Cold Case Murders: The forgotten voices of victims in the criminal justice system

Dr Xanthe Mallett1

1University Of Newcastle, Callaghan, Australia

found three months later.  Her killer has never been brought to justice.

Peter Letcher was just 18-years-old when he was hitchhiking from Sydney to his home in Bathurst in November 1987.  He never made it.  Peter was murdered and his body was found in a shallow grave in Jenolan State Forest in 1988.  He had been shot five times in the head. Like Keren, his murder has never been solved.

William Tyrrell, the little boy in the Spiderman suit, was taken from his grandmother’s house in Kendall, NSW, in 2014.  No evidence has been recovered to explain what happened, and no one had been charged with his abduction or murder.

These are just some of the names of crime victims in Australia whose families desperately want to know what happened and why.  The pain is as raw for them as it was the day their loved one was taken from them, regardless of the years that have intervened.

Sadly, answers from investigators are commonly in short supply.

Through thematic analysis of communications with the families of murder victims, this presentation will outline some of these stories, to highlight the enduring pain and suffering families continue to experience when no answers are forthcoming.  The aim is to raise awareness of the flaws in the current police strategies of communicating with families, who are all too often treated as if they are a problem.  This only serves to increase the trauma felt by grieving relatives.

This is a challenge that can be met.  Suggestions will therefore be made as to a way forward using family liaison models from the UK, to increase accountability and transparency within forensic investigations, and ultimately to minimise the on-going psychological trauma that families are currently suffering.


Associate Professor Xanthé Mallett is a passionate advocate for victims of crime, and her professional activities focus on improving outcomes for those involved with the criminal justice system, including the falsely accused.

She has presented a number of television series, including Ivan Milat: Buried Secrets (Channel 7, 2021) and Murder, Lies & Alibis (Channel 9, 2020), contributing as a forensic and criminological expert.

Xanthé has written three monographs: Mothers who Murder (Penguin Random House, 2014); Reasonable Doubt (Pan Macmillan 2019); Cold Case Investigations (Pan Macmillan 2020).

Xanthé runs her own business FHID, which provides identification technologies to Australian police forces.


Aug 26 2021


8:00 am - 6:00 pm