Dr Xanthe Mallett

Dr Xanthe Mallett

Senior Lecturer

School of Humanities and Social Science

Truth, justice and cold case TV

Armed with insatiable curiosity, an immense respect for the dead, and much expertise, forensic anthropologist, and criminologist Dr Xanthé Mallett brings to Newcastle her constant quest for truth and justice.

From fresh crime scenes and natural disasters through to ancient cold cases and cyber crime, Xanthé is determined to uncover what occurred and maximize dignity for both deceased victims and those left behind.

Xanthé is internationally renowned for her work across several areas of research related to both forensic anthropology and criminology.

The identification of people using their DNA (both suspects in criminal investigatins as well as missing or deceased persons) and developing our understanding of human craniofacial biometrics are major areas of interest.

Her knowledge of on-line child sex abuse and related behaviours, coupled with her role in developing groundbreaking hand identification techniques, have been pivotal in securing several high profile pedophile convictions.

Another area of focus is understanding and combatting bias within legal proceedings, with Xanthé investigating cases she believes to be unjust.

A passionate educator, Xanthé began lecturing in Criminology at UON in early 2017.

FROM BRADFORD TO QUANTICO

Always fascinated by science, Xanthé chose archaeological science for her undergrad degree from England’s University of Bradford.

“The courses I enjoyed were all related to humans, like the study of evolution, and the analsyis of human and animal bones,” Xanthé says.

Next came a research Masters in biological anthropology at the University of Cambridge, UK.

“That was interesting - measuring skulls, and trying to figure out how the face and head adapts to extreme environments (such as a really hot or really cold environment) on a population level.”

Next, Xanthé studied for a PhD in forensic facial recognition at the University of Sheffield, for which she was also awarded a joint scholarship from the University and the FBI.

It is a testament to Xanthé’s humility that a mention of her presentation, aged 22, of this doctoral work to a full room of agents at Quantico is almost cursory.

Continuing this stream of her research, Xanthé has since explored the science, statistics and law around using facial biometrics to identify potential criminals, publishing on the admissibility of computer-aided forensic facial comparison, and facial identification for the courts.

MAKING IDENTIFICATIONS

After graduating with her doctorate, Xanthé spent five years working as a forensic anthropologist at the University of Dundee’s (UK) Center for Anatomy and Human Identification.

Under team leader Professor Dame Sue Black, Xanthé contributed to several projects including a true crime cold case television series for the BBC called History Cold Case, which was adapted for the US by National Geographic (and retitled The Decrypters).

With Professor Black and other colleagues, Xanthé contributed to several books, chapters, journal articles, and edited academic collections.

Topics covered include disaster victim Identification, forensic anthropology, and forensic hand image comparison as an aid for paedophile investigations.

“One of the things that we were asked by several police forces to look at was a system of comparison to determine of an indecent assault suspect and offender from images could be the same person,” Xanthé explains.

“And a lot of the time you can reject it and say they are definitively not the same person, and people forget how important that is.”

“That is pretty rewarding, when you do something that can help to potentially stop someone from hurting children, or somebody can potentially be found innocent if they are not in fact guilty, which is equally important.”

WOMEN AND THE COURT

Related to this quest for justice is Xanthé’s research interest in the efficacy of expert witness evidence, and the impact of external influences that may result in bias or prejudice in the decision making processes of jurors.

This work resulted in her book, Mothers Who Murder: And Infamous Miscarriages of Justice (Penguin Random House, 2014).

The title refers to the moral judgements and trial by media that affect the justice process for women, particularly those accused of maternal filicide (intentional murder of a child by a parent).

“As soon as a mum is accused, as far as the public is concerned there is nothing that is considered a severe enough punishment, she could be hung drawn and quartered, you know?” Xanthé says.

Xanthé has been examining the cases of convicted Australian ‘baby-killers’ Kathleen Folbigg and Keli Lane.

“I am campaigning for Kathleen Folbigg not necessarily because I believe in her innocence, but I believe there is a justice process that has failed in this case,” Xanthé explains.

A perceived failure of justice is why Xanthé is also working with the Bridge of Hope Innocence Initiative at RMIT on the case of Keli Lane.

“There is no body, no motive, no witnesses, and no forensic evidence indicating any crime has taken place, so how can she be in prison for murder?” she asks.

“In cases like this, where the media is portraying these women as evil incarnate, how could they possibly get a fair trial?”

“We have to challenge the misconceptions, or preconceptions, that power this form of injustice. If it could happen to them, it could happen to anybody.”

TWO SIDES OF CRIME

Since 2013, Xanthé has been based in Sydney for its proximity to her media outreach commitments, and the taphonomic research facility where she is conducting research.

The facility is the first of its kind in Australia, unlocking truths about how the Australian environment, insect life, weather, light, and seasonal change affect scenes of death.

Xanthé is also looking into doing more true crime work on Australian television work, such as in Channel Ten’s 2014 Wanted series. Xanthé contributed to the series, which utilised the media to generate new leads regarding forensic investigations.

Not only does Xanthé see the media as an important tool for bringing forward evidence, it is also an important avenue to recruit future practitioners.

“If I can inspire just one person, especially one female, to stay in science or to go to university I think that is important,” Xanthé says.

Hoping to expand the UON Criminology program to include at least basic forensics, Xanthé believes the social process and physical process of crime are of equal importance.

“To understand the scene you have to understand how the people interacted with the scene, which means you have to understand people.”

“A lot of people think it is odd – marrying physical science and social science, but when it comes to crime, they are really two parts of the same thing.”

Truth, justice and cold case TV

Armed with insatiable curiosity and expertise, forensic anthropologist and criminologist Dr Xanthé Mallett brings to Newcastle her quest for truth and justice

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Career Summary

Biography

I am a senior lecturer and Discipline Leader of Criminology in the School of Humanities and Social Science.  I completed my PhD in 2008 (University of Sheffield, UK), the topic of which was the development of an improved method of facial identification from CCTV images.  I also hold a MPhil from the University of Cambridge (UK), and a BSc in Archaeological Sciences (University of Bradford, UK).

After graduating, I worked as a forensic scientist for 5 years, specialising in the identification of humans in forensic casework.  Today, my work combines forensic anthropology (a biological science) and criminology (a social science), as I believe to understand crime, you need to be able to evaluate both the physical evidence of the scene and the way the people interacted with the scene and each other. 

Research Expertise

My research combines social and physical sciences, largely focussing on how the misinterpretation of forensic evidence can lead to miscarriages of justice.  I also research gender-based bias in the criminal justice system, and the impact news and social media can have – for good and bad – on the outcome of trials.

My PhD, entitled Facial Identification for the Courts: Science, statistics, and law, combined the development of an augmented method of forensic facial identification from CCTV images with an evaluation of the use of forensic evidence in courts, and how misinterpretation or representation can lead to miscarriages of justice.  I built on this work with my research on cases of maternal filicide (intentional murder of a child by a parent), which was the basis of my monograph (Mallett, X. 2014. Mothers who Murder: And infamous miscarriages of justice. Penguin Random House, Sydney).

As a further extension of my work on potential miscarriages of justice, I am now working with the Bridge of Hope Innocence Initiative (RMIT).  One of the cases we are currently looking at is Keli Lane, a woman in prison for the alleged murder of her 2-day-old daughter, Tegan, in 1996.  This case is unique in Australian criminal justice history in that there is no body, no witnesses to any crime, and no forensic evidence indicating a crime took place.  We are assessing the available evidence to determine if Ms Lane has grounds for a retrial.

Research Areas

  1. Criminology:
    • Women as offenders within the criminal justice system
    • Child sex offender demographics
    • Societal bias and the implications for the concept of a ‘fair’ trial
  2. Forensic science:
    • Human decomposition rates in Australia
    • Body recovery and identification
    • DNA pheonotyping – as applied to the living and dead

Professional Activities

As a forensic scientist and criminologist, I regularly collaborate with and consult for police forces across Australia in methods of human identification.  I have prepared forensic reports for police forces in relation to the identification of unknown deceased persons and in anti-paedophile investigations.

I also provide a forensic DNA service to Australian police forces, which allows a facial composite to be created from a person of interest’s DNA sample, to help identity both suspects in criminal investigations and missing and unidentified persons.

Collaborations

I work within multidisciplinary teams, including criminologists and lawyers associated with innocence initiatives (the Bridge of Hope Innocence Initiative (RMIT) and Not Guilty: The Sydney Exoneration Project (University of Sydney), and forensic scientists interested in developing methods of human identification (University of Technology Sydney, Charles Sturt University, Central Queensland University, New South Wales Police Force).

As part of me outreach activities, I am currently collaborating with an Australian free-to-air network on the development of a new true crime television series, that will air in early 2018.

Media Activities

My key professional interests are in the area of miscarriages of justice, as well as the review of cold cases – seeking new evidence in an attempt to help the police solve cases and bring closure to families.  This work has provided me the opportunity to work with a number of television networks in the UK, the US, and Australia.

I was a co-host on Channel Ten’s Wanted in 2013, a weekly true crime series that covered current and cold cases to assist the police with their investigations.  Since that time, I have presented forensic pieces for Channel Ten’s The Project, and have contributed expert opinions for many news, print, and radio interviews.  I am currently working with an Australian free-to-air network on the development of a new true crime series, set to air in early 2018.


Qualifications

  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Sheffield - UK
  • Bachelor of Science, University of Bradford, UK
  • Master of Philosophy, University of Cambridge - UK

Keywords

  • Crime and the media
  • Criminal justice systems
  • Criminology
  • DNA identification
  • Forensic anthropology
  • Forensic evidence evaluation
  • Forensic human identiification
  • Forensic science
  • Gendered crimes
  • Miscarriages of justice
  • True crime
  • Victimology

Fields of Research

Code Description Percentage
160201 Causes and Prevention of Crime 20
069901 Forensic Biology 40
160299 Criminology not elsewhere classified 40

Professional Experience

UON Appointment

Title Organisation / Department
Senior Lecturer University of Newcastle
School of Humanities and Social Science
Australia

Professional appointment

Dates Title Organisation / Department
20/09/2013 - 18/02/2017 Senior Lecturer in Forensic Criminology The University of New England
Faculty of Cognitive, Behaviour and Social Sciences
Australia
1/03/2012 - 20/09/2013 Lecturer in Forensic Criminology The University of New England
Faculty of Cognitive, Behaviour and Social Sciences
Australia
4/08/2008 - 24/02/2012 Lecturer in Forensic Human Identification Univeristy of Dundee
Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification
United Kingdom

Teaching

Code Course Role Duration
SOCA1050 Youth, Health and Crime: A sociological introduction
Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle
This course will introduce students to inter-related aspects of sociology concerning the impact on the lives of young people in contemporary industrial society of the social determinants of health and crime. The course will use historical, structural and cultural approaches to introduce contemporary understandings of inequality and the shared origins of health and crime.
Lecturer 27/03/2017 - 30/06/2017
CRIM1010 Introduction to Criminology
Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle
This course introduces students to the study of crime and deviance through an exploration of criminological theories, both historically and from contemporary perspectives. Topics may include: strain theory, labelling theory, Marxist theories, feminist theories, queer theory, left realism, new right theory, and critical criminology. Key criminological concepts will be used to examine and understand relationships between the social construction of crime, transgression and deviance.
Course Coordinator and Lecturer 27/03/2017 - 30/06/2017
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Publications

For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.


Book (3 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2014 Mallett DX, Mothers Who Murder, Random House Australia, 325 (2014)
2014 Mallett X, Blythe T, Berry R, Advances in Forensic Human Identification, CRC Press, 474 (2014)
2011 Black S, Sunderland G, Hackman L, Mallett X, Disaster Victim Identification Experience and Practice, CRC Press, 248 (2011)

Chapter (26 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2017 Hawkes G, Mallett XDG, 'The Criminalisation of Sexuality', The Oxford Handbook of Sex Offences and Sex Offenders, Oxford University Press, UK 541-565 (2017)
2015 Mallett XDG, Sutisno M, 'Anthropology: Overview', Encyclopedia of Forensic and Legal Medicine, Elsevier, Oxford, UK 196-206 (2015)
2014 Mallett XDG, 'Preface', Advances in Forensic Human Identification, CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL ix-xiv (2014)
DOI 10.1201/b16509-1
2014 Mallett XDG, 'Admissibility of Expert Evidence', Advances in Forensic Human Identification, CRC Press, Boca Raton 337-350 (2014)
2014 Mallett XDG, Karp J, 'Child Sex Offender Demographics: Toward an improved understanding', Advances in Forensic Human Identification, CRC Press, Boca Raton 59-78 (2014)
2014 Mallett XDG, 'Preface', Advances in Forensic Human Identification, CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL ix-xiv (2014)
DOI 10.1201/b16509-1
2014 Mallett XDG, 'Admissibility of Expert Evidence', Advances in Forensic Human Identification, CRC Press, Boca Raton 337-350 (2014)
2014 Mallett XDG, Karp J, 'Child Sex Offender Demographics: Toward an improved understanding', Advances in Forensic Human Identification, CRC Press, Boca Raton 59-78 (2014)
2013 Mallett X, Karp J, 'Hell is Other People: The Importance of Controlling Pedophilic Activity', The Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of Legal and Ethical Aspects of Sex Offender Treatment and Management 462-478 (2013)
DOI 10.1002/9781118314876.ch27
2011 Mallett XDG, Dawson C, Ross D, 'Sex Determination', Forensic Anthropology: 2000-2010, CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL 61-94 (2011)
DOI 10.1201/b10727-4
2011 Walker G, Mallett XDG, 'Rail Incidents', Disaster Victim Identification: Experience and Practice, CRC PRess, Boca Raton, FL 173-188 (2011)
2011 Brunskill S, Mallett XDG, 'Operation Lund -Morecombe Bay Cockling Disaster, February 5, 2004', Disaster Victim Identification: Experience and practice, CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL 207-222 (2011)
2011 Mallett XDG, Hackman L, Black S, 'Introduction', Disaster Victim Identification: Experience and practice, CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL 1-17 (2011)
2011 Walker G, Mallett XDG, 'The Marchioness River Boat Disaster, August 20, 1989', Disaster Victim Identification: Experience and practice, CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL 127-141 (2011)
2011 Galloway G, Mallett XDG, 'The Lockerbie Bombing, December 21, 1988', Disaster Victim Identification: Experience and practice, CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL 89-107 (2011)
2011 Walker G, Mallett XDG, 'London Bus and Underground Bombings, July 7, 2005', Disaster Victim Identification: Experience and practice, CRC PRess, Boca Raton, FL 223-237 (2011)
2011 Barron D, Mallett XDG, 'The Hillsborough Football Stadium Disaster, April 15, 1989', Disaster Victim Identification: Experience and practice, CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL 109-125 (2011)
2011 Walker G, Mallett XDG, 'Rail Incidents', Disaster Victim Identification: Experience and Practice, CRC PRess, Boca Raton, FL 173-188 (2011)
2011 Brunskill S, Mallett XDG, 'Operation Lund -Morecombe Bay Cockling Disaster, February 5, 2004', Disaster Victim Identification: Experience and practice, CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL 207-222 (2011)
2011 Mallett XDG, Hackman L, Black S, 'Introduction', Disaster Victim Identification: Experience and practice, CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL 1-17 (2011)
2011 Walker G, Mallett XDG, 'The Marchioness River Boat Disaster, August 20, 1989', Disaster Victim Identification: Experience and practice, CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL 127-141 (2011)
2011 Galloway G, Mallett XDG, 'The Lockerbie Bombing, December 21, 1988', Disaster Victim Identification: Experience and practice, CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL 89-107 (2011)
2011 Walker G, Mallett XDG, 'London Bus and Underground Bombings, July 7, 2005', Disaster Victim Identification: Experience and practice, CRC PRess, Boca Raton, FL 223-237 (2011)
2011 Barron D, Mallett XDG, 'The Hillsborough Football Stadium Disaster, April 15, 1989', Disaster Victim Identification: Experience and practice, CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL 109-125 (2011)
2010 Mallett XDG, 'Admissibility', Computer-Aided Forensic Facial Comparison., CRC Press, Boca Raton 139-144 (2010)
2010 Mallett XDG, Randolph-Quinney PS, Black S, 'Forensic Anthropology', Wiley Encyclopaedia of Forensic Sciences, Volume 1, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Chichester 152-178 (2010)
Show 23 more chapters

Journal article (6 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2017 Mallett X, Evison MP, 'Critical issues in the historical and contemporary development of forensic anthropology in Australia: An international comparison', FORENSIC SCIENCE INTERNATIONAL, 275 314E1-314E8 (2017) [C1]
DOI 10.1016/j.forsciint.2017.03.019
2014 Black S, MacDonald-McMillan B, Mallett X, Rynn C, Jackson G, 'The incidence and position of melanocytic nevi for the purposes of forensic image comparison', INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF LEGAL MEDICINE, 128 535-543 (2014)
DOI 10.1007/s00414-013-0821-z
Citations Scopus - 3Web of Science - 2
2014 Black S, MacDonald-McMillan B, Mallett X, 'The incidence of scarring on the dorsum of the hand', INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF LEGAL MEDICINE, 128 545-553 (2014)
DOI 10.1007/s00414-013-0834-7
Citations Scopus - 4Web of Science - 3
2013 Mallett X, Evison MP, 'Forensic Facial Comparison: Issues of Admissibility in the Development of Novel Analytical Technique', JOURNAL OF FORENSIC SCIENCES, 58 859-865 (2013)
DOI 10.1111/1556-4029.12127
Citations Scopus - 6Web of Science - 5
2010 Evison M, Dryden I, Fieller N, Mallett X, Morecroft L, Schofield D, Bruegge RV, 'Key Parameters of Face Shape Variation in 3D in a Large Sample', JOURNAL OF FORENSIC SCIENCES, 55 159-162 (2010)
DOI 10.1111/j.1556-4029.2009.01213.x
Citations Scopus - 17Web of Science - 18
2010 Mallett XDG, Dryden I, Bruegge RV, Evison M, 'An Exploration of Sample Representativeness in Anthropometric Facial Comparison', JOURNAL OF FORENSIC SCIENCES, 55 1025-1031 (2010)
DOI 10.1111/j.1556-4029.2010.01425.x
Citations Scopus - 10Web of Science - 8
Show 3 more journal articles
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Grants and Funding

Summary

Number of grants 7
Total funding $505,849

Click on a grant title below to expand the full details for that specific grant.


20172 grants / $4,250

Bioplatforms Australia End User Access and Engagement $2,450

Funding body: Bioplatforms Australia

Funding body Bioplatforms Australia
Project Team

John Stephen, AGRF

Scheme Bioplatforms Australia End User Access and Engagement
Role Lead
Funding Start 2017
Funding Finish 2017
GNo
Type Of Funding Grant - Aust Non Government
Category 3AFG
UON N

Conference Travel Grant $1,800

School-wide University of Newcastle internal grant scheme to facilitate presentation at the 2017 British Society of Criminology conference, Sheffield UK

Funding body: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Newcastle

Funding body Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Newcastle
Scheme Conference Travel Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2017
Funding Finish 2017
GNo
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON N

20152 grants / $10,923

Human decomposition in an Australian environment – baseline data collection to improve our understanding of time since death interval focusing on the hands and face$7,680

Funding body: The University of New England

Funding body The University of New England
Scheme Faculty of Teaching and Learning Development Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2015
Funding Finish 2016
GNo
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON N

School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences Conference Travel Grant$3,243

Funding body: The University of New England

Funding body The University of New England
Scheme University-wide internal travel grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2015
Funding Finish 2015
GNo
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON N

20141 grants / $430,000

Australian Facility for Taphanomic Research (Chief Investigator from UNE) ARC LIEF application, in collaboration with University of Technology Sydney (grant leader) and others: $430,000$430,000

LIEF

Funding body: ARC

Funding body ARC
Project Team

Shari Forbes UTS

Scheme ARC
Role Lead
Funding Start 2014
Funding Finish 2014
GNo
Type Of Funding Aust Competitive - Commonwealth
Category 1CS
UON N

20121 grants / $5,451

Contemporary Students’ Choices by Facial Appearance: The question of socialised assumptions$5,451

Funding body: The University of New England

Funding body The University of New England
Project Team

Jann Karp

Scheme Faculty of Teaching and Learning Development Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2012
Funding Finish 2012
GNo
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON N

20111 grants / $55,225

Scottish Islands-Mainland Wiki Project$55,225

Funding body: AstraZeneca Science Teaching Trust

Funding body AstraZeneca Science Teaching Trust
Project Team

University of Northumbria

Scheme AstraZeneca Science Teaching Trust
Role Lead
Funding Start 2011
Funding Finish 2011
GNo
Type Of Funding International - Competitive
Category 3IFA
UON N
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Dr Xanthe Mallett

Position

Senior Lecturer
School of Humanities and Social Science
Faculty of Education and Arts

Contact Details

Email xanthe.mallett@newcastle.edu.au
Phone (02) 4921 5488
Link Twitter

Office

Room MCG36
Building McMullin
Location Callaghan
University Drive
Callaghan, NSW 2308
Australia
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