator then you’re not going to know the real facts.

Now you can hear case details directly from the investigator, see photos, and watch video snippets.

While undertaking the Churchill Fellowship, it was interesting to compare the success rate we have in Victoria for these crimes to elsewhere in the world.

It also reinforced with me how much of that success is rooted in the willingness of the Victorian public to provide information to police and the trust they have in our capability.

That trust is a precious commodity – it’s not easily earned and something we need to protect.

For each case, someone out there knows something and if we have the confidence of the community, the means to allow reporting and the capability to then action that reporting, we can break open any cold case.”

/Public Release. This material comes from the originating organization and may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. View in full here.