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?