I have very recently embarked upon a new chapter, having left the Police Service after serving as an officer in a variety of roles for more than thirty years.

For the five years up to 2016, I was the UK Police National Search Adviser, serving with the National Crime Agency (NCA). In this role I would provide strategic and tactical advice and support to major and serious crime investigations, high profile or significant missing person cases and other critical incidents. As such, I was routinely engaged in the planning and management of high profile search and security operations with police forces in the UK and Europe, including the Metropolitan Police Service, the Police Service of Northern Ireland and law enforcement agencies in the Netherlands, Portugal, Greece and the United States.

In 2015, I graduated from the University of Portsmouth with an MSc (Merit) in Criminology and Community Safety. I also have a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (Further Education) from Nottingham Trent University. My first degree goes as far back as 1983, when I graduated from The University of Newcastle upon Tyne having studied Microbiology with Plant Biology! 

I am currently employed by the England and Wales Cricket Board, working in tournament venue security management, in relation to the 2017 ICC Champion’s Trophy and ICC Women’s World Cup.

I am thrilled to have the opportunity to undertake research here at Keele. My PhD programme is being conducted on a part time basis and I’ll need all the help I can get!

Research and scholarship


Forensic analysis of discovered clandestine graves of murder victims



Thousands of people are reported missing in the world every year to their respective Police Services, almost 322,000 in the United Kingdom in 2014/2015 alone (national Crime agency 2015). Around 2,500 of those people are still missing for more than one year (UK Home Office, 2010). Approximately 2/3rds of these will be under 18 years old. In other countries, with larger populations, these figures will be considerably more, for example, the US National Crime Information Centre lists 84,136 missing person cases as of 2013, with ~57,000 currently missing in Colombia (Molina and others, 2016).  In the UK, the Police Service has a mandate to ‘use all means at their disposal to find and recover the missing’ but there is obviously a cost involved, approximately £375m each year and growing and significantly more in specific, high profile missing person cases. It is a sad fact that many of the ‘missing’ have become victims of crime or other misadventure.

There are various search methods and technologies that are used for detection of these victims but the success on finding them depends to a large extent on the specific search site and case of the missing. In terms of clandestine burials, the most important of these have been determined, from controlled research, to be the time since burial, the style of burial (e.g. wrapped/clothed, etc.), the local soil type, the vegetation and local climate. 

Outline project:

Unfortunately in many police searches, information on the case variables identified above have either not been recorded, or have not been made available from police records. This PhD research will access archival data from UK Police Forces, interview relevant personnel and build up a database that is currently missing from UK Police knowledge. This will be crucial to improve successful detection rates of clandestine burials and make a real difference to the search for the missing.

The student has already built up sizeable contacts within both the National Crime Agency and respective Police Services in the UK, as part of his role as NCA National Search Adviser, to allow him to conduct this important work.

Aims and Objectives


To develop a data set of relevant features and factors applicable to clandestine burials located in the United Kingdom.


By way of literature review, to conduct an assessment of features that can have a significant effect upon the detection of victims in cases of this type.

To conduct an analysis of available records that relate to victim recovery in the UK.

To identify effective methods and technologies used that lead to the detection of victims in these cases.

To establish a data base, of the significant features of victim concealment, together with effective detection methodologies and technologies.  

Project Support

As previous National Search Adviser with the National Crime Agency, I have extensive contacts throughout the police service and across the academic community who are engaged in the identification and recovery from clandestine burials.

This research will primarily benefit from the support and supervision of Dr J. Pringle, the Keele forensic geophysicist with extensive experience in providing support to the UK Police Service in the identification of graves of this type. In addition, Dr Laurance Donnelly, the highly qualified, chartered geologist, has also offered his support as external supervisor. Dr Donnelly has, over a number of years, provided expert advice to the Police Service as a Forensic Geologist and Search Adviser, to assist with ground searches and forensic investigations involving high profile crimes and critical cases. This has involved designing, implementing and managing searches for graves and other burials and advising on the geological (trace) evidence.

Ruffell, A., Pringle, J.K., Cassella, J.P., Morgan, R., Ferguson, M., Heaton, V.G. & Hope, C. 2017. The use of geoscience methods for aquatic forensic searches. Earth Science Reviews, 171, 323-337.

Perkins D, Roberts P and Hope C. (2016). Search and Rescue. In Shalev Greene, K and Alys, L, Missing Persons, a Handbook of Research. Routledge, London.

Conference presentations


Hope C., Ambrose, K. 2012. Scientific support to specialist search. National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA), Leicester, England.

Hope C. 2012. Specialist search in murder cases. NPIA, Cambridge, England.


Hope C. 2013. The police (national) view of volunteers in search.  Lowland Rescue, National Conference 2013, Milton Keynes, England.

Hope C. 2013. The UK Police service approach to specialist search, structure, training and capability of search assets. Second International Conference on Engineering Geophysics. Al Ain, Abu Dhabi.

Hope C. 2013. Specialist search and the investigation into the disappearance of Ben Needham. Police National Search Centre CPD events, Tulliallan, Ryton and Bramshill, UK.  


Hope C, Osborne T, 2014. Forensic search, offender behaviour and search data base. Institute for Archaeologists Conference and Training Event, Glasgow, Scotland.

Hope C., Irish, L. 2014. The police use of victim recovery dogs. Serious and Organised Crime Agency, Special Interest Seminar, Cambridge, England.


Hope C. 2015. The UK Police Service response to missing person cases. Second International Conference on Missing Children and Adults. Brussels, Belgium.

Hope C. 2015. Working with professional volunteer agencies – a practitioner’s perspective.   Lowland Rescue, National Conference, Milton Keynes, England.

Hope C. 2015. The application of aspects of Forensic Ecology and the use of near surface geophysics in a search for concealed human remains. Third International Conference on Engineering Geophysics. Al Ain, Abu Dhabi.


Hope C. 2016. Keynote Speaker. The Royal Engineers. Defence Explosives, Ordnance Disposal, Munitions and Search Training Regiment, national search review and concentration. Bicester, England.

Accreditation logo for Geological Society Accreditation logo for IEMA Accreditation logo for IES Accreditation logo for RGS Accreditation logo for Athena Swan Bronze

*Accreditation is dependent on the degree route and modules taken