The public has been urged to help police in Europe track down the identities of 22 women and girls they believe have been murdered in three countries.
The bodies of the women were found in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands between 1976 and 2019 and now the police of the three countries have come together for Operation Identify Me through Interpol to find out who the women are.
The manhunt was prompted by the unsolved murder of a woman in Amsterdam who had been shot in the head and chest. She was discovered in a wheelie bin in a river in the Dutch capital in 1999.
Another woman’s torso was discovered in a suitcase on a city canal in September 1992, with other parts of her body located elsewhere.
In a statement issued by the Dutch police, Carina van Leeuwen, a forensic detective, and Martin de Wit, a police spokesperson, said: “Most of the 22 victims died violently, and some were also abused or starved before dying.
“Partly because the women likely come from countries other than where they were found, their identities have yet to be established. Their bodies may have been left in our countries to impede criminal investigations.”
The investigation marks the first time that a transnational police organization has published a list of victims, as it asks for details about unidentified bodies.
Carolien Opdecam, from the Belgian police, said: “We want to emphasize that we are looking for names. The identity of the victim is often the key to unlocking the mysteries of a case.”
It is believed that some of the murdered women may be from parts of Eastern Europe.
Anja Allendorf, who works for the German police, explained: “In similar investigations, establishing the identity of the victim has ultimately led to the arrest of a suspect.”
Interpol’s website has published information on each case, including facial reconstructions of some of the women killed. The site also reveals the estimated age, hair, eye color, and other physical features of the victims.
The DNA of most of the victims has been traced and the public has been urged to contact the appropriate law enforcement team if they know of anything that might be helpful, especially if someone has lost a loved one.
The search is being backed by high-profile women from Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, with celebrities releasing a video asking members of the public for help.
For the first time in its history, Interpol has publicly disclosed some details of the “Black Notices” about the victims that are “used to seek information and intelligence on unidentified bodies and to determine the circumstances surrounding death.” Such notices are generally only distributed within Interpol’s global network of police forces.
Susan Hitchin, coordinator of Interpol’s DNA Unit, said: “Black Notices allow law enforcement agencies to collaborate and share information across borders, ultimately helping to put an end to the families of the deceased and bring offenders to justice.
“Technological advances in the different fields of forensic human identification have been significant in helping to solve cold cases.”