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A timeline toolkit for cold case investigations

David Keatley (Researchers in Behaviour Sequence Analysis (ReBSA), Nottingham, UK and School of Law, Murdoch University, Perth, Australia)
David D. Clarke (Researchers in Behaviour Sequence Analysis (ReBSA) and School of Psychology, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK)

Journal of Criminal Psychology

ISSN: 2009-3829

Article publication date: 18 December 2019

Issue publication date: 5 May 2020




The purpose of this paper is to outline a variety of related methods for helping with criminal (cold) case investigations. Despite the best efforts of police investigations, many cases around the world run out of leads and go cold. While many police departments around the world have developed specialist groups and task forces, academics have also been developing new methods that can assist with investigations.


Cold cases, by their very nature, typically comprise incomplete data sets that many traditional statistical methods are not suited to. Groups of researchers have therefore developed temporal, dynamic analysis methods to offer new insights into criminal investigations. These methods are combined into a timeline toolkit and are outlined in the current paper.


Methods from the timeline toolkit have already been successfully applied to many cold cases, turning them back into current cases. In this paper, two real-world cold cases are analysed with methods from the timeline toolkit to provide examples of how these methods can be applied in further cold cases.


Methods from the timeline toolkit provide a novel approach to investigating current and cold cases. This review provides academics and practitioners with a guide to begin using and developing these methods and forming successful collaborations with police departments and cold case task forces. The methods are also suitable for wider groups and to use in their investigations.



Keatley, D. and Clarke, D.D. (2020), "A timeline toolkit for cold case investigations", Journal of Criminal Psychology, Vol. 10 No. 2, pp. 47-63.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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