I've been busy over the past few months and have neglected this blog somewhat. I apologise.

We've all been busy with a variety of jobs, mostly serious jobs. There's been a strange increase in the number of dead people recently. We blamed it on the full moon at first, then the snow.

I'm going to share my experience of a suicide by hanging.

Most forces insist on CSIs attending all suicides. There's two reasons, the first is that we can ensure that it is suicide. The second is that the scene needs to be recorded for the coroner.

If an inquest is held into the death then the scene will be an important aspect, as it is in any criminal investigation.

We have a new van at work at the moment. Just the one. Its on trial. If we like it then we'll have some more. The van that I share with my colleague is on it's last legs so I took the new van out.

I had a list of burglaries to go to, we call them BDH's and BOB's. Burglary Dwelling House and Burglary Other Building. I had printed the logs out and was on the way to my first job.

I got a call over the radio to ask me to attend a hanging. This would be my first hanging on my own. I'm not sure if excited is the right word, but my professional curiosity was certainly peaked.
I happily accepted the job. I stopped the van and opened the back doors. It was a new van and I was unsure as to what kit was in the back. I had a good rummage and checked I had everything I needed for a suicide.

I changed the destination in my Sat Nav. Twenty three minutes. Driving through the City is a nightmare at anytime of the day. I like to watch other drivers and silently criticise their driving. Every now and then I'll inhale deeply and say "Ooo" whilst exhaling.

Brief details were given over the radio by attending officers. I knew that the deceased person was male and had been found by a relative.

The correct procedure for any incident of suicide is that officers should secure the scene and request attendance of CSI. Sometimes, CID will attend or at the very least, a supervisor from uniform will attend.

Its very important to go to any incident of suicide with an open mind. I will listen to the views and opinions of attending officers, but it's vital to interpret the scene myself. It would be a very embarrassing error to decide a death is a suicide to later find out it is a murder. It'd also probably mean the loss of a lot of evidence.

There was something in the news recently whereby someone has confessed to murdering his estranged wife and police officer partner some 20 years ago. It appears that the scene presented itself as a suicide by carbon monoxide in a car. The offender in fact gassed both victims, dressed them and transported them to the 'scene' in the boot of a car. Have a look here for more information.

As I approached the garden path I could see there was a police officer stood at the front door. The relative had been taken away to be spoken to further.

An Ambulance Crew had been to confirm the male was deceased. The term often used is 'Life Extinct'. I don't like this, I think it's cold. I try never to refer the deceased person as a 'body' either. If I know their name, I'll use it. Its polite and it's respectful.

As I walked onto the path, I could smell the distinct smell of decomposition. The front door was slightly ajar.

The police officer appeared to be on his own. He held a scene log in his hand. Officers in my force are pretty good at securing a scene when a body is found. They'll start a scene log too. This is where everything that happens at the scene is recorded. Who has gone in, who has gone out and more importantly why.

Some higher ranking officers have a liking in my force to believe a scene is theirs and they can come and go as often as they like, touching, sniffing and pondering. I have no idea why, especially the sniffing.

I did have a warmed (as opposed to a heated) discussion with a Police Inspector a few weeks back. It was also a suicide. There were a few unanswered questions about some injuries on the deceased's body. The scene had to be preserved in case there was foul play.

The Inspector wanted to go 'have a look'. I politely declined his offer. It wasn't an offer, it clearly wasn't an offer. He knew that, I knew that. He wanted to know why he couldn't go in. I explained he needed to wear a white suit. "I've got gloves on." he said. I passed him a suit and explained he wasn't going into the room unless he was wearing that. Ten minutes later he joined me inside, fully suited.

I digress.

I spoke to the Police Officer at the door who explained what had occurred at the property prior to my arrival. He gave me a run down whilst I put on a protective suit and overshoes. I wear two pairs of gloves at jobs with deceased bodies. An experienced CSI told me why. If I need to move or touch anything with bodily fluids on, and then go back to my camera, I can take the outer pair of gloves off and still have a pair on. It works well. Body bits don't mix with a Nikon.

A relative had found the deceased male after visiting him and getting no answer at the door. This is one of the common ways of suicides being found.

People who commit suicide can be very resourceful when they have an idea in their mind. I've seen some very inventive methods since this one. I've also been to some rather strange ones.

I gave my details to the Police Officer at the front door. The door had been opened from the inside by the Paramedics to allow easy entry. The deceased male was against the hallway door. It was difficult to get through from the back.

As soon as I approached the door, I could smell it. I hadn't smelt it like this before, it smelt like pickles. I like pickles.

No, I liked pickles.

I opened the door, looking at the lock and frame for any signs of damage or forced entry. None.

I could see personal possessions about the room. Mobile, wallet, watch and an amount of cash. This male hadn't been robbed.

This male had hung himself from the top of the living room door using a belt. The belt and buckle was around his neck at one end. The other end had a knot in it. The knotted end was passed over the top of the door and the door closed. The belt was thin enough to pass over the closed door, the knot stopping it from pulling through.

Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to be off the ground to hang yourself. Partial hanging is just as common as complete hanging. Hanging is the constriction of the neck by a ligature, tightened by the weight of the body. This can be achieved in a number of ways.

One thing any investigator may note when attending the scene of a complete hanging is the victim's tongue may be protruding. Due to the weight of the body, and sometimes the force applied in the 'fall' of a hanging, the constriction around the neck can force the tongue out of the mouth. Once decomposition begins, and the tongue is exposed to the environment for a period of time, the tongue becomes discoloured. Often it is black.

This male's tongue was big and black and sticking out of his mouth.

After a thorough visual examination, I came to the conclusion that he had jumped from furniture (which was underneath him) with the belt around his neck. This provided to force to make the tongue stick out. Then over a matter of days, the weight on the belt and the door was enough to make it slip. The knot pulled through the top of the door.

The heating was on in the house and it was hot. I had my normal uniform on, plus a protective suit. The suit, by design, has no ventilation. I'm not unhealthy, but I was sweating. I had to wipe my forehead a few times.

I took photographs of the scene, showing every room in the house. There were tablet and prescriptions in one room. I took photos of these. At this stage I can't tell if the male had taken tablet prior to hanging himself. There weren't many missing however. There was a receipt from a local pharmacy, it was only four days old.

The male had decomposed quicker than normal. It's likely the heat in the house was the main contributing factor to this.

I had to ensure that the male had no injuries about his body. I also needed to check pockets for personal belongings.

I had to straighten him out slightly, he was in an awkward position. I took hold of his arms at his wrists. I tried to pull his torso towards me, almost into a sitting position. The skin on his arms moved, his arms didn't.

I was going to need assistance.

I opened the front door and the bobby looked at me, I said "Are you busy?" I caught him unaware, he looked around, desperately trying to find an excuse. He couldn't.

"Can you just give me a quick hand in here?"

"Uuu, erm, yea, sure"

This is my job, I 'enjoy' working out what has happened and how this male has ended up this way. It's not the bobby's job. He likes chasing bad guys and locking up criminals. I explained what I needed him to do, and asked if he was OK with it. I explained that if he wanted to stop at any point, then just say.

I gave him the key to the van and told him where to find the suits. He got to the van "Are there any extra larges?" He said. "Top shelf, in blue" I replied.

We straightened the deceased male out, rolled him onto his left side. The bobby held him there whilst I checked his pockets and lifted his clothing to check for injuries. None. Onto the other side and the same again. None.

The bobby stayed in the suit for a while, watching me whilst I finished with some close up photos. He asked a few questions. Decent questions, not "Do you do Weddings?"

I don't mind dead bodies. In the short time I've been a CSI, I have lost count already as to how many I have encountered. I will try to recall each and see if I can come up with a number, another time. I don't mind the smell of most things; decomp, blood, urine or faeces. I have however found that I'm not too fond of vomit.

I was looking at some Journals the other day at work, and discovered interestingly that the UK has a low Suicide rate. The most recent figures I could source were from the Office of National Statistics and were dated 2008. Per 100,000 of population, The UK had a suicide rate of 6.1, Lithuania had a rate of 28.4 (the highest) and Cyprus had a rate of 2.2 (the lowest).

Now, back to that list of BDHs and BOBs I had at the start of the shift.


I came on duty at 0640 on a Sunday morning, booked on duty and sat at my desk.

I opened my emails, I had a few to get through. I had been off for four days. I often get email requests for statements, usually for volume scenes I had attended whereby an offender had been identified (an 'Ident') from the evidence I recovered.

I recently reached fifty Idents since February. Fifty separate offenders identified from the evidence I collected at scenes. I love it. I don't remember all of their names, but I hope some of them remember mine when my statement is read to them.

I was the first one in that morning. I had put coffee in the cafetiere and it was brewing on my desk. I like the smell of coffee in the morning. Another CSI came in just before 0700.

I was working my way through my emails, deleting some and flagging others to deal with later, when the phone rang. It was another CSI office, where a supervisor was. CSI Man answered the phone, he is a Crime Scene Manager (CSM)

CSMs manage major scenes, attend strategy meetings and coordinate multiple scenes. They make all the big decisions, which makes major scenes easier for normal CSIs as all the decisions have already been made.

The phone call was to ask CSI Man to attend a murder scene and take me along to assist.

We had to go straight out. CSI Man asked me to get a few things together that we'd probably need at the scene.

The incident had happened in the early hours and another CSM had originally attended the scene to secure fragile evidence, take initial photographs and give advice on how to preserve and secure the rest of the evidence. This CSM was one of the on call CSMs and was probably now at home in bed.

I'm glad I had breakfast before I got to work because today was likely to be a long day.

I didn't have time to read the log in regards to the incident and typically such an incident will have so many pages, it'd take a while to actually read it.

I went to the equipment store downstairs and got together a supply of various plastic bags, paper bags, swabs, water modules, hazard tape and knife tubes.

We got in the van and CSI Man drove as he knew where the incident was. He gave me a brief run down of what had happened whilst we drove there.

When we arrived there were two marked police vans and a marked car. The cordon was clearly visible and was around the complete outside of a small tower block of residential flats.

We got to the scene at approximately 0800. The sun was out and the sky was clear, it was warm already.

There had been officers at the scene all night. The scene needs to be secured and the evidence preserved. No one can enter the scene as it could be claimed evidence has been spoiled or contaminated.

There was a Police Sergeant from the dog section waiting for us. The flat where the incident had taken place had two dogs locked in one of the rooms. One of the dogs was believed to be a Pit Bull terrier and it was in a fighting mood.

I don't fight with dogs. They tend to win.

CSI Man asked me to go to the flat and prepare the hallway so that the dogs could be taken out without any footwear evidence being damaged in the hall.

I took a white suit from the back of the van, extra large. I'm not a large guy, honest. For some reason the suits are made in sizes that don't seem to make sense. The first time I put a suit on I chose a medium. No chance. I only just got my arms in and the damned thing ripped from top to bottom along the back.

I also wore footwear protectors. This have the word 'POLICE' indented along the bottom so if my footwear impression was recovered, we would know it was from me. I put a pair of gloves and and took a mask too.

I gave my name and collar number to the Police Officer with the scene log. This is recorded and is disclosed as part of the investigation. It keeps track of who enters and leaves the scene at what time and why.

I went up a couple of flights of stairs. There was some blood to photograph in the hallway and swab. I'll get to that after the dogs are gone.

The hallway was similar to any other tower block in the City. Bare concrete walls and stairs with the odd red tile here and there. It smelt too. I don't think that was as a result of the incident either.

I won't explain how I prepared the hallway, it was unusual. It may make the incident recognisable. That's the last thing I want.

Stepping plates are usually used to avoid direct contact with the floor. I'm sure one could imagine how difficult it could be for a Police Officer to try stepping from plate to plate with an angry dog in tow. The stepping plates were removed from the equation.

Inside the flat was a deceased male. He was fully clothed. Which I was pleased at. This would be the first deceased body I have dealt with whereby he wasn't naked.

The place was a mess. I learnt quickly not to assume that the mess was due to what had happened.

I remember a burglary I went to just after Christmas. The occupant was showing me around and explaining what had happened.

I said "They've made a right mess in here, haven't they?"

She said "They've not been in this room"


The Sergeant came up with a PC and they had some shields, a fire extinguisher and some dog catching poles. I'm sure they've probably got a real name. The dogs didn't really struggle and were out of the building within a few minutes. People quickly cleared a path outside when they got to the front.

It appeared the male had been murdered. There was an array of weapons laying around. The male had a number of wounds about his body.

It wasn't a pretty sight. Flies were already starting to settle on his face and hands.

There was blood everywhere. The floor, the walls, the sofa and the ceiling.

There is a lot to do at a scene like this and there is no rush (most of the time) to get it done. The scene examination needs to be methodical, structured and thorough.

CSI Man had decided what we would achieve today and we set about it.

He was going to video the scene. This would be used for briefing purposes. It can be showed to the Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) and the team of DCs investigating it. This prevents them having to enter the scene and increasing the risk of contamination and loss of evidence.

Whilst he did the video inside the flat, I photographed and swabbed the blood in the hallway I mentioned earlier. Each area was marked with an arrow sticker, the location photographed from a distance and up close. I used my macro lens for the close shot. Once this was done, each was swabbed. I used a wet swab then a dry swab. The blood had dried, so the wet swab helped to removed most of it. The dry swab then scooped up what was left.

I had finished this before CSI Man had finished the video so I went outside to get some fresh air and a drink. It gets very hot in that suit. I was sweating. Maybe I should go to the gym more often. A female PC gave me a tissue, she didn't tell me that it was an Olbas Oil one, I wiped my forehead with it. At least it smelt pleasant.

I went outside and took the suit off, folding it into itself as I did. This meant any nasties I had on the suit were out of harms way. I had a drink from the van.

As I stood there looking around the estate I could see lots of people watching. It's surprising how many people find things to do outside when a scene pops up. It's early on a Sunday morning and there's people pulling weeds, brushing footpaths, washing cars and windows. I'd imagine they want to have a look at what's going on. I bet some of those weeds have been there for years.

One gent approached me and said "Is you CSI?" I think he was asking if I was a CSI.

He asked if I wanted a drink. I have only ever had one drink at a scene and that was a school canteen. Maybe it's natural, maybe its training or maybe its just instinct. I don't trust people to give me a drink in a clean cup which is made with clean things and nothing 'extra' is put in the drink. In addition to that, I can't say I've ever had the desire to drink out of jam jars.

I have a reply lined up for every time I'm asked: "No I'm fine thanks, I've just had one before I came out and I'd only need to run to the loo all day!" Laugh a little and move on.

Then it came. The real reason he approached me.

"What's happened? Has someone been murdered, I won't tell anyone?"

I'm sure he won't.

"I can't tell you mate, I'm sure it'll be on the news later"

As he left, he double checked I didn't want a drink. I just gestured my water bottle to him.

CSI Man finished and after a drink, we suited up again and went back into the flat.

The most important thing was to process the deceased male so he could be taken to the mortuary for a Post Mortem.

There was a suspect in custody for the murder. It could be relevant to compare fibres and hairs on both the suspect's and the victim's clothing. CSI Man gave me the task of taking fibre tape lifts from the victim's clothing and face.

The most effective way to do this is to lay a fibre tape, which is in simple terms a large piece of sterile sticky tape, on the body and pull it off and cover it with acetate.

I had drawn a sketch of the male and on the sketch I indicated a number which related to each tape. I wrote the corresponding number on each lift and sealed each in a tamper evident evidence bag.

I did approximately fifteen or sixteen tape lifts. Some had some very obvious fibres in, some had bits of skin and blood that had fallen from injuries. The whole time I was doing this, I was knelt next to the male. The smell wasn't too bad. It wasn't nice either. Flies kept landing on him, and moving off again when I moved. As long as they don't land on me, I'll be happy.

When I was applying pressure to the tape to pick up as much as possible I could feel that the victim's ribs were bust in a couple of places. His torso felt unusual.

Once I had done this, we both checked the floor around the victim for other pieces of trace evidence. A couple of things were recovered, which turned out to be significant. I won't mention what they were.

I had blood on the outside of my suit where I had been kneeling.

Whilst I was doing the fibre tapes, CSI Man was taking photographs of everything in the flat, in every room.

It was now time to put the victim in a body bag for transport. It's good practise to cover hands and the head with bags to ensure any fragile evidence isn't lost in transit.

The same would be done if the feet were uncovered.

I know that the victim is deceased and has been for a number of hours, however, there is something that feels unnatural about putting a bag over someone's head. CSI Man lifted his head off the floor and I pulled the bag down and tied it. We did the same with each hand. The victim was cold to touch.

As I had managed to protect the hallway earlier, we could now use the hallway to lay the body bag in. We started with the inner body bag. This appeared to be a nice new style bag. It had reinforced handles at strategic points, a pouch for documents and large zippers.

I wonder who designs these things for a living? What is their job title?

CSI Man was happy to take the torso and asked me to take the legs. It was important to handle the victim in a way that we would damage or distort any of the wounds he had. I took hold of his trousers and used them like a sling on his legs. I walked backwards into the hall and CSI Man walked towards me with the torso suspended in the victim's jumper.

It was a good fit. The victim was just the right size for the bag. Making sure all limbs were inside the bag, we zipped it up and sealed it. The seal was photographed.

We now had to lift the victim and the inner body bag into the outer body bag. This was also sealed and photographed. The undertakers had been called and were en route.

Deceased bodies really are a dead weight. It's surprising.

We went outside to change suits, the one's we were in were bloodied a lot. It looked like we'd been in a fight. As we left the building I became immediately aware of a clicking sound. It was the press. They love the white suits. They took a few shots and asked a few questions. We directed them to the press office. The press office will release relevant details to the press in relation to major incidents. There were some film cameras there also.

The undertakers turned up about twenty minutes or so later. We took them inside and showed them where the victim was and helped them get him into a further bag. He was then taken down the stairs and put onto a trolley. Their van was just outside the door so not too many people caught a glimpse of this bit. We're good at standing in the way when this bit happens.

The undertakers were followed to the mortuary by a police officer. This allows the police officer to evidence that the victim went straight to the hospital and when they do the PM, the same officer will normally attend to say it is the same seal and person from the scene.

CSI Man and I went back inside, we took some photos of where the victim had been laying. This is to show the space underneath him.

There was lots more to do in the property but CSI Man had decided that it may be relevant to wait until the PM had been done and the suspect had been spoken to. If it turns out something comes to light that is useful, it could change how we would process the scene to a degree.

For example, the PM could indicate which weapons were used from the mess of tools on the floor.

The outside of the tower block and the hallway had been searched by a support group whilst we were inside. This meant we could reduce the cordon to just the flat. A police officer would be posted there until the scene could be released. It turned out this was a few days. The officers would swap every few hours.

Two other CSIs went to the PM later that evening.

CSI Man had to go to another strategy meeting with the SIO in regards to the scene. I stayed back in the office and got my report sorted. I left the office by about 1930, so not as late as I was expecting. I should have finished at 1500 though.

I made it on the local BBC news, coming out in my white scene suit. It was my first TV appearance so apparently I have to buy cakes for everyone in the office.

Can anyone smell Olbas Oil?

My first call out

Each CSI in my force is required to be on call a number of times a month. It works out that one of us is on call once a week for each office. An on call shift will almost always follow a late shift.

I had a particularly busy late shift and didn't get back in the office until 2200 hours. I had to then complete the reports for each job I had attended and sort the evidence I had recovered.

I should go home at 2200.

I was lucky enough to be joined on my late shift by another CSI in the same office, so at least I had someone to talk to whilst I worked. We had both been worked well that shift, so were both still in the office listening to Florence and The Machines on my iPhone whilst typing away.

The clock got to about 2345 when the phone rang on the desk between us.

We're not normally there at that time and the officers know that too.

It must be a supervisor, either calling to tell us to go home or, far more likely, asking us to go to a job.

We looked at each other briefly, I answered the phone.

The supervisor wanted one of us to go to a Section 18 Wounding scene which was outside just around the corner from the nick. She passed me the details which I wrote on a scrap of paper on the desk. CSI John was eagerly reading the note over my shoulder as I scribbled away.

Lots of "yep" "Uh Hu "OK"'s and I hung up.

CSI John had the gist of the scene but I explained it to him in the way the Supervisor had. The supervisor said she required one of us to go and didn't mind who it was. I really wanted to go but we decided to flip a coin, it was overtime after all.

Heads, CSI John won. Rubbish.

I packed up my kit and went home.

I got home and flicked the kettle on. I had a cup of tea and went to bed, pretty certain I wouldn't be called out.

The phone rang at 0342, it was my supervisor who wanted me to attend an outside scene.

It turns out one of the City's finest decided he was bored of sleep at 0300 hours and wanted to see if he could kick and punch the nearest passer by as hard as he could. The victim fought back but came off noticeably worse than the other and had a fractured skull.

The offender had left a substantial amount of blood at the scene. Bonus.

I live only about five minutes from the station. I jumped in the shower, cleaned my teeth and signed in at the office at 0410. I printed the log and put my cases in the van.

I stapled the four pages of the log together and put it on my clip board.

I called up on the radio:

"CSI Guy to control, over"

"Good morning CSI Guy, go ahead, over"

"Good morning to you! Can you let the officers at Any Street know I'll be with them in fifteen minutes please? Over"

"No problems"

I got in the van and started the engine. Tripod! I ran back up the stairs and fetched the tripod from under my desk. Night time photography is impossible without a tripod.

It didn't take long to get to the scene. It was on a different division to the one I normally work. I was greeted by the shift Sergeant who had a handful of swabs...

Hmm. Swabs...I thought? I've got my own.

They had blood on them. Not so good. It turns out the bobbies on the scene were under the impression I wasn't going to be turned out. They made the decision to recover the evidence themselves.

Luckily for me, and them, there was still enough blood on the pavement and road for me to spoon up.

I grabbed some yellow number triangles and began to place them down at points of interest, these were a number of spots of blood and a broken bottle. The markers help to identify each location in relation to the next in a series of photos. Also, when recovering an exhibit, I can identify it 'from next to marker 3' etc.

I took a photo up and down the road to show each side of the scene. I then took a general photo of marker one. I then put the macro lens on, I'm a geek like that, other's probably wouldn't. I want as much detail as possible in the image.

Whereas a photo taken during the day would probably only take a 125th of a second to record, at night it can be anything between 1-30 seconds and sometimes longer. The camera has to be completely still during this time, otherwise the image will appear to be blurry.

One of my CSI elders told me that if a job is important enough to be called out for, it's important enough to be photographed. I'll remember that one. We don't take photos at every job, there's no need.

Once the photos were complete, I put my camera in the van and grabbed my SOCO kit. We still call it SOCO kit. CSI kit doesn't suit it.

The first evidence bag contained three swabs. One was a control sample of the sterile water I was using, the second was a wet swab of the blood and the third was a dry swab of blood. A control swab should always be taken. Depending on the circumstances, surfaces and time elapsed etc, depends whether or not a wet and dry swab are taken.

Each swab is labelled with the exhibit number, time and date. These three swabs go in the same exhibit bag and have the same exhibit number. The exhibit number changes when the sample location changes.

I did this for the other location and recovered the broken bottle.

It doesn't seem a lot, but I was at the scene for just short of an hour. The photos take the longest amount of time.
When there is a CSI officer on duty at 0400 hours then you'd be surprised how popular you are. You are often the only one on duty for the force. I'm convinced there's secret messages sent between control rooms on divisions letting each of them know I'm on duty. Control rooms and supervisors will often try to get you to another job after the one you've done. I'd love to stay on, for two reasons, I'm already awake and more importantly; it's overtime. Unfortunately the overtime needs to be authorised by a CSI supervisor. There s always a CSI supervisor on call overnight to answer calls and refuse or authorise a call out.
The Inspector wanted me to go to the hospital and photograph the victim's injuries. I wasn't allowed. The injuries will still be there tomorrow, a CSI on normal time will be tasked with it.

I went back to the office and put the report together on the computer. I put the blood swabs in the freezer.

I signed out of the time book just after 0730 and stopped at MacDonald's on the way home for breakfast. In bed by eight and got the rest of that day off.

I checked the progress of the job Yesterday. It turns out the victim has decided not to pursue a complaint against the fool who almost killed him. It means the swabs are destined for the bin. I still get the overtime however.

I've been very busy recently and have so much I want to blog about but I need to wait until the cases are done and dusted.

I'll go back and see what I can blog about from a few months ago.

Speak soon.


Armed Robbery

I was about an hour into my late shift. Lates almost always include being on call until 0700 the next day.

It was a warm day, I only had my force issue t-shirt on and combat style trousers. I don't like my uniform. I think it looks scruffy. I'd much rather wear a short sleeve shirt and trousers. We'll see what happens with that.

I do need new boots though. I must look on the internet for those.

I digress. It was about three o'clock when I was just leaving the station to go to my first job. My colleague had left moments before me to go to a different division. I suspect he was on the same airwave channel as me though.

The first transmission came "Any unit for an emergency response to 123 Mytown Jewellers, panic button activated"

Now sometimes these things go off and people have no idea. I've been one of many who have piled into a public house on the outskirts of town, to be stared at by five or six shocked onlookers. The manager didn't realise he had a panic button, let alone that he'd activated it!

The second call came, seconds after the first.

"We've had a second call now, armed robbery in progress at 123 Mytown Jewellers, firearms seen"

You can almost feel the buzz., the adrenaline running through the officers fingers as they respond to the radio call.

The force helicopter, lets call her '99, was up on a different job but it wasn't as important as this one. The transmission came from her crew. You know it's them before they tell you, you can hear that they're in a helicopter. They wanted a piece.

I was on my way to a burglary just around the corner from our station. I got my kit together and got in the van. I knew I'd have time to do the burglary first.

My colleague made a sharp exit from the station car park. He knew I'd have heard the job come in. Secretly I wanted to go to it anyway.

As I left the station, I could hear '99 getting closer. She makes such a racket when she's low. I like seeing her though. There's something reassuring about her presence.

I eagerly listened to updates from responding officers. The four masked men had made off with a substantial amount of very expensive jewellery. The description of the car was given, along with an index. The index was incorrect. It was likely to be on false plates.

I arrived at the address of the burglary. It was only four streets from the Jewellers. '99 was above me now.

I knocked on the door. No answer. I knocked again. No answer. I shouted through the letter box. When I opened it, at 300 decibels came Michael Jackson's Billie Jean. This could take a minute.

I got in eventually. I left about twenty minutes later with fingerprint lifts.

I pre-empted the request for CSI from responding officers and called up.

"Control from CSI Guy, over"

"Go ahead CSI Guy"

"ETA for 123 Mytown Jewellers, four minutes, over"

"Appreciated CSI Guy, we were about to call you"

You've got to keep the control room happy. The bobbies amongst you will understand that one.

I drove down the road approaching a police van with lights flashing, blocking the road. It took me a minute to wait for the other road users to perform three point turns and go back the way they came.

I have a laminated A4 card for the dashboard which has the force crest and Crime Scene Investigation on it. It helps when I park up at scenes in odd places, then all the tape and police cars move and my van looks odd. I took it from the glovebox and put it on the dash.

I drove towards the female officer stood in the road, my window down and waved at her. She shook her head and arms frantically. "You can't come in here sir......oh, sorry, I thought, uh, sorry..."

Makes me laugh everytime.

I could see the Jewellers. The front door was a mess. Glass everywhere. A Sergeant and a PC (who I'd met before) were stood outside with a scene log.

I drove the short distance from the road block to the Jewellers. As I drove down the road, other shopkeepers were stood in their doorways watching, watching everything. I could feel them looking at me and my van. It wasn't clear who I was. Why was I allowed through the block?

I got my kit, camera and my 'spare kit' bag and made my way over to them.

The Sarge gave me the run down. The PC told me that he'd been first on scene, he got the owners out and no one had been near it since.

I love it when that happens.

The immediate area outside the Jewellers was taped off, using parked cars as points to tie the tape to.

I set my case down behind one of the cars, inside the cordon. I needed to take photos, but I didn't want any of my kit in the shots.

I walked back out of the cordon, I took a photo up and down the street looking back at the Jewellers. I took a photo square on to the shop front, ensuring I wasn't in the reflection of the glass. I took a close up shot of the door that had been forced and made my way inside.

I wore footwear protectors to ensure that I didn't contaminate any footwear impressions I would later recover. It helps to be wary of where you step, however, I had to step somewhere. We have stepping plates which allow us to move through a scene without our footwear touching the surface any offender's footwear may have. I didn't require them in this case, as long as I was careful.

The inside of the shop was pretty small. It was hot. I was glad I only had my t-shirt on. I could feel the heat warming me up rapidly. I saw a fan and a stand alone air conditioning unit. The problem was, they were already on.

It was nice to get inside, shut the door and listen. Listen to the silence. There was so much going on outside. People were gathering on the pavement opposite the Jewellers. Now they were watching me.

I took a minute just to stand and look around. It helps me massively to look and plan in my head how I will process the scene.

Enough planning.

The glass cabinets had been smashed to pieces. There was broken glass everywhere. There were pieces of jewellery on the floor, mixed with glass. I'm not fond of jewellery. Probably because I don't understand it's value. Like flowers, I guess.

A whole pane of glass had come from the inner door when it was forced, and lay on the floor, complete but shattered. I powdered this, and it was covered in footwear impressions.

The footwear impressions are recovered using a black gelatin lifter. Its placed on top of the powdered (or unpowdered) impression and lifted and secured. It produces a replica of what can be seen on the treated surface.

Each footwear impression is recovered in turn, labelled and sealed into a tamper evident bag. All exhibits are written up and sealed at the scene.

It's not somewhere you'd normally find footwear impressions. Good find.

I recovered a bag left by the offenders. They had brought a number of bags with them, in order to carry the jewellery. The bag was probably purchased just for this job. It looked brand new.

I recovered a number of fingerprint lifts too.

When the offenders forced the door, they used a tool of some sort. The victims hadn't seen what this was. I was curious. The PC suggested the head of a sledge hammer, but I wasn't convinced. The shape seemed too clean and conforming. I took a gel lift of the impression it left.

I tidied up a little as I worked through the scene. I stacked jewellery I collected from the floor onto a unit. I placed larger pieces of glass into a pile also. I think it helps the victim clean up later if I make an effort as I go.

CID arrived. I was perched, powdering items on the floor. I could see them in the corner of my eye, I wanted to finish what I was doing before I got up and went back outside to talk to them.

I could do with stepping outside to get out of the heat.

I spoke to the DC. She was pleasant. I hadn't met her before. She explained what she knew, which was he same as the Sarge had told me. I told her what I had found so far. I went back inside a little cooler.

I was at the scene for around two hours. Once I had left, the cordon could be removed.

I still had the list of jobs I started the shift with. They still had to be completed. The robbery took up a fair stretch of my shift. I'd have to work my backside off to get the rest of the jobs done.

I did a couple more burglaries and then had to photograph the scene of an alledged rape.

Fire Investigation

I want to ensure that we are all on the same page here. Let me break it down James Brown style.

Places, People, Names and other specific information is deliberately made anonymous here to protect those very things. Some details are altered slightly to ensure that my anonymity and others' remains in place. This blog's purpose is to share my experiences and training for those who are interested. I will not use this blog as a platform for abuse of the Establishment or to reveal details of incidents that have occurred where I work.

Righty oh. We've cleared that up, so lets talk business.

I was lucky enough recently to undergo some further training. I spent a day at a Fire Training Centre. The aim of the day was to put into practise the theory we had learnt on the days before our practical. There were nine of us on the course. It was a scorching hot day and we travelled about an hour or so, behind a tractor, to the centre.

We were split into two groups, one of four and one of five. I was with the group of five.

I had only met one of the other CSIs previously. The centre was a fair size. It was home to the administration headquarters for the local fire service. There was a distinct smell of charred metal containers.

As we rounded the corner, there were ten or so firefighters stood in a semi circle, there appeared to be an instructor in the centre who was talking to them.

We were invited to watch the demonstration of a back draft.

In simple terms, this is a situation that can occur when a fire is starved of oxygen but the gases and fuel within the fire remain at a very high temperature. When oxygen is reintroduced, say by the opening of a door or smashing of a window, then combustion will restart. This normally occurs with an explosive effect, flames and smoke can often be seen to exit the room or house through the door or window, rapidly.

See this Youtube video for a visual demonstration

We watched the demonstration and we all stank of smoke.

We split off into our groups and were given our scenarios.

There had been a report that some masked offenders had stolen a car, a Volvo estate, colour green. They had used it as a getaway vehicle after an armed robbery at a local premises. The vehicle was then reported to be alight and the fire service have attended and extinguished the fire.

I was in a group with four CSI Girls, lucky me.

The car had been placed by a fork lift truck in a small area for us to work on it.

We found out afterwards that a small amount of white spirits had been used to accelerate the fire on the front seat. Items were placed in the vehicle so that we could recover them and observe how they were preserved.

It was my task to take the photographs of the vehicle and any exhibits we found during the excavation. I love photography, I have a real passion it for it. I was pleased that I had this opportunity.

We learnt during the theory input that burnt cars present a very real health and safety risk. Some forces have decided that CSIs will not examine vehicles due to the risk involved. The mix of plastics, metals and other components provide a risky cocktail for the examiner. Fluoroelastomers being one of the main risks which produce hydrofluoric acid when subjected to fire.

I have however read a report that suggests the risk from Fluoroelastomers and the subsequent hydrogen fluoride gas (which condenses to hydrofluoric acid) is minimal in motor vehicles.

We all suited up in Tyvek white suits. It was a scorching hot day. I wore normal rubber gloves to keep my hands and ultimately my camera clean. The CSI Girls wore thicker protective gloves.

I took photographs of the vehicle from each corner, using a 18-35mm lens. Photographs are taken to ensure that a true and accurate record is made of the vehicle before we disturb the scene.

Once I photographed each corner, ensuring that the registration was captured in each, I took a photograph from an elevated position to capture the roof. The roof had suffered a lot of fire damage, the sun roof had acted as a chimney and the glass had all but gone.

I then photographed in each door starting at the driver's door (front offside) and worked my way around. Photographing into a car can be problematic with the flashgun on the hotshoe as the flash usually casts shadows into the vehicle where the light catches the door frame. I took the flashgun off the hotshoe and used a cable. I could then position the flashgun in a suitable place to illuminate the interior sufficiently.

I took my gloves off, they were dripping with sweat. I could feel that my legs were wet with sweat also. Not cool. I made sure I drank lots of water. I hate drinking water, it's such a boring drink!

There was a distinct smell of charred items. The car's insides were black. This was a result of the interior burning and the deposition of soot from the fire and smoke.

Most of the windows were broken. We learnt how to tell if the window was broken before or during the fire. When firefighters extinguish a fire, water from their hoses cause the glass to cool rapidly and this can cause the glass to break, this is known as thermal shock. The glass looks like bubble wrap. When it breaks, the edges are smoother than a normal broken window.

Once the photos were taken of the vehicle as we found it, we began to excavate the debris. We used an assortment of tools. Most of the evidence was likely to be under the first layer of debris, as this top layer is likely to be bits that have fallen during the fire, parts of the roof, glass and fabric etc.

All of the material that was taken from the vehicle was transferred into a large bucket. This needed to be double checked, we had to ensure there were no items of evidential value within the debris. The debris was sieved into another bucket and a magnetic wand was also used to detect any items of importance.

Each of the CSI girls took a door each and began hacking away. With care, of course.

There were a number of items in the vehicle in various places and the practical assessment was aimed at us recovering all of the items.

On the back bench seat was a DVD player. The outer casing had melted and it was black. I turned it over and the underside was as it was when new. I was surprised. I could see the serial number and the model numbers on a sticker. I photographed the sticker using my macro lens.

I love my macro lens.

The front seats were reduced to the frames. You could see the springs where the cushions would normally be. The back seat was charred but generally had remained intact.

I swapped with one CSI Girl and started excavating the driver's seat and foot well.

I was convinced that we were going to find a firearm within the vehicle and looked everywhere.

When I was digging the debris from under the seat, I found a set of Volvo keys. The leather fob was in pristine condition. This was surprising as everything around it was burnt to a crisp. The way in which the bunch of keys were placed, protected the fob. It was covered in a dark yellow sticky substance, a product of the burnt interior I expect.

I soldiered on and used a very large knife to cut the carpet from the vehicle. The rubber floor mat had protected the floor very well. When I cut the carpet, I found what appeared to be a shotgun cartridge. It was surrounded by melted debris. I couldn't separate it from the debris but could very clearly see the bottom. I used my macro lens to photograph the base. The firing pin mark was clearly visible.

We worked on the vehicle for just over an hour and a half. We managed to recover cigarette ends (fully preserved!) keys, a bottle of accelerant, a DVD player, a Coke can, a spoon and a magazine which had preserved a CD within it.

We didn't find a firearm.

The car was in a bad way when we got hold of it and to say it was any better when we finished would be a lie. It was cleaner though. All of the debris had been stripped right out. Wind the clock back a few thousand miles and give it a polish and it'd be on the second hand car dealership forecourt in minutes for £975 with a free tank of petrol.

My force policy is not to examine vehicles that have been burnt out unless they are involved in a serious or major crime. I understand the reasoning behind it. I did however, enjoy ripping that poor little Volvo to pieces and collecting evidence.

It must be a guy thing, breaking and destroying things. I loved it.

If fingerprints were a requirement of the interior, then there is also a chemical treatment that allows soot to be removed from surfaces to allow for fingerprinting. Some of the items we recovered may have been subject to this once they reached the lab.

We had to package an item each, which had been recovered from the vehicle. The general rule is to package anything from a fire scene into nylon bags as any accelerant or fluid will not seep through the nylon as they would in a normal plastic bag. There is a method of securing the opening of the bag, known as a swan neck, which prevents leakage also.

We had a debrief and completed another exercise. We had lunch on the local fire service which was delicious and we headed back to watch the football.

Its been really busy at work recently. We have had a large number of major incidents and everyone has been rushed off their feet dealing with them. Its nice to work with a team that really pull together when the workload increases. I'm lucky to be where I am.

I would like to take the opportunity to wish PC David Rathband well and let him know that Police Officers and Staff across the country are thinking of him. Good luck.

Until next time.


How do you do it?

Like on the TV? CSI? Do you see dead bodies? Do you go to murders?

Some common questions I'm asked when I speak to people about my job or even when I'm attending a not so violent scene.

My favourite one was:

"Ethel (can you tell I made that name up?) the guy from Forensics is here, you know, like off the TV, that program, VIS"

VIS? What is VIS?! Just smile and nod CSI guy.

I didn't grow up wanting to be a CSI. I thought of a career within the Police and worked a number of paid and voluntary roles within a Constabulary before I decided it was what I wanted to do.

I love my job. I get up at 0500am when I'm on earlies and I don't moan one bit (well, a little) It doesn't feel like I'm going to work! I'm sure in time, that may change, but I hope not.

In the time I have been with my current force, I have seen some gruesome things. The deceased male in the bath (see post) was one of them. I'd seen a deceased person before, when I worked for another force, but not as a CSI. If a week goes by without attending a scene where there isn't a deceased person, then it feels odd.

I've seen a lot of deceased people who have commited suicide. I've also seen deceased people who've been murdered. The strangest ones to attend are when someone has passed away without incident, without being involved in a fight or taking their own lives. We go to some incidents where people have passed away and the circumstances are unclear. Normally we'd attend to take photographs and confirm there had been no foul play. The photographs are taken on behalf of the coroner.

Friends and family ask me how I go to jobs and I don't get upset. It's not because I have no heart or I'm cold and have no feelings. I'm able to do it because I know that I have a job to do and I do it as professionally as possible. I think that if I'm one of the last to see that person before they are buried or cremated then I will do my best to ensure they are dealt with, with dignity and respect.

A lot of people say they couldn't do it.

I go home at the end of the day to my better half and I do normal things like everyone else. I might tell her I've had a stressful day so she makes the dinner though!

I enjoy going to any scene, but I enjoy going to major scenes more. I get a little buzz knowing that I'm one of only a few people that will attend that scene and will be able to help decipher what has happened and ultimately identify offenders.

As a CSI you should also expect some periods of inactivity. There is a lot of paperwork involved. You have to be meticulous in everything that you do. You have to be prepared to go to court and explain your actions and evidence to a Jury, some months later in some cases.

Depending where you are based in the Country will depend on the type of jobs and how often you attend those jobs. It's easy to make assumptions as to what incidents occur in what areas, but all sorts of crimes happen where you'd least expect it.

The benefit of my force, and it's the same in most others, is that a number of CSI's work from the same office. This means that everyone you see on a day to day basis goes through exactly the same as you do. Undoubtedly they've been to a scene before similar to the one you've just returned from. It's helpful to others to talk about what you experienced at a scene and what your thoughts were.

I'll be going on call as of July. I'm looking forward to it. I'll be sure to blog about my first call out.

Murder Weapon

This incident came about amongst three or four other murders and attempted murders. The office was full of people, well as full as it can be, with exhibits coming and going.

Detectives and Detective Sergeants were a common sight in the office, coming by for copies of photographs or to collect exhibits to take to the Forensic Science Service (FSS).

It was a particularly busy day, I was the only CSI on for our area covering volume crime scenes. I had completed my seventh burglary scene when the Crime Scene Manager called me over the radio.

Th Crime Scene Manager (CSM) is a CSI who usually has completed a number of years experience. To become a CSM, the CSI has to attend a specific course with the National Policing Improvement Agency. The course is a two week residential course at Harperley Hall and covers many aspects of Crime Scene Management. The course includes coordinating resources at a scene, devising and continually reviewing a plan of action for evidence recovery, liaison with specialist personnel and other persons involved in the investigation. The NPIA's website has more information for those who are interested....and to keep the NPIA happy :-)

I came on duty at 0700 and the CSM had come on duty after me as she had been at the scene the night before until late. She explained that she had returned to the scene and was there with a blood spatter analyst from the FSS. There had been a stabbing where the deceased had been stabbed a number of times and died as a result of the injuries sustained.

The police search team were deployed to do a fingertip search of the route the offender was believed to have taken when he left the scene and had discovered a knife in a nearby garden.

The CSM couldn't recover the weapon as there would be contamination issues. If the CSM were to attend both scenes then she could inadvertently transfer evidence from the initial scene to the second scene and this could give misleading information. The two scenes wouldn't even be attended by the same police officers for the same reason.

The CSM requested that I attend the scene and photograph and recover the knife.

I programmed the address into my sat nav and headed off.

As I pulled into the street I could see the large Mercedes Police Van at the other end of the street, it saved me looking for house numbers. I bumped my van up onto the pavement near two CID officers. I informed the control room I was at the scene and got out of the van.

I introduced myself to DC Detective, and his reply was "It's DS Detective" DS meaning he's a Detective Sergeant and not a Constable. Way to go. I'm making friends already.

I asked a few questions about the knife, and ascertained it was bloodstained and bent. Luckily it was still slim enough to fit into a knife tube. I grabbed my kit bag from the van and my camera case and approached the address.

As I walked through the door I could smell food. The family hasn't long sat down for lunch and then found the police all over their house and garden! Luckily when the knife was found, the officers were smart enough to realise that this was now a scene. One officer remained in the garden to protect the knife and the others left sharpish.

I put on my white suit, mask, gloves and overshoes. This way I knew that no matter what, I wasn't going to risk destroying any evidence. The knife had been outside overnight, however, it hadn't rained which was good.

I began to take photographs. I took one of the front of the property so anyone viewing the photographs would know the address. I then took photographs from each corner of the garden. This way there was a complete view of the whole garden from each angle.

The knife was in the last corner, so I took a long shot, middle shot and then changed lenses to use a macro for close up shots. The first few were as the knife was found, with some weeds and undergrowth in the way. Once I was happy I had a few photos of the knife exactly as it was found, I removed the weeds and undergrowth for a clearer shot of the knife.

Although there was a net curtain along the patio doors, I could feel six pairs of eyes all on me. After all, I was in this family's garden, with a white suit and mask on. It was probably the most excitement they had for a long time!

The knife was small, probably only four or five inches in blade length, it was a solid metal and silver grey. Although nothing special, it looked like a part of a set. It had blood along it's entirety. There were fingerprints in blood on the blade. This is great evidence and I've been lucky enough to recover it.

I took a series of photographs of the knife with a scale beside it. I turned the knife a few times to ensure each side was photographed. I then secured it into the knife tube I brought with me.

The knife tube is a plastic tube that splits into two. One part fits into the other and screws shut. Each end is reinforced with a metal cap. This tube allows the safe recovery and transport of bladed articles. I then put the tube into a tamper evident plastic bag that I had labelled with the exhibit number, time, location and description as well as some other identification specific information.

I cleared up everything I had taken to the address with me and once the knife was safely packaged I took my suit and other PPE off.

I returned to the station and completed the necessary paperwork and booked the knife into the secure property store.

I got home a few hours late but it was all worth the time.

Nightclub shooting

It's something that you would expect to happen in the USA, isn't it? Surely this doesn't happen in the UK? Sadly it does, and more often than one would expect.

Reports of gun related crime incidents are becoming common place in the newspapers and televisions within many regions of the UK. However, you do normally only tend to see the more high profile cases or those that the Police decide to issue a press release for.

There are many reasons behind gun crime and these vary slightly depending on the geographical location in which they occur. Some of the most common reasons are gang members enforcing respect for its members or families and protecting territory. Gangs and criminals (not mutually exclusive!) often use firearms to secure venture capital.

I often come to work and read the previous night's briefing pages and there's usually at least one incident that involved masked offenders using firearms in some form of violent crime. It doesn't shock me as much as I thought it would.

I used to work for a different police force before I became a CSI, in a different role, and I can't remember the last firearms incident that took place there and they are only separated by one other County

I arrived at work for 0640 hours and there were a number of cars already in the car park. This meant one of two things; either everyone else was super keen and early like me, or, more likely there had been a serious incident and they had been called out.

It was the latter.

Two CSIs had been called out through the night and had dealt with the initial examination of a shooting scene.

About a mile away from the station was a nightclub. It's primarily used for private functions such as birthday parties or wedding receptions. We're not in the City but only a few miles from it, but I wouldn't have either my birthday party or wedding reception at this club.

Most of the CSIs were busying themselves at their desks with various tasks, most related to the scene we were holding at the nightclub. There were two CSIs preparing to attend the location and continue the examination, CSI Woman who came to the Suicide incident with me being one of them. She asked if I'd like to help them at the scene as there was a lot to do.

I couldn't have answered quicker!

We got some equipment together, including handfuls of evidence bags, swabs, water viles and some white suits. The two CSIs who had attended through the night had conducted the initial examination, which included some photographs of the scene. fingerprinting of key areas and swabs of blood.

A Police Officer had been posted outside all night. The Officer is likely to be relieved every three or four hours, depending on how many Officers are on duty. The main role of the Officer is to protect the scene. There will be tape indicating the inner and outer corden. No one should pass either tape unless there is reason to. The Officer will also control the scene log. Anyone who enters or leaves the scene will have to give their name and collar number to the Officer who will record it in the log.

It turns out one offender shot himself in the leg and the other was injured during the shooting, so by the time we were ready to attend the scene, CID had already made enquiries to identify the two offenders from the incident. The presence of some good quality CCTV went a long way. One was in hospital and the other was in hiding. The officers began a manhunt for the second offender and it turned out he was wanted for similar offences a few months back.

There was a private function at the club during the night/morning and some unwanted guests turned up with one thing on their mind. Trouble.

It was our task to collect the evidence to show the offender's involvement and to identify any other people at the scene who were key witnesses or possible offenders. The club had been a haven for a number of known criminals that night, idents were going to come easily.

When you know you are going to be at a scene for some time (and we knew this meant days in this case), it's helpful to find a sterile area where you can set up kit and store evidence that is collected. There was an unused room where we left our cases and large supply of bags and swabs.

I brought a case with various Crimelites with me. The Crimelite is a specially designed light source for use at crime scenes. The Crimelites are a high intensity LED light source which are available in violet, blue, blue-green and green as well as a white light for general examination. Each CSI has a personal issue White Crimelite for examinations of any scene. The varying colours and bandwiths are useful for detecting evidence such as blood, latent marks and other evidence by providing contrast using coloured lights and filters. Goggles are worn to protect the eyes. It's not quite CSI: Miami with the orange goggles and UV light but along the same lines!

I used the light to detect blood and bodily fluids and you'd be amazed at what I discovered on some of the seats- I wish I could take one of these everywhere I go, thought I'm pretty sure I'd never want so sit down anywhere!

There was the smell of stale blood in the air. There was blood in the doorway and in the porch area, there was also a lot of blood in a seating area where first aid had been administered and where an Ambulance crew had treated one of the offenders.

I was asked to conduct a search for the bullet casing that was still outstanding. I looked for a couple of hours. I conducted a fingertip search of the whole place from one end to the other and was frustrated that I hadn't found it. After I'd finished, a CID officer stopped by to inform me that one of the weapons was believed to be a revolver- revolvers retain the casing. I wish he'd told me that a few hours before, but at least a thorough search had been conducted of the premises.

I'm keen to ensure this post isn't too long as I know it can be tedious to read and read.

The next few days I spent at this scene. It was easy to loose track of time inside as there were no windows and only the three of us there, often in seperate parts of the club. I used Magneta flake powder, a metal flake based powder and a magnet applicator wand to recover footwear impressions on a tiled area around the bar. I even recovered a complete footprint, where someone had obviously been bare footed. Not something you find at every crime scene.

I'll talk more about recovery of blood samples in a dedicated future post.

My Blogs so far..

In case you have missed them, below is a list of some of my most interesting blog posts since I started my career as a CSI last year.

Fire Fatality

Deceased Male in Bath

My First Post Mortem

Ride Along in the USA


These are just a selection of my favourite posts/incidents.

I'll be blogging about a nightclub shooting I attended soon.

And remember you can follow me for updates on Twitter.



I've been lucky enough not to have attended any horrific suicides since I joined CSI. Needless to say, any suicide is sad. I think the saddest part for me is the fact that someone is in a situation that they believe causing their own death is the only answer.

In a professional way, I enjoyed going to this particular job. I know at first it sounds morbid or even heartless, but you have to understand that these are the type of incidents I will attend throughout my career, I will never enjoy the fact that people have caused their own death, but I do enjoy the opportunity to investigate it. My aim is to conduct myself as professionally as possible and that the investigation is conducted to the best of my ability.

I wasn't far off the end of an early turn (0700-1500) when the call came over the radio. Uniform and CID officers were at an address where a male was deceased. I didn't have to go, as the lates crew were on. CSI Woman (not the same person as CSI Girl obviously) was heading out to it and asked if I wanted to come along. I'd never turn down an opportunity to gain experience.

I sent a text message to my other half to tell her I'd be late home- she's used to it by now.

It didn't take long to get to the address, it was only a few miles away. I drove in a seperate van to CSI Woman so I could go back to the office when we'd finished. We approached the address together, but I let CSI Woman go slightly ahead of me, after all this was her job and she has much more experience than me.

I could see two uniformed officers at the end of the pathway, they'd already recognised our vans and knew who we were, the Detective was inside the property. We'd been called as it wasn't clear how the male had passed away at first, and we are called to any unexplained or suspicious deaths. A police officer's first and foremost duty is to protect life and property, once it had been ascertained that the male had passed away, officers should leave the address to preserve as much evidence as possible.

If it had turned out that the male had been murdered, for example, then the potential for contamination or disturbance of any evidence is high, especially if a Detective was wondering around inside picking things up!

CSI Woman waited at the door and called the Detective outside. He explained to us that the male was in the upstairs rear bedroom and that it had appeared he had taken an overdose.

CSI Woman and I suited and booted, we wore white suits, shoe covers, masks and gloves. This is for two reasons- the first and most important is to avoid any contamination of evidence. We don't want to deposit anything from our persons at the scene and nor do we want to move evidence on our clothing or shoes etc. The second reason is for hygiene, I don't particularly want any hazardous fluids on my clothing, and the other half also has an issue with it apparently.

The officers confirmed that the property had been secure upon their arrival, and that they'd forced the door with an enforcer as there were concerns for the safety of the occupant.

We made our way to the upstairs rear bedroom. It was important to actually look and observe whilst we made our way there- the stairs were void of any carpet. The bare wood was exposed, but it wasn't treated. There were splashes of paint on the wood. It was clear that this was old as the hallway seemed to have had paper on the walls for sometime.

As I walked into the bedroom where the male was, the first thing I saw was a large dark wood chest of drawers. There were various items on the top of this. The thing that stood out the most was the assortment of tablet containers, there were an unusually odd number of them.

As I pushed the door, it opened to show the whole room. No lights were on and it was cold, it was still light outside and the light shone through the window which gave a slight yellow hue to the room.

Face down, half on the bed and half on the floor, sloped at an awkward angle, was the deceased male. He was wearing a dark red jumper and green cord trousers, and he was likely to be in his late forties. The room was littered with cigarette ends and ash. There was a dustbin but there was little rubbish inside it, and I noted six empty whisky bottles on the floor near the male.

Before we touched or moved anything, CSI Woman took photographs. This allows a record to be made of the scene before we 'disturb' it. If we needed to confirm or query something at a later date, we could refer to the photographs.

Whilst CSI Woman was taking the photographs of the deceased male, I had a look in the front bedroom. It wasn't really a bedroom so much as a junk room. There were nondescript boxes stacked four or five high along one wall. They were addressed to the deceased male, and on closer investigation I could see they were full of Styrofoam balls. I dug around in the box and found a number of tubs, identical to those on the chest of drawers in the rear bedroom. I looked at one of the delivery notes inside one of the boxes, they had been shipped from an Internet based company in the States. They appeared to be mostly herbal tablets for weight loss- there were probably in excess of a hundred containers of tablets.

The Detective had found a note in the front room downstairs which appeared to be written by the deceased male. It was a note explaining why he had taken his own life and how he couldn't carry on with things as they were. The male had experienced serious mental health issues for some time and it was evident that his treatment had little effect. Along with the note were details of the deceased male's bank accounts, his will and other documents that would assist his family in dealing with his affairs after his death.

The fact that everything so far was suggesting that the male had committed suicide meant that we now had to ensure there was no evidence to the contrary at the scene.

CSI Woman and I had a thorough look around the property. Sadly, there weren't many personal possessions there at all, the fridge was full of food that had been decaying for weeks, even though the male had been seen alive only a few days ago. I also noted that there was a pet's food bowl in the kitchen on a mat and a cat flap, so I assumed the cat was out.

The male was obese and appeared rather unfit. However, there were fitness and body building products in the kitchen cupboards, including more containers of the herbal tablets that I had found upstairs.

Once we had finished our search and established that there appeared to be nothing that would raise suspicion of anything other than suicide, we went back to the upstairs rear bedroom.

We had to check the deceased male's body for any bruising or wounds, I checked the male's back. His skin was blistered and off colour but there were no wounds. As the male was of large build, it took two of us to turn him over. Where his face had been against the edge of the bed, it had flattened on one side.

After the heart stops beating, the blood in the body stops moving around. Gravity will take effect on the blood and it will settle in the body- this is known as Lividity or Livor Mortis. When the skin where the blood has settled comes into contact with an hard object or surface, that area appears to be white, the blood cannot settle there due to the contact. The male's face had an area of skin that was still white, whereas the rest was a dark red colour, almost purple. Sometimes Lividity can look like bruising and it's important to realise the difference.

Underneath the male was another empty whisky bottle. It appears he may have had this bottle in his hand when he fell.

We checked the male's hands for any cuts that would suggest he'd been involved in an altercation before he died, we also checked the rest of his body, and there was nothing to suggest anything other than suicide.

Once we were satisfied that it was suicide, we requested that the undertakers attend the scene to remove the deceased male. Whilst we waited, I collected all of the open containers of pills from the bedroom and bagged them in clear plastic bags. These would prove useful if the Pathologist had any queries about the male's stomach contents when it came to the Post Mortem.

After a short time, the undertakers arrived. It was the same two undertakers that had attended the decomposed male in the bath (http://tinyurl.com/yfvgex6). The first thing we discussed was how difficult it would be for them to remove the male. I took them upstairs to the rear bedroom where the deceased male was, they looked at him and then looked at me with raised eyebrows. I took this to mean they'd need a hand in getting the male into the bag they'd brought with them.

The undertaker unzipped a large, thick, black bag, and lay it on the ground beside the male. We each took hold of the male and lifted him only a few inches off the ground and sideways into the open bag. He was heavy and the bag only just closed, he filled the bag with little room to spare.

The undertakers took the male down the stairs, pausing three times to rest before finally getting out of the front door and to their vehicle.

I had one quick look around the property and ensured we left with all of our kit and left. I got home only a few hours late.