Last year I attended a burglary scene where point of entry was gained around the rear of the property. The owner had left her keys in the kitchen door, which were in easy reach by someone poking an arm through a cat flap. Strangely once the offender had opened the door, they locked it behind them. Nothing inside the bungalow had been disturbed, and the only thing stolen was cash from a living room coffee table. Point of exit must have been the front door which could be pulled shut and secured with the latch style lock.
The only signs of forced entry were to pieces of parcel tape across the cat flap, which had been broken. Otherwise there’d be no signs of where the offender had entered and I’d be scratching my head.
I examined both sides of the door for fingerprints using ‘Magneta Flake’ powder, made up of small iron filings. I developed marks on the inside of the door, between the cat flap and the door handle. These marks were in a prime location to be the offenders.
I took the owner’s fingerprints so a comparison could initially be done with her prints. She told me that she had suspicions about a young family member. The fact that the property was locked up by the offender afterwards showed that they had a slight conscience, and were possibly attached to the victim in some way. Although this couldn’t be proven at the time.
A few days later the fingerprints all came back negative. The reasoning was none of the marks were suitable for comparison. The Fingerprint Expert felt that there wasn’t enough detail in the fingerprints for an identification to be made, however I felt that at least one of the marks were suitable. I was on the phone to the Expert and asked them to review the case, which they kindly did.
I later received a Fingerprint Identification, which came up as the nephew of the owner. The nephew was arrested and interviewed. I was soon asked to complete a statement for presentation at Court, and once the trail began I was called into Court.
I gave evidence as to how I developed the fingerprints and where I found them. I presented my photographs and showed where the identifying mark was located (middle arrow in picture). The nephew was found guilty by the Magistrates.
Sadly, the hunch that the owner had about a family member appeared to be correct. The location of the fingerprints played a part in the conviction, and hopefully the offender has learnt from the experience.
This will be a short, but humerous story about a man who probably wished he hadn’t reported a crime. Even though it was a laughable and illegal situation, I still couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. The details will be a little vague as this happened a few years ago.
The man reported a burglary to his flat where money had been stolen. The offender had forced the door open and stolen £3000 cash from his bedroom whilst he was away. The money was tucked away in an envelope and fairly well hidden, but a delighted offender still managed to find it.
I rocked up in my van, and set to work looking for evidence on the front door and items disturbed in the bedroom. As I carried out my examination I couldn’t help but ask the gentleman why he had so much cash in his flat, to which he replied ‘I can’t bank it otherwise I won’t get my benefits.’
Luckily for me the call handler had already reported him for benefit fraud and I wasn’t left with the task. Amusingly he had admitted this to the call handler too and they took swift action.
My words of advice are to bank your cash, otherwise the money you might be making from such fraud could cost you more.
I’ll be giving you 10 steps on what to do if you return home to find your house burgled, and how you can help our department out.
Firstly, we are all aware that everyone reacts differently when they discover such a thing. Some people can’t enter their home, others tidy up straight away. Ultimately how you deal with it is your decision, but here’s a few tips to help maximise the potential of forensic evidence:
1. Report it straight away. Due to weather conditions certain evidence may become lost. You can report a crime to us by calling 101, or if you suspect the offenders may still be in your property, call 999.
2. Be careful where you walk. If you can see where the offender has been, try to avoid walking around that area. Sometimes this can’t be avoided, and that’s ok, you can only do your best. Walk around the sides of the rooms if you can.
3. Try to avoid touching what the offender has touched. If the offender has made a mess, try to leave it for us to see. If we cannot get to you before bedtime, and the mess is over your bed or in the way, take a picture and carefully remove it. Do feel free to make yourself a cuppa if the kettle hasn’t been disturbed.
4. How has the offender gotten in? It may be that your property is now insecure and in need of repair. We like to arrive before anyone attends to board up or fix the insecurity, so please communicate this to our call handler if you have arranged for someone to attend. You should be given a rough idea of when we will attend, and if its reasonable for the insecurity to be fixed after our visit we would be grateful. If we cannot get to you until the next day, or if you have to go out, then please get this mended.
5. Look to see if anything has been moved. If something isn’t in its original location please let us know, there could be evidence on it.
6. Is there something which doesn’t belong to you? It could be that the offender has left something behind, and we would want to know.
7. Cover evidence left outside. If an item of potential evidence has been left outside, consider covering it with a bin lid, bucket etc.
8. Do you have security items fitted to your home? Check these are in working order. Has a security light been smashed, a CCTV camera been moved or an alarm box tampered with?
9. If you have CCTV, view it. You may see what the offender does or was wearing. This could help us.
10. And finally, remain calm. It’s much easier for me to say than what people go through, but help will be on its way. If you don’t feel safe until we arrive contact a family member, friend or neighbour. Maybe they can come and aid you.
Burglaries are an awful crime, which can sometimes leave behind more than what’s taken. If you’re suffering from the feeling of intrusion and having difficulty with it, please get in touch with us or Victim Support. They are an amazing charity that will help you get through it.
I hope this has been helpful, and wish you all the best.
A couple were making use of the nice weather we’ve been having in the south of England recently, and decided to build a new shed in their back garden. Whilst digging up parts of their lawn to lay down the concrete, they stumbled across an item that changed their entire day - a bone. Instead of giving it to their dog they contacted police, who turned up and collected the bone from them. The big question was, whose bone was it? If it were human we could be looking at a suspicious event and a murder investigation could be launched. A police officer remained at the scene, guarding it, whilst another transported the bone to our department.
The bone was handed to me and I immediately set to work. We have a really efficient way of identifying if a bone is human or animal, and all it really requires is a camera and email account. We call on the expertise of a Forensic Anthropologist and Archaeologist at Cellmark Forensics, trained in the identification of bones. They require good quality photographs to ID each bone.
I cleaned down our photographic stand, placed a new strip of brown paper down, and set up my camera. The camera is secured tightly to avoid camera shake, and I can use additional lighting either side.
I used a Macro lens in my camera to get finely detailed images. I took a selection of images from different angles, something that the Scientist requires.
The Scientist also requires a scale in every image, so size can be determined. Another angle showing the other side…
A photo showing the end…
These images, along with others, were emailed to the Scientist who gave me a result in a matter of minutes. NOT HUMAN. A relief for the owners of the home, as their garden could’ve seen a major incident scenario spread across the summer lawn. It would’ve surely turned the grass brown. I communicated the Scientists findings to the police officer guarding the garden, and this was passed onto the owners. We were all extremely grateful for the owners report and cooperation throughout the day.
It’s normally a dog walker who makes these finds. This time, a shed builder.
This blog is dedicated to one of my followers on Twitter, @Vidocq_CC who loves cold cases! Thank you for taking an interest in this whilst it was Tweeted on the day.
The doorbell to the office rang and I keenly hopped out of my seat. I opened the door and greeted Detective Constable Alison Hoad, who held a rather large exhibit sack in her hands. She explained the reason for her visit, that she had been passed a job to deal with that held little hope. A few months prior to her visit human bones were found by a dog walker in an area of Sussex, and with these bones amongst all the dirt and vegetation was a shoulder bag. The bag was in close proximity to the bones, with a high potential the two were related. DC Hoad asked me to search the bag to see if any clues could be found that would help identify the deceased person.
I opened up the exhibit sack, removing the shoulder bag from it. I pulled off all the dead snail shells and set to work, brushing away all the dirt. Inside the bag were a pair of reading glasses without the lenses, with badly damaged frames. A wristwatch came out next, and both these items were photographed. I then pulled out three door keys, stuck to the lining of the bag, which were all badly corroded. Two of the keys were in really bad condition and appeared as if they’d fall apart any second. But I closely photographed another key.
This key was in better condition than the others, but still not ideal. You could make out a ‘K’ and ‘20’. I performed a quick search on the internet and this symbol was very similar that of KABA locks.
Together the two of us combined our knowledge and came up with an idea. DC Hoad advised that some keys have serial numbers on, and I suggested we treat the key with a chemical to try and clear the outer corrosion. I called in a specialist, SOCO Richard Stringer, who rubbed Acetone onto the key using cotton wool, and as if my magic the corrosion started to vanish. This technique is more commonly used on cloned vehicles. As you can see the key started to show that nice silver colour that your door keys have, and with our delight a serial number could be seen on the back.
We both did some ringing around and many phone calls later, we found the door it fitted. DC Hoad made a phone call to theNPIA Missing Persons Bureau and one person was showing with links to this address, who had been missing since 1999. She was then able to visit the family and find out more details. Like a half completed jigsaw puzzle, the pieces started to fit better and better together. The person had links to the area they were found at by the dog walker, and had genetic similarities to the family. The LGC Forensic Service Provider performed a basic DNA comparison with the deceased’s relative, and came to the conclusion that there was a 1 in 40 chance of them being related. During the Post Mortem at the beginning of the investigation, the Forensic Anthropologist gave an indication towards the age the person was when they died. But no cause of death could be determined. The Coroner was happy that no further work was needed, which included more work I haven’t mentioned for ambiguity, and accepted this identity.
The family were notified of all findings, and kindly agreed for me to do this blog. We at Sussex Police strive to help and bring closure to families who need it. DC Hoad set a fantastic example of how persistence and attention to the finer detail can really pay off. Everyone else had overlooked the keys, but our two minds made this cold case heat up. I’m really pleased we could present our findings to the family and offer them their relative back, someone they had lost for so long.
Being able to age a bloodstain would be an essential tool for a Crime Scene Investigator. You could pinpoint a rough time the offence occurred; potentially proving/disproving a suspect’s statement. For example, blood is found on a smashed shop door where a robbery has occurred. The blood identifies a person who then claims they deposited the blood a week ago when they came in as a customer. If a Scientist could put a time stamp on the bloodstain, this may prove or disprove the suspect’s statement.
It has been suggested that the appearance of blood may give an indication as to how old a stain is. As described in a book titled ‘Fisher’s Techniques of Crime Scene Investigation’, blood can react with the background and form different colours, for example if a stain has been left on wallpaper. A relatively fresh bloodstain is normally reddish-brown in colour and glossy. The glossy effect slowly fades after the stain has been subject to heat, wind, and weather conditions. Blood can also appear in grey, blue and green hues. The issue when aging blood by its appearance is that too many anomalies can alter the look of the stain. Blood will dry quicker in hotter conditions, and will react differently on various surfaces. Another issue will arise when the examiner comes to photograph the mark. The stain colour may look differently in the photograph than to the human eye, as the camera is adjusted to the surroundings; something the human eye does automatically. If two examiners took an image of the same stain, but the camera settings or lighting conditions differed slightly, the stain will likely be of different hues in the two photographs.
However these ideas only allow for a rough estimate of how old a bloodstain is. An AFM (Atomic Force Microscope) is used to measure the force between a probe and the sample. Indentation experiments with an AFM are generally applied in measuring the elastical properties and Strasser’s research uses this method to measure the altication of elasticity of blood cells. The results showed that no alterations in the erythocytes or cracks in the bloodstain took place after an observed period of 31 days, using AFM imaging. However, when measuring the elasticity of a bloodstain the AFM showed a decrease of elasticity as the sample ages. The work is ongoing, and not a final product, as a few limitations were discovered during this research. The measurements displayed a high standard deviation, possibly explained by the non-homogeneous composition of the blood clot. These components seem to influence the elasticity parameters, potentially making the tests inaccurate.
A recent journal by Rolf H. Bremmer, and others, breaks down blood by its components and looks at ways to age the bloodstain using a variety of methods. The technique using an AFM is highlighted for use with Red Blood Cells, and consideration is given to aging White Blood Cells by using their nucleus. Platelets are not considered applicable due to the fast and complex mechanism of coagulation. Overall, no completely viable technique could be discovered and all practices are said to still be in their experimental phase.
 Tilstone, W.J., Hastrup, M.L., and Hald, C. (2013). Fisher’s Techniques of Crime Scene Investigation. 1st ed. Florida: CRC Press. 220.
 Swanson, C.R., Chamelin, N.C., and Territo, L. (2000). Criminal Investigation. 7th ed. USA: The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 99.
Those of you who follow me on Twitter will probably be tired of all my posts to do with my final project on Blood. In my defense I took three weeks off work to complete the project, so I haven’t had much else to tweet about! My 5,000 word essay has now been completed, and is the last piece of work required for my C.S.I foundation degree (run through the College Of Policing).
Part of this essay required me to do an experiment. The essay was based on the interpretation of bloodstains at a scene I’d previously been to. At this scene someone had climbed through a window, leaving a bloodstain behind on the window frame. What I hoped to find out is what direction this stain was deposited and how much blood was likely on the subject.
I obtained a small amount of horses blood which I bought from a local Equine Hospital. I also loaned a window from a local double glazing company. Both companies were more than happy to help, to which gained them a glowing report in my final acknowledgments.
Now before anything anywhere can be started, you have to consider three words… HEALTH AND SAFETY. I completed a Risk Assessment form, covered the room in plastic sheets, and dressed myself in Personal Protective Equipment. I even put a sign on the door, warning people what was on the other side!
Using a syringe (without the needle) I deposited blood onto my gloved arm and pushed against the window frame. The first motion I took was going away from my body, in an outwards direction. The following stain was made using 2ml of blood.
Notice how a lot of the blood is collected at the edge of the window, and drips down under the influence of gravity. A small amount is then smeared outwards. At the final contact position a bit more blood is present, as the blood needs to escape from the two colliding surfaces and is forced outwards. If you look closely you can see a vertical line in blood near the ruler, and a bit more blood near the 5cm and 6cm markers.
In the next image I used 1ml of blood (ignore the top stains away from the ruler).
For just 1ml of blood a stain this size can be deposited. Again the blood has collected and flowed down the window at the initial contact point. The change in the window’s shape also causes most of the blood to collect near the seal. This time the blood has been forced upwards as it has again been looking to escape from between my arm and the window.
I then placed a single drop of blood onto my arm, which I photographed.
And here’s the stain it left behind.
Quite a substantial stain for a drop of blood. The same rules seem to apply as the previous, just leaving a little less blood behind. Less blood has flowed downwards. Now I’ll show you what happens when I change motion. Stood in the same spot, I pulled my arm towards me, starting from outside the window and moving it closer to the seal. This stain was produced using 1ml of blood.
Notice how the blood has mostly collected and flowed down the window at the opposite point to my previous motion. There’s also a heavier stain throughout the main bloodstain. I have put this down to how the window might force me to make less contact/pressure when pulling my arm towards me, due to its shape.
Using a single blood drop, measuring similar to the drop I photographed, and the same motion I created this stain.
The blood again flows down on the opposite side. The window edge acts almost like a razor, taking the majority of blood off my arm at the initial contact point.
I used this experiment to talk about the scene images, and predict the motion/direction applied when depositing the stain. I was also able to gain a rough idea about how much blood came into contact with the window. Of course not all of this was down to an experiment. I got stuck into quite a few books. I was able to use both the experiment and theory I’d learned to discuss the scene.
More posts about my project will be published soon.
I began my first job within the Scientific Support Branch (now called Forensic Investigations) in 2008, and started off as a Scientific Support Assistant. I was 20 years old when I began this role, and hadn’t had a huge deal of experience or exposure to the real world of crime. The SSA role was a perfect way to ease me into the department. I was an essential part of the office, but played more of a background role. I was responsible for the transportation of all exhibits, the documents for forensic testing of exhibits, all stock orders, seized property by police officers, and many more tasks.
I personally saw this role as a stepping stone as the ultimate goal was to become one of the team who is out on the frontline. What I was concerned about at this age was ‘could I stomach it?’ Could I be strong enough to deliver a decent service to the police force and public? I knew I would have to gain the necessary experience before being called upon, to know I could handle it.
I attended my first Post Mortem at the age of 21 or 22. Still rather fresh faced. A colleague was due to travel over to the Mortuary, and asked if I’d like to give him a hand. I remember having that rush of adrenaline as he asked me, the heart beating so loudly you can almost hear it.
I was nervous for two reasons. The first, I was about to see someone who had passed away. Something I’d never seen before, and growing up I’d pretend it didn’t happen. It was something you’d see on the TV but never in the real world. The second reason was just, if not more scary than the first. As he asked me I knew that today would be the day I find out if I’m cut out for the role. If I couldn’t handle it then I would be back on the job market. It would be the turning point in my career.
When we first arrived I was hit by the smell. A nice clean smell. The smell of cleaning products. I kept close to the experienced SOCO, like a cub would stay with its mother when exploring unknown territory. We passed through the corridors and got changed into our PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) which included a scene suit, mask, overshoes, gloves and hairnet.
We walked into the main Post Mortem room and on the table was the body bag. My colleague and I set up on a different table, laying out equipment the Pathologist would need. Some of which were swabs, exhibit bags, fingernail clippers, hair collection kits.
As the body bag was opened the first thing that struck me was the deceased gentleman’s face. The shocked expression he displayed was terrifying. What disturbed me the most was that he looked in pain, pain caused by the injuries he’d sustained. It was simply horrible to think that those were his last moments. His eyes glued to me, as if he was asking me for help. And I think that was the turning point for me, the moment when I realised I could do it. Because I have that passion to help people. I’ve always tried my best to be there for my friends and family, and here I had to opportunity to help another person. Although this time it would require a lot of strength on my part. I looked at him and made a promise, that I would stand alongside a team of people giving 100 percent. I would perform to the best capacity I could.
The Pathologist carried out his work, and I dealt with all his exhibits. I would hand him a swab, he’d swab the required area and hand it back to me. I would then seal the swab inside an exhibit bag and write the description on the outside. This task becomes very fast paced when there’s lots of swabs and other samples to be taken; the Pathologist won’t stop on your part. They will then spend hours looking for abnormalities and inconsistencies on that person. I would rank Pathologists as being one of the most thorough people on the planet. All of which I have worked with appear to look at every detail until they’re satisfied with the cause of death.
Since that day I have continued to attend Post Mortems, and they’re never easy. Seeing someone who’s passed away is never something I look forward to as the child in me always likes to pretend it doesn’t happen. But the rest of me tries to stand strong to make sure the deceased, and their families, are fully respected.
If you have been affected by anything in this article please don’t hesitate to seek help. Asking for help is never a weakness, it requires a great amount of courage. A great charity which I highly recommend is Victim Support. A relative of mine works for them, and I know you’d be we’ll looked after. They can offer ongoing support. Visit victimsupport.org.uk for more information. Alternatively, I’d advise you to visit your GP, who can put you in touch with Time To Talk. Another great organisation who offer counselling. If the Police can be of help, please contact us on our non emergency number 101.
In this blog I’ll give you an example of how a major incident can be averted thanks to a criminal who wasn’t exactly the sharpest tool in the shed!
I dealt with a job a few years ago at a very large building, which must have around 4 floors. For professional reasons I won’t name the building, so you’ll have to visualize it yourself.
Entry was gained by forcing open a set of doors around the back, which didn’t put up much of a fight. The offender then went into the bar area, poured accelerant over a sofa and set it alight. The criminal then fled, exiting the building the same way they entered, ironicallythrougha set of fire doors.
There was nothing stopping the offender entering any room in the building, but they didn’t venture anywhere else. Thankfully, the sofa was flame retardant, and the fire had just died out. Had they read the large labels under the cushions a different target may have been selected.
This gave the company a chance to secure their building more suitably, at the loss of a few slightly damaged cushions. I advised the company that people cannot obtain degrees or higher education in criminal activity, and every now and then we’re reminded of this fact.
The snow has cast a wintery blanket on our familiar world, and created an unavoidable path for those choosing to take it. For forensic examiners we usually look out for those ideal surfaces to leave footwear marks on, whether it be a muddy, unlooked after flower patch or a shiny clean window sill. But the snow has given us another route for evidence. Like airports, railways and highways, we need to be well prepared.
Here we have a roof which has been climbed on, and it appears someone has climbed over the railing onto a set of stairs. The footwear marks on the roof are a good indicator showing how many offenders there might be, unless the bad guys have a good leap, or taken up piggy-backing as a hobby!
The marks aren’t always ideal, with parts of the sole missing in this mark. But look at the detail in that top part of the shoe!
Now to add a little snow wax. This hardens the footwear mark before we add the cast, and requires quite a few coats. I’ll spray the mark 5 or 6 times as recommended before adding the cast, and it makes the mark a brown colour.
Now if we wanted to photograph the mark, the camera would be a little happier. Zooming in to get rid of all that white then using a torch or flash will help to show all of that detail a little better, as a bright background would over-expose the image. After waiting around 10 minutes it’s now time to add that plaster cast.
Now if you walked past that in the street you’d probably take a second look. Not the most attractive looking thing! I left the cast for a good hour and a half to dry. Quite a long time, so it’s best to do this first thing.
Time goes by and it’s now time to lift it, and here’s the result.
Bother, that’s not great. I even read through the instructions! Thankfully this was a training exercise I carried out, and not the real thing. And lucky it was, as all mistakes must be learned from. When I next tackle a footwear mark in snow I’ll add more layers of wax before applying the cast, and maybe do a tester mark next to the offender mark to make sure all goes well. I guess this is why some people steer away from the instructions! I’ll go against the recommended 5-6 layers and add around 10, that should do it.
In the real world the footwear mark would be photographed with a macro lens and scale beforehand, so we’ve always got other options. Next time I’m called out and half asleep I should be better prepared to tackle those marks in the snow.
Blood, as most of you know, is a great source of DNA. Whenever there’s blood at a scene there’s a good chance of catching the offender, or in some cases identifying a victim. Blood has been glamourized by television, and is the centre of shows like Dexter. I’ve seen how characters in these programmes take swabs of blood and parts of it are accurate, but some aren’t. I will go over the process of what I do when I swab blood, and explain my actions.
Here we have a red stain on a window. There’s been vandals in the area and, if this stain is blood, it will tell us whose been hanging around here. Our Detectives can then interview the person and ask for reason’s why their blood was found. I’ll do my photography first - taking long, mid-range and close up shots of the blood.
Then we’ll want to see if it is blood. I’ll start by taking a very small sample of the blood using a piece of filter paper. I’ll fold the paper twice to create a point, and rub it against the edge of the blood stain.
I have two chemicals I use as a presumptive test. On the television you normally see them use just one chemical, and the blood turns a pink colour. For me the test should turn the same pink colour, but only after I add the second chemical. I use Kastle Mayer and Hydrogen Peroxide, which reacts at the presence of hemoglobin. Kastle Mayer is dripped onto the filter paper first, followed by Hydrogen Peroxide. I always remembered which one was first by linking it with a brand of peanuts: K comes before P, Kastle before Peroxide, KP nuts!
This is only a presumptive test and not a definite indicator, so you need to allow for some discretion. I’ll then take a swab of the blood stain using a wet swab. I use a small capsule of sterile water and drip it onto the first ‘wet’ swab. I’ll load up the swab with a decent amount of blood.
I normally take a dry swab too, going over where the blood was to mop up any of the stain left behind. Some SOCO’s choose not to do this and rely on their one wet swab, but it’s just my preference. There’s no right or wrong.
'Control swabs' are swabs without any blood/crime-stain on, but are taken so the Scientist knows what background contaminants are on the main swab. For example, you may take a swab of blood from somewhere heavily contaminated with skin cells. I'll take a background control swab of the area away from the blood stain, so the Scientist can identify what should and shouldn't be on the main blood swab. It's a bit like spot the difference - the difference between the background control and the main wet swab should only be the crime stain (in this case blood). This will always be a wet background swab, so there's a control sample of the water too.
A ‘batch control swab’ is always retained at our main Forensic base. This is a plain, unopened swab from each batch. If a batch of swabs has been contaminated when being manufactured, the batch control swab should be able to tell us.
So if you ever see me swabbing a crime stain and it looks like I’m missing it don’t worry, I’m probably taking a control swab.
The swabs will then get sealed into an evidence bag, ready for me to submit to an Independent Forensic Provider, and hopefully help close the investigation with a positive result.
If you’ve been following my blogs you’ll be accustom to what I get up to at various crime scenes, ranging from vehicle and burglaries to the more serious crimes (although major crime is tricky for me to cover on social media sites). But what some of you often wonder is what I get up to in the office. This post is designed to make you more familiar with what happens when I return from a crime scene.
I’ve just returned from a scene carrying lots of exhibits, which will all be sealed in evidence bags. I’ll most likely take a seat at my desk first, positioning my laptop back on its stand. My camera bag will be placed on the floor, I’ll sit down and put my exhibits to my left. Next to my laptop on the right is a torch battery charger, to the left is my phone and box files. Inside the files are various documents I’ve felt the need to keep, whether it be important information or the odd thanks from the public (it was my pleasure). Surrounding me are images that a colleague took for our 999 day presentation a few months ago. She is highly skilled with a camera, and it gives me a bar to aim at. The large rolled up item is a poster I’m yet to find a home for, though I’m sure there are many out there with their eyes on it!
I would’ve completed my report whilst at the scene, so I’ll upload this onto the main server allowing other members of staff to view it. I’ll then take my flash card of images, taken on my Nikon D300 digital camera, to the disk burner and copy two CDs. For more serious crime I may be required to burn a few more copies. The burner sits in between two machines: the FISH machine (Forensic Information Scanning Hub) and a dual screen desktop. The double screens allow us to compare images of footwear marks we’ve taken with the National Footwear Reference Collection (NFRC), which is a large database of most footwear patterns. We will have a good search and try to identify which shoe our crime scene mark belongs to.
Our FISH machine is what we use to send over our fingerprint lifts, fingerprint elimination forms and images relevant to the Fingerprint Bureau. This can be a lengthy process if lots of fingerprint lifts were taken at a scene, so it may require me to multi-task whilst I wait for them to scan. The images will then be received by our Fingerprint Bureau who can instantly view them if the need is great. For non major crime there’s always a backlog.
If I’ve seized wet items, which may be more common with the wintery weather, I’ll utilize the drying cabinet. The cabinet is often used for blood stained clothing too, so it requires a good clean after every use. Next to the cabinet is a photographic stand with additional lighting and a stand for the camera, ideal for close up photography. It may not always be possible to photograph an item close up at a scene, so the item could be recovered and photographed using this stand.
If an item needs fingerprint powder treatment, we have a room in which this can be done. Often a police officer will collect an item which they want examining for prints, or we will seize an item that’s not practical to examine at the scene. Our fingerprint bench will suck to powder down into the table, so the examiner isn’t surrounded by a dust cloud. There are various powders at our disposal upon the bench.
Once my work with any exhibits is complete I will book them into our property store, uploading details of each item onto the property database. Any exhibits requiring DNA treatment will be placed in the lab awaiting transportation to the Submissions Department. It’s there that these will be forwarded to a Forensic Service Provider for examination. We would expect results back in a week or so, unless a major case where it’s sooner. We also have a Chemical Treatment Laboratory who use chemicals to recover further forensic evidence. Exhibits requiring treatment by them will be left in our lab also awaiting transportation.
That’s the basics to what I do when I return to the office, excluding all the statements, emails and phone calls. Always plenty to do, and it requires good organisational and planning skills to keep on track.
There might be a cheeky sandwich in there somewhere too, if I’m lucky.