We talk a lot about cold cases, but what exactly do these two words mean?
Jacques Dallest: This expression is a misidentified criminal object. I think that we must have a broad meaning if we really want to embrace all the cases covered by this expression: unsolved serial crimes, unsolved blood crimes, undiscovered blood crimes (corpses hidden or destroyed and criminal disappearances of people), but also serious attacks on the physical and psychological integrity of the victim such as predatory rapes, that is to say without links between the prey and the perpetrator, often serial. Furthermore, these are complex crimes, not because of their modus operandi, but rather because it is impossible to determine the underlying reason.
Without an apparent motive, they contain an element of mystery which makes them difficult to solve.
Do these crimes without an identified culprit have a legal definition?
Yes, since the law for confidence in the judicial institution of December 22, 2021. The code of criminal procedure now defines “serial and unsolved crimes” as acts committed repeatedly by the same person and whose perpetrator does not could not be identified more than eighteen months after the commission of the facts.
How many unresolved cases in France are likely to fall into this category?
It is difficult to put forward a precise figure. The number of murders committed each year in France hovers around 850 – much less than thirty or forty years ago. Around 20% of these homicides remain unsolved, including a certain number of settling of scores. We can therefore estimate that, each year, between 150 and 200 cases are unsuccessful..
You have often said that we need to develop the cold case culture. What exactly do you mean by that?
First, you should never give up, even if the file is old. Then, each jurisdiction must keep a complete inventory of its unresolved cases. This culture involves a good knowledge of new investigation techniques, but also a lot of empathy towards victims’ families.