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Investigating homicide: back to the future

Cheryl Allsop (Centre for Criminology, University of South Wales, Pontypridd, UK)
Sophie Pike (Bath Spa University, Bath, UK)

Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice

ISSN: 2056-3841

Article publication date: 19 September 2019

Issue publication date: 19 September 2019




The purpose of this paper is to suggest two things: first, that the scientific and technological developments and increased regulation that have shaped homicide investigations in England and Wales over the last few decades have provided today’s investigators with opportunities not available to their predecessors, and play a key role in solving unsolved homicides. Second, however, the authors suggest that such developments have created new challenges for investigators, challenges that impede current investigations, potentially creating the future unsolved cases.


This paper draws on two qualitative studies that comprised over eight months of ethnographic research, observations, interviews with serving and retired homicide detectives and case file analysis.


The widespread changes to homicide investigations in England and Wales have been valuable in many respects, notably, they have allowed detectives to look back in time and bring longstanding unsolved cases to a close. However, change, although well intentioned, might actually be creating future cold cases as detectives endeavour to manage the volume of information now generated during investigations, fast evolving scientific and technological techniques and an increase in bureaucracy.

Practical implications

This study is helpful for: improving investigative practice; learning from change; reducing unsolved homicides vs a rise in new cold cases; and innovative and entrepreneurial investigators.


Utilising qualitative research, this paper contributes to the academic literature exploring homicide investigation in England and Wales, offering insight into the challenges facing detectives and the potential impact of these upon solving past and present homicide cases.



Allsop, C. and Pike, S. (2019), "Investigating homicide: back to the future", Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice, Vol. 5 No. 3, pp. 229-239.



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Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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