Suspicious Death

The words "Suspicious Death" came over the radio.

That's going to be the next job, I thought.

Pretty much everything else will be put on hold for such a job.

A death can be labelled as suspicious for many reasons and by a number of people. The most common scenario is that a Paramedic has attended a job and found a person deceased. The Paramedic will normally make an informed decision as to whether or not two and two make four.

If it doesn't add up then they will call us.

The normal response is an Officer or Supervisor, sometimes both, will attend the scene and collect the facts.

An Inspector and a PC attended this job and they agreed with the Paramedic that the death appeared suspicious.

Sometimes the Officers don't agree, but Supervision will often ask for CSI in order to confirm or deny these suspicious aspects. That's always a tough one. Diplomacy at it's best.

If a death is likely to turn into a murder investigation, then a Crime Scene Manager (CSM) will always be appointed. The CSM will coordinate department's response.

Luckily for us, CSM Lady was on duty. She's been off for a while. It's nice to have her back. I asked if I could come along to assist and she agreed.

I drove to the scene. I've got a shiny new van, full of kit. This would be it's first decent job.

The address should have given it away. Maybe I hadn't noticed, maybe I was thinking about other things. This part of town has a large number of tower blocks. They're not called 'Sunny Tower Block' but they're all called 'Something' 'House'.

I don't know if it's the Council's way of brightening up a deprived area, or whether or not the person in charge at the time, thought it funny. They don't look like a house, they don't smell like a house and it's downright misleading to call them a 'House'.

I wouldn't live there.

I reversed the van up next to the Police car, so we could access the back doors of the van from the pavement. We put a collection of equipment into a small box to carry it to the scene, grabbed our cases and headed inside.

You get used to the aroma by the time you reach the stairs.
We looked at each other in realisation that the scene was on the top floor.

Two options, two flights of stairs for each floor for sixteen floors or the lift.

CSM was in charge. Sixteen flights was an awful long way to walk with the kit.

The lift it was.

I hate the lift. There was the usual; graffiti on the wall, smell of urine, chewing gum on the buttons. Someone here though had taken it up a notch. Faeces on the ceiling. Great.

We get out on the correct floor and we are met by a bobby guarding the scene. Half an hour ago, this floor was buzzing with people. Paramedics, a handful of bobbies, neighbours and Council workers. All in a space impossible for two people to pass each other.

Now it was the PC, CSM Lady and me. I prefer it this way.

CSM had a discussion with the bobby and then a conversation on the phone with the Inspector who attended.

CSM Lady delegates the videoing of the scene to me. She volunteers to take the photos. She takes the photos first. I follow behind her, making sure I'm not in any of them.

This place is a mess. I wasn't expecting much, but this is a wreck.
The guy has very little furniture. The living room consists of a single mattress with a waterproof cover as a sheet, an avocado coloured arm chair and a television.

That's it.

There was no carpet on the floor, no door handles on the doors, no light bulbs in the lights and no food in the cupboards.

There were six empty cans of strong cider, an empty packet of Monster Munch and some chocolate wrappers on the floor amongst the other rubbish.

The floor was covered in a thick layer of dirt and grime. I'm glad I have my white suit and footwear protectors on. As always, two pairs of gloves.

This is a property provided by the Council.

This is Social Housing.

The kitchen sink had dried blood and mucus in it. It was clear this guy wasn't well. No wonder, looking at where he sleeps and lives.
He was on a cocktail of drugs for various conditions. Empty boxes lay on the floor, as did the odd crushed tablet.

The male lay on his back, on the mattress. He was in his late forties. He looked in his late sixties.

The TV was still on, but just giving out static. I wonder what he was watching before he died?

Once all the photos had been taken, it was my turn to come in with the video.
The video won't show anything that the photos didn't show. The video is often used at any subsequent briefing.

I started at the front door. I pushed record. I took a breath and began.

"I am CSI Guy 999 of Anytown CSI and the time is 1100 on the 1st January 2001"
It felt weird at first, talking to the camera. I soon got into the swing of it. As I progressed through the property, I gave a commentary.

People use the camera in different ways. I try to stand still whilst it's recording and pan from left to right. I will talk about what can be seen and then hit pause. I will then move to another part of the room and do the same again. I will do this from each corner of the room, ensuring that everything is captured on film. Some people try to walk with the camera or use the zoom, I've seen one of these videos and it feels like a roller coaster ride. The screen is all over the place and it's difficult to keep track of what is where.

It felt like I had been in the property with the camera for fifteen minutes. The elapsed time was 05:04. Not long at all.

There wasn't much to see.

It was hot inside. Not because the heating was on, I doubt this flat ever had the heating on. Being in a suit, with a mask and gloves on whilst working can work up a sweat.

The only clean place to put the camera was an Argos catalogue. It couldn't have been here long. I put the camera down on top of it and I stepped out onto the balcony. I'm on the sixteenth floor, no one's going to see me in my suit up here. I could see for miles and miles. It was a brilliant view. I'd love to get a photo from this balcony at night.

I'm not sure I'd want to walk in this area at night, let alone with my camera. It's sad really, there are some really nice people that live near here, I'm sure. The problem is, there are some really nasty people too. Once an area gets a reputation, it's difficult to shake it.
I'm not sure if this was the highest building I'd been in or not, the cars look like toys on the road below.

Once I finished with the video, I went back into the hallway. CSM Lady was on the phone to the Inspector. When she finished we went back inside.

The suspicious element of this job came about when and how the male was found. There was nothing else to suggest his death was untoward. We always check the person for any injuries. That was next.

This is where my double gloves come in handy.

CSM Lady took some close up photos of the male. She took one of his face, square on, this may be useful if his identity is unknown. The male had some tattoos and she photographed these too. I held his arms and hands in place for photos.

We need to check his back.

I took hold of his right arm and right leg and rolled him away from me. He was stiff. Rigor Mortis had set in. When I rolled him over, his back was different colours. Parts of his back were deep purple and some were pale, almost white.

When someone dies, the blood in their body stops circulating and as a result of gravity, will sink to the lowest accessible parts. This is known as 'Hypostasis' or 'Lividity' as well as other similar names. This can be useful determining whether or not someone has been moved after death. After a period of time, and this varies, the blood will remain fixed in the lower parts of the body. If a person is then moved, it will be clear to an investigator that the body isn't in the position it was when it died. This difference can also be seen in a person's organs.
The white parts of the male were where his body had been against the mattress. It was visible on his shoulders and his buttocks. The pressure on the skin prevented the blood settling there. These white areas can be seen on most people when they've died. Elasticated socks, tight belts, bra straps, watches and any ligature will have the same effect.

I could also see the dirt and grime from the mattress that had stuck to his back, along with a few copper coins.
He had no injuries that would give CSM Lady or myself cause for concern.

CSM Lady decided that the male would have a Post Mortem to determine the cause of death. Until that was completed, the property would remain secure.

We brought in two body bags. We lay the first one out next to the male. We unzipped it and lifted him into it. We lay the second body bag out next to the first and lifted that one into the second. Once they were both zipped up, the outer bag needs a tamper evident seal. This allows the Dr at the PM to be confident that the bag hasn't been opened in transport or storage. CSM Lady photographed this.

I didn't go to the Post Mortem, it took place the following day whilst I was off. It turned out the male died as a result of the numerous conditions he suffered from and there was no indication of foul play.

The Council will be happy that the can let that flat out again. I wonder what the next tenants would do with the place.


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