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Operation Persist enters new phase

Posted on 30/01/2019

The highly successful SA Police ‘cold case’ campaign, Operation Persist, is entering a fresh phase. New strategies which are occurring in partnership with Crime Stoppers SA, the Department for Correctional Services and the Commissioner for Victims’ Rights were unveiled today.

In addition to the long-term, unsolved South Australia murder cases coming under renewed scrutiny by experienced investigators, a second set of playing cards highlighting cases is being distributed to prisoners in SA jails and additional information screens are being installed at Department for Correctional Services facilities.

Both the playing cards and screens highlight unsolved murder cases and the rewards which are available for information leading to the conviction of the person responsible.

Led by the Major Crime Investigation Branch, Operation Persist has used a range of tactics in order to progress long-term murder cases since it was launched in 2015.

Today, acting Deputy Commissioner Scott Duval said the new initiatives were being rolled out thanks to funding from Crime Stoppers SA and the Commissioner for Victims’ Rights, along with the support of Correctional Services.

“Through both the provision of information on large TV screens and the provision of playing cards we are deliberately targeting both prisoner populations, and individuals who visit the offices of Correctional Services,” he said.

“This innovative cold case campaign has been successful because of the co-operation of a wide range of agencies and services, including the use of a targeted media campaign to highlight cases.”

The co-operative effort was welcomed today by Correctional Services Chief Executive David Brown, Crime Stoppers SA Chair, Sharon Hanlon, and the Commissioner for Victims’ Rights Bronwyn Killmier.

Mr Brown said the Department for Correctional Services fully supports “any initiative that may provide closure to the victims of unsolved crimes.”

“The provision of information screens in our prisons and Community Corrections Centres provides another avenue for drawing the attention of people who might know something about an unsolved crime,” he said.

“Around 6000 people pass through our prison system each year, with the department supervising around 7000 people in the community. This means a significant amount of people are being exposed to the information and the rewards.”

Ms Hanlon welcomed the targeted approach used in the Operation Persist campaign.

“We know that cold case murders are most likely to be solved by information provided from someone on the criminal fringe or a family member of someone who is – so these tactics take our plea directly to the people who can make a difference,” she said.

“Crime Stoppers, as the trusted, independent link between the community and police, is perfectly positioned to play a key crime-solving role by encouraging people to share what they know under the assurance of anonymity.”

The Commissioner for Victims’ Rights, Bronwyn Killmier, she too was pleased to be able to support the initiatives “which seek to shed light on crimes that have remained unsolved for decades.”

“Often, the work of SA Police through initiatives like Operation Persist can help families and friends of those murdered to recover and our hope is that this will help encourage people to come forward with information that can help end their uncertainty.”

Photo: Correctional Services Chief Executive David Brown, SA Police acting Deputy Commissioner Scott Duval, Crime Stoppers SA Chair, Sharon Hanlon, and the Commissioner for Victims’ Rights Bronwyn Killmier.

Other Operation Persist tactics have included the full case reviews of unsolved murders, rewards being offered in connection with those – both for a conviction, but also for the recovery of remains where a body has not been located – a strategic media campaign and the identification of new forensic opportunities.

Police also identified 169 people previously convicted in South Australia of either murder or manslaughter dating back to the 1960s who were not currently recorded on the DNA database.

A program had been undertaken to obtain DNA and/or fingerprints from those individuals to cross-checked with evidence taken from other crime scenes, which to date has seen a back capture of material from 54 individuals living in SA. Another 53 offenders have been identified as living interstate with the remainder either dead or living overseas.

Another component of Operation Persist has been to seek public help in relation a number of unsolved matters, by highlighting each case either in the Sunday Mail newspaper or on Crime Stopper’s television partner Channel 9.

Acting Deputy Commissioner Duval said the various elements of Operation Persist which had been put into place by police over three years had meshed together to produce positive results.

“Among those is the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for the murder of Dale McCauley in 1998,” he said. “Importantly we were also able to recover the remains of Mr McCauley which provides some peace of mind for his family.”

“These unsolved matters remain active for police even though they may not be in the public spotlight – we never file them away because we know that one piece of information from the right person at the right time can help us bring about a conclusion in the matter.”

Over the last three years South Australia has averaged just under 22 murders a year. While the vast majority of those are solved, any murder case which remains open after 12 months of investigation is classified as a ‘cold’ case.

There are about 110 unsolved cold cases with Major Crime, some of which date back to the 1960s. Rewards totalling more than $37 million are offered for information in connection with those cases.

Anyone with information about any unsolved case is asked to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or report online at https://crimestopperssa.com.au/ – callers can remain anonymous.

Photo: the re-print of the first set of playing cards – a second set highlighting different cases has now also been printed.

Operation Persist by the numbers:

·         111 cold cases with Major Crime which relate to 124 individuals

·         Arrests have been made in connection with six murders since Operation Persist began

·         Four cases are before the courts, with two murders (those of Dale McCauley and Jayson Doelz) resolved, leading to the imprisonment of offenders

·         Hundreds of reports to Crime Stoppers

·         Two sets of playing cards distributed in SA Prisons

· Screens displaying information in use in four SA Prisons

· Screens displaying information installed and in use in three Community Corrections Centres in Adelaide, with three others pending

·         More than 80 prisoners have contacted police, with some agreeing to provide evidence

· Information displayed at Adelaide Railway Station

· Recognised internationally with six Crime Stoppers awards




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