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'Concealed homicides' the focus of upcoming virtual lecture

The public Dalhousie University seminar will cover the issue of cold-case murders that have been improperly categorized as fatal accidents, suicides or undetermined deaths
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Dalhousie University. (Meghan Groff/HalifaxToday.ca)

A virtual public seminar to be hosted by Dalhousie University will cover the issue of cold-case murders that have been improperly categorized as fatal accidents, suicides or undetermined deaths.

Criminologist and researcher Michael Arntfield is to present the lecture on Nov. 24.

Arntfield, a former police officer, teaches in the department of English and writing studies at Western University in London, Ont. He’s also an author and a consultant.

In 2018, Ontario’s chief coroner started a review of so-called “concealed homicides” – deaths in that province which investigators and other officials initially said weren’t the result of suspected criminal acts.

This development has been welcomed by Arntfield, who’s said in the past a list of a police department’s unsolved murder cases is most likely not a complete one.

“The truth is that solved rates (known as “clearance rates”) are at best an approximation of the actual number of homicides accurately identified and solved by police,” says a synopsis from his upcoming talk.

With respect to First Nations peoples, Indigenous women who’ve been murdered are too often incorrectly not included in official records as homicide victims, Arntfield told the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network last year.

Indigenous women and girls are 16 times more likely to be murdered or go missing than white women, CBC News reported in June 2019 after the final report from a national inquiry into the situation was released.

Arntfield’s online-only lecture is being presented by Dalhousie’s School of Information Management and is co-sponsored by the university’s Schulich School of Law. It begins at 6 p.m., and a question-and-answer session is scheduled to take place following the talk.

Visit Dalhousie’s website for more information about the event.

Promotional material from Dal says Arntfield established Western’s Cold Case Society unsolved crimes think-tank, “a data-driven victims’ initiative.” It says he’s been the writer of more than a dozen books on criminal investigation.

He has said a data-focused approach, along with traditional detective work, can help track down murderers, including serial killers.

In a CBC Radio interview a year ago, Arntfield said when he was a police detective in London, Ont., he became disappointed and dissatisfied with senior management’s handling of unsolved killings.

“There’s a lot of denial around cold cases,” he told CBC. “You’ll hear these platitudes from police brass, saying: ‘It’s an active and ongoing investigation.’ In reality, no, it’s not – the vast majority of the time.”

Of course, not every unsolved murder remains that way. Criminal investigations by police may finally put a cold case to bed, examples of which can be found in the Halifax region and other jurisdictions.

A police superintendent told Halifax Magazine in 2015 that eight previously unsolved slayings had been solved in the three preceding years.

According to Halifax Regional Municipality’s website, Halifax Regional Police have at least 73 unsolved homicide and missing person cases in their files. The cold-case murders date back to 1955.

More information can be found here.

Anyone with information about one or more of these cases is asked to contact police at (902) 490-5016. Anonymous tips may be sent to Crime Stoppers by phoning, toll-free, 1-800-222-TIPS (8477). Or a secure web tip can be sent to www.crimestoppers.ns.ca or by using the P3 Tips app.

Michael Lightstone is a freelance reporter living in Dartmouth


About the Author: Michael Lightstone

During a general-news career lasting close to 30 years, Michael LIghtstone has covered such things as politics, health matters, courts, labour issues and jazz concerts
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