True Crime Reader interview: Defrosting Cold Cases

The team at the website Defrosting Cold Cases (DCC) take a truly collaborative approach to looking at (and trying to solve) unsolved murders.Created in 2009 by the enigmatic “Vidocq”, also known as Vidster ( a lawyer with a long history in the fields of criminology and human rights defence) the DCC blog came about because “there were too many cold cases that do not get enough media attention”.

Vidster said his work with police over the years led him to see how “incredibly thin” some of the cold case files were from the 1950s and 1960s.

“The information gathering was often not systematically documented; documents were referred to but not included,” Vidster said.

“When you start to read those stories and cases, you feel the urge to re-organize them and then you are hooked!”

Vidster kindly took the time out from cold case files to answer some questions for True Crime Reader:

True Crime Reader: What has been your greatest result so far in terms of helping/facilitating the solving of a cold case?

Vidster: I have contributed to many cases that are all in various stages of being re-investigated, presented to the district attorneys or, are on trial. Everything I find out is given to the authorities in charge. Whether they use it or not, I cannot always tell. Some give me feedback, some don’t. In a few cases, the district attorneys involved have supported re-opening cases and in other cases, pieces of evidence have been submitted to the labs. They will be tested with modern technology to see whether it can confirm that a certain person made contact with those items. Only when I get the green light, can I post about it.

TCR: What’s the cold case that “gets to you” the most? That is like an obsession for you to solve?

Vidster: They all have a special place but if I must pick one – the murder of Bernice Martin. I sincerely believe that we have the wrong man incarcerated for that crime. Someone who has not been caught yet or, who is incarcerated elsewhere for a different crime. Police is not following up on leads indicated in the posts. The fact that the man they have incarcerated is a mentally handicapped man makes this even worse since he has no concept of what is really happening to him. See here.

TCR: You have some great contributors to the site (including NYPD Det-Sgt and Commanding Officer of the Bronx Cold Case Homicide Squad Joe Giacalone and British forensic scientist Sue Carney) How have you linked in with them?

Vidster: I always scan people’s bios for interesting details and watch the manner of speech they use on the Internet. You know that some will say anything in any form just because they can hide online behind a chosen identity. All these people reached out to me and I started reading about their work, how they use Twitter (they all have Twitter accounts except for Hal Brown), and how they respond to people. The way they interact with others sparked my interest for them personally and that’s how we got together. It is an interesting bunch and I am very grateful for their cooperation.

TCR: What do you encourage readers of your blog to do? Are there any particular cases that you are working on at the moment that’s you’d like me to mention?

Vidster: Please read the cases especially those from areas where you lived. You just might have a memory that in itself does not mean much but put together with the other information, might make the picture clearer.

I also encourage readers to comment and brainstorm with me on cases. Comment below the post or, ping me on Twitter. And, if you have a Twitter account, join us on Fridays from noon-1pm EST for #cclivechat. Every cold case live chat, we are joined by a variety of people from different backgrounds and professions. Brainstorming together opens up the way to new turns the case could take. Moreover, it is an ideal way to see whether you make sense. Let others listen to your solutions or ideas and see what they think. It is a very valuable tool. I post recaps of all chats on DCC so you can read up later on if you miss it. The verbatim thread is always included.

Vidster said he could use some help in the following cases: Tracy Allen, Richard Burchfield, Karen Caughlin, Laura Henderson-Ibach, Brenda Martinez, Stephen Miera, David Neily, Sharron Prior, Linda Sohus, Kimberly Thompson and Patty Vaughan. (Check on DCC under the cases tab

Details: Follow Vidster on Twitter @Vidocq_CC

Note: Vidocq (1775 t0 1857) was a French criminal who reformed and is considered the father of modern criminology and the first private detective. Vidster of DCC, wishes to remain anonymous with his work on the blog and uses Vidocq as his identity inspiration!

Australian Missing Persons

It’s Australian Missing Persons Week (August 1-7) and the Federal Police estimate that around 35,000 people go missing in this country each year.

The campaign focus for 2011 is “when someone goes missing, more that one person is lost”.

Statistics indicate that for every person reported missing, 12 people – including family members, friends and work colleagues – are directly affected and feel the emotional and physical impacts of a missing person each year.


While more than 95 per cent of people reported missing in Australia are located within a short period of time, some 1,600 people still remain missing.


These are some of the children still missing whose families and loved ones are desperate to find.

Quanne Diec

 Quanne was 12 when she went missing on her way to school on 27 July 1998 at Granville, New South Wales. Police believe Quanne was murderered.


Rahma El-Dennaoui 



Baby Rahma  lived with her parents and seven other siblings. The 19-month-old was last seen by her parents when she was put in her bed at 2am on Thursday 10 November, 2005. About six and half hours later  at 8.30am it was discovered that she was not in her bed. Lat year police revealed that Rahma could be alive and living overseas, taken out of the country on a false passport. An inquest is expected later in 2011.

Daniel Morcombe











The highest profile missing person case in Australia is that of Queensland Boy Daniel Morcombe. Daniel was abducted on December 7, 2003 while waiting for a bus in Woombye, Queensland. Police believe Daniel was murdered.

Since Daniel’s abduction, his parents Bruce and Denise have worked tirelessly to find their son and raise awareness through the Daniel Morcombe Foundation. The foundation is dedicated to teaching personal safety to the young and vulnerable as well as assisting victims of crime.


Siriyakorn “Bung” Siriboon

The 13-year-old schoolgirl vanished on June 2, 2011 on her way to school – a 10-minute walk from her Boronia, Victoria home. The case is now with Victoria Police’s homicide squad.

True Crime News

Crime news links that I’ve found interesting this past week:

Man arrested in Cornwall double-murder investigation (Belfast Telegraph, July 14, 2011)

Two men on holiday in Cornwall are missing and believed to have been murdered. I find this story intriguing, more so because I know the area very well where they are believed to have gone missing.

Television appeal leads to fresh lines on inquiry in 25-year-old unsolved murder (BBC News Glasgow & West Scotland, July 13, 2011)

Elaine Doyle, 16, was killed  on 1 June 1986. She had been strangled and sexually assaulted. A reconstruction of the teen’s last movements was shown on BBC’s Crimewatch and police said it generated more than 50 calls.

Killer’s impending release painful for slain girl’s family (Daily News Los Angeles, (July 7, 2011)

This a shocking case – three girls enter the Angeles National Park in 1985 and only two returned. Karen Severson (due for release) and Laura Doyle, friends of Missy, were convicted in 1990 of murder.



Walsh Street by Tom Noble

Mention the words “Walsh Street” and most Melburnians, if not Australians, will know what it means.

Journalist Tom Noble gives an exhaustive account of the cold-blooded 1988 executions of young Victoria Police Constables Steven Tynan  and Damian Eyre in Walsh Street, South Yarra, an exclusive Melbourne suburb. The book also details the life and crimes of one of Australia’s most notorious criminal families headed by Kath Pettingill  (the film Animal Kingdom is based on the events of Walsh Street and the crime clan).

The events leading up to the murders of Constables Tynan and Eyre are as important as what came after. The death by police shooting of armed robbery suspect Graeme Jensen is believed to have been the reason for the “payback” death of the young police officers who were lured to Walsh Street and gunned down.

Police worked for over two years to bring the men they thought were responsible to justice – Victor Peirce and Trevor Pettingill (sons of  Kath) and their friends Peter McEvoy and Anthony Farrell.  Integral to the police case was Jason Ryan, Kath Pettingill’s grandson and Peirce’s de facto Wendy, who gave evidence to police that implicated him in the murders but she retracted it before trial. Ryan, 16 at the time of the murders, was the key witness in the trial and under witness protection.

Noble gives a gripping account of how the police case against the accused fell apart and the men were acquitted.

Walsh Street is one of Victoria Police’s darkest days and this book gives a the reader a thorough view of Melbourne’s crime world and one of the country’s most notorious, and unsolved, crimes.

For background into the crimes detailed in Walsh Street by Tom Noble check out:

Why I lied to protect the Walsh Street killers (The Age, October 1, 2005)

The bloody trail of violence that led to Walsh Street (The Age, May 3, 2002)

Victor Peirce dies the way his mother predicted (The Age , May 3, 2002)




The Short Family Murders – UNSOLVED


An Unsolved murder case that came to my attention in the past few weeks is that of the Short family – Mary, Michael and Jennifer, their nine-year-old daughter.  On August 15th, 2002, Michael and Mary Short were shot in the head in their Virgina, US,  home while they slept and  nine-year-old daughter Jennifer was missing.  Jennifer was found dead six weeks later from a single gunshot to the head.

I came across this case while looking at the FBI Most Wanted pages that details the most sought after fugitives, and unsolved crimes. Violence expert and victims’ advocate Susan Murphy-Milano also blogged about it this week.

What is so intriguing to me about this crime is that no one has been arrested yet. The murder of a family has not been solved and no justice for them or their family and friends has happened.

America’s Most Wanted has profiled this crime three times over the years in the hope that the public may give investigators to fresh leads and lead them to the killer/s.

An updated sketch of a person of interest has been released. The sketch comes from the information of a woman who was driving past the Short home late on the night of the murders and saw a man sitting in a truck on the side of the road.

Sketch of a person of interest in the Short Family murders