We offer a comprehensive range of forensic science services, based on an extensive range of techniques and serve the police, crime enforcement agencies and an increasing number of private sector clients.
In order to highlight the role that forensic science can play in solving crime we have been working with ITV’s This Morning show, as part of ‘Crime Week’ (in November 2012 and April 2013).
Our first collaboration covered Blood Pattern Analysis (BPA) – particularly cast off and voids – protein stains, chemical development, footwear marks for intelligence and evidential purposes, presumptive test for drugs of abuse and cutting agents, and why Holly ought not to sit on the chair before examination for fibre transfer!
Focusing on BPA, we were able to show that distribution and pattern can often explain exactly how the blood has ‘appeared’ at the scene and what has gone on, while also highlighting that thorough microscopic screening can identify even the tiniest traces of blood on an item. Similarly, locating, recovering and examining marks and trace evidence is fundamental to forensic investigation. Even the most expert criminal is likely to leave some evidence behind. Footprints, tools, weapons, and fingerprints all provide vital clues – and, in our experience, often the most elusive and conclusive proof to convict major crime suspects.
Our second appearance was to demonstrate fire investigation, looking at the differences between accidental ignition and arson and what a Crime Scene Investigator would look for and collect at a scene.
Fire impacts upon everything in its path and therefore poses some difficult challenges for forensic scientists. Fires often start accidentally as a result of faulty appliances or unattended candles. However, where arson is suspected investigators will search specifically for evidence of flammable liquids (or “accelerants”).
With the fantastic support of the Surrey Fire & Rescue Service we laid two fires – one with and one without petrol, but using similar material for burning. The development patterns were obvious and would have helped to establish the origin and cause of the fire, had it been a real scene. In this case, however, we were happy to share the spotlight with the Fire Rescue team’s fire-trained dog, Tilly, who was as attuned to the nuances of the accelerants as the drugs or explosives animals that we see deployed more often.
Naturally, a balance has to be found between us wanting to show the analytical science and using what works best for television, so, unfortunately, we weren’t able to explore the spectrographs that we also provided – that would have shown that one fire was set with paraffin (a GCMS fingerprint of paraffin looks like an umbrella) – nor gas headspace chromatography.
Working regularly with This Morning has been hugely enjoyable, nonetheless. Maybe we can find a way to get some air time for some pure science next time…
Co-authored by Tracy Alexander.