World-first study hopes to give grieving families closure

James Cook University PhD student Jim Whitehead is conducting a world-first study to help police find the remains of homicide victims.

Mr Whitehead is researching similarities between homicide cases in Queensland with the aim of aiding police in their search for murder victims.

Mr Whitehead said there are a number of studies about profiling offenders based on the location of the victim’s body, but his research is the first to use the offender’s profile to find the victim.

“My study is the first in the world to do it the other way around,” he said. “If I know the offender and victim, their relationship, height and weight proportions, locality et cetera then some predictions can be made about the disposal methods and locations.”

Mr Whitehead analysed data from 729 homicide cases in Queensland and found some similarities regarding the location of bodies.

“For example, there’s a consistency across cases in terms of distance from the murder site, distance from a road or walking track, and the direction the body has been taken for disposal,” he said.

“The relationship between the offender and their victim also has a big bearing on disposal methods, but there’s also often very little thought put into it.”

Mr Whitehead said this information will help police with their investigations and also help victims’ families with their grieving process.

“Locating the victim is an important part of grieving and closure for the affected family,” he said. “And from a criminal justice perspective, it is difficult to prove murder without a body, and therefore difficult to prosecute and secure a conviction.”

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