Fingerprinting a Decomposed Male

It was a particularly slow day at work, unusually so.

It's days like this when I get a chance to catch up on paperwork. Statement requests for upcoming court cases are always dropping into my inbox. I take time and care with my statements, they are detailed and factual. Some colleagues make their statements brief on the belief that they can elaborate when giving evidence at court. I prefer my theory; provide as much information as possible to ensure any questions the prosecution or defence may have are answered in my statement.

I very rarely go to court so my theory seems to work.

I was finishing up on a statement when my radio went off. It was a colleague, they asked if I could assist them at the mortuary.

'Post-Mortem?' I asked.

'N'ah, just fingerprints' he replied.

From time to time, we assist the Coroner in identifying someone who cannot be identified in a traditional way.

My colleague has done this type of job before and knew I would snap at the chance to help, we agreed to meet at the mortuary in an hour's time.

The mortuary was in the City centre, we don't use this one often. Parking is a nightmare, so I found a 'Police' parking bay nearby, I put the CSI sign on the dashboard and got my kit together.

I met my colleague at the entrance and he rang the bell. It didn't look like a mortuary- It was an old Victorian building and was stunning to look at. You could walk by and have no idea that there were fifty or so fridges inside, built for deceased people.

The mortuary technician let us in and seemed to know my colleague. He knows everyone, he's done the job for twenty years.

The place stank, more so than normal. The normal mortuary smells, but there's often a clean smell there somewhere too. Not here.

There's no office, no changing rooms and no where to put my case. I'm very particular about where I put my case, it goes everywhere with me, from murder scenes to burglaries. It's got to be kept clean, and I'm something of a clean freak.

The technician leads us part away along the fridge lined corridor. We stop and he says 'He's in here' and opens up a fridge door at about waist height. He lines a trolley up to the door and pulls the tray out. There's a black body bag on it. He pushes it towards us and says 'All yours lads, give me a shout when you're done.'

He slams the fridge door shut and begins to walk away. I've intimated to my colleague that I don't want to put my case on the floor. The smell was a warning. My colleague asks if there is a table we can borrow.

The technician walks back along the corridor and reappears a few moments later with a trolley. A trolley they use to move deceased people about on. 'This is the best we've got' he says, I can see now why we don't use this mortuary very often.

I lay some green paper towels on the trolley and put my folder on them. That'll have to do for now.

My colleague suggests that we should be able do what we need to do without getting dirty so white suits won't be needed.

He pulls back the zip and that smell hits me, hard. It's a smell that I recognise instantly. It's death. There's no other smell like it, and it's bad. I can normally bear it, but this guy is badly decomposed, I have to wear a mask to feel comfortable.

There are hundreds of maggots. Hundreds.

I take a closer look. His eyes are clouded and have shrunk in their sockets, the skin that remains on his face his saggy, It's hanging from parts of his face. His mouth and nostrils and full of maggots.

They are slow moving as they've been in the freezer and have defrosted in the fridge. They're slowly coming back to life. A single Bluebottle can lay up to 300-2000 eggs in clusters of 30-150. The eggs are often laid on moist areas, which explains why maggots appear in nostrils, eyelids, mouth and genitals as well as open wounds.

I don't know what ethnicity this male is, it's hard to tell as the decomposition has discoloured his skin badly.

His hands are together, tied with string. At first, this set alarm bells ringing, but this appears to be something the mortuary do when storing people.

As a result of his hands being tied together and being placed on his stomach, his hands had sunk into his body. They are surround by fluid. An off brown fluid.

I retrieve a scalpel from my case to cut the string around his hands. That's definitely not going back in my case. His hands need drying before we can print them. My colleague takes hold of a hand and begins to dab the male's fingers with green paper towel, The green paper quickly changes colour to match the fluid it's drying.

There are a number of ways that we can take this male's fingerprints, using various powders and recovery techniques. My colleague suggests that we start with the easiest. I like that idea- I don't want to be in this place any longer than is necessary.

We have small brushes for this very purpose, which are disposable. We used aluminium powder, it's silver and like a very fine dust. It's a flake powder, which means each flake sits on top of the last. It can be applied steadily and built up, it's best to start with too little and keep adding powder. I haven't filled my ally' pot up for twelve months or more- a little goes a long way.

My colleague held the male's wrist.

I put the brush on the edge of the make shift table and grab a some fingerprint tape. This is the same tape we use to recover fingerprints from scenes. I apply it carefully to the male's thumb and pressed it. His hands were cold, his fingertips were wrinkled. By pressing hard, I hoped to get as much detail from between wrinkles.

Whilst doing this I could see that the maggots were becoming more and more lively. As they were warming up they were become more active, almost giving the illusion that the male was actually moving!

We both became very aware that the maggots were spilling everywhere and that maybe we should have worn those suits after all.

I slowly and carefully peeled the tape away from his thumb and stuck the tape on a piece of clear acetate to be photographed later. We repeated this step for each digit, some gave better marks than other, but I was confident we had enough detail to make an identification.

Clearing up our stuff needs to be in a specific order to ensure that dirty things are disposed and anything clean is handled with clean gloves. I'm very careful to ensure this is the case. Sometimes I stop and speak out the order in which I am going to touch things to make sure clean is clean.

Once everything is in an orange bag and away from me I gather my clean items in order to leave. I keep a clean glove on my right hand to carry my case to the van, as soon as its outside the mortuary, I'm scrubbing it!

Deja Vu

I can't speak French, but I know I've seen this before.

I was given the address over the radio. I wrote it down and then copied it onto my Sat Nav.

I like to pride myself on my attention to detail. I have a very good memory, normally for numerical information.

It just didn't regsiter in my mind.

Maybe I hadn't processed the information fully, I was concentrating on getting to the job.

The Sat Nav took me to the start of the street. I drove down it at about 15mph so I could see the numbers. Not many houses have their number visible. It's a guessing game sometimes. If I ever meet the person responsible for numbering some streets, well...

There was the number '27' in red glass, in the centre of a fixed pane window above a large Victorian door.

It's coming back to me now. I've been here before.

I let the control room know that I've arrived and I got my case out of the back of the van. I put a pair of gloves on and walked towards the door.

All the while, I'm looking at the property, trying to figure out why I have been here before. I can't quite put my finger on it.

There were a set of six doorbells on the right hand side of the door frame. There's a red painted step up, from the driveway.

I've got it. I've been here before for a suicide.

Standby, this could be a bit awkward.

I rang the doorbell for number six. That's the flat I went to last time. Top floor.

I was buzzed in and the occupant met me in the stairs.

I held my breath as I heard the occupant walking towards me. I let out a small sigh of relief when I realised that it wasn't the same family as it was when I was here last.

"Hiya Luv" "Come on up" She said.

I followed her to the flat door.

She had been burgled. I was there to examine the scene for evidence.

As far as I'm aware, she had no idea that someone had commited suicide in her flat, only a few months ago.

She walked me through the flat. All of her stuff was there, but it looked just as it did before. There was an atmosphere, but nothing like when I was here before. I created this atmosphere.

She took me to the point of entry, a sash window beside a fire escape in the single bedroom.

As I walk in, I see the very same wardrobe that the twenty-something lad had used to hang himself. The furniture in the room hasn't changed. It's all exactly as it was.

The male had used his belt through the closed wardrobe door. His girlfriend had commited suicide six months earlier.

He left a poem that explained how he felt and why he felt he needed to go. There were two or three atempts that had been screwed up in the bin.

I've said it before, no doubt I'll say it again; It's a sad situation that people think suicide is the only answer.

I examind the scene and retrieved some footwear exhibits. I fingerprinted a jewellery box and had two fingerprints that belonged to the offender.

Job done.



Attempted Suicide

I only had two burglaries and I was done. I looked at my watch, it read 1554. I've not been on duty two hours yet.

Now, what to do whilst I wait for the next job? A certain High Street coffee shop gets a large portion of my salary.

Why not, I've got time.

I park the van in the staff car park at the rear, they've told me to do this before. There's always a few spare spaces.

"Black Forest Hot Chocolate?" The Manager asks,

"Go on then...!"

I held it in my hand for no more than three minutes when the radio went.

An attempted suicide. An attempted suicide?

Its about seven miles away. Enough time to drink my hot chocolate I guess.

The job is on a different division to the one I'm on at the moment.

"CSI Guy to Control, over"

"Ah, good afternoon CSI Guy, go ahead"

"Good afternoon. I've been asked to attend Flat 56, Huge Tower, Any Road. I'll be twenty minutes, over"

"Noted, Thank-you"

I use the Sat Nav on my iPhone, so I programme the address in and set off.

Whilst I'm driving, I'm trying to figure out how this is an attempted suicide. I've heard small bits over the radio but not enough to understand it.

I arrived in just over twenty minutes.

As I approach, access to the small service road ahead of the tower block is restricted by a Police van.

The passenger gets out and I wind down the window. She says "The gaffa is just down there" and she points towards a bin area at the right hand side of the block.

I park up and grab my clipboard. I write down the time in the top right corner of the front page.

As I walk around the fence of the bin store, there's an Inspector and Sergeant staring towards the sky. The Inspector is tapping his finger towards the sky and squinting.

There's claret all over the ground. Thick, dark red claret. There's Paramedic paraphernalia on the ground around the blood.

The Inspector gives me the run down.

Turns out that the thirty-something male tried to hang himself from the balcony railing.

Tried being the operative word.

Depending on which way you look at it, this guy was either very lucky or very unlucky.

He lowered himself over the railing with the ligature around his neck. His fiance and two four year old twin girls were inside.

By all accounts, he only hung there for about three seconds before his fiance came out to see what was going on.

She tried to help him back up. He had changed his mind.

He didn't want to die.

She pulled with all her might, he was seventeen stone in weight, she was ten- it wasn't going to work.

She lost her gripped and the ligature tightened. Then it snapped.

He fell nine stories and landed on his back beside the bin area, he whacked his head on a skip as he did.

He was still alive. The Paramedics had whisked him off to A&E before I got there.

It was my job to ensure there was no foul play and to document the scene in case he did pass away.

I've mentioned before, I don't like lifts. Thankfully it was only the ninth floor.

A case in each hand and my clipboard under my left arm.

I opened the door to the flat.

It stank. Not a smell I'm use to at home. I've grown accustomed to it, its skank and dirt. People and clothes that haven't been washed for a while.

The corridor had a number of doors leading off of it.

Each internal door had holes in the main panel. I see this a lot in these blocks. I used to wonder what these were. They are fist holes.

Someone gets angry and punches the nearest thing, three or four times. At least it wasn't his fiance, or his twins.

There is no carpet, there use to be floor tiles. Some of them remain, broken.

It should be a two bedroom flat. The master bedroom has a 50 inch flat screen on the wall. There's a double bed and a single bed. Everyone sleeps in this room.

The second bedroom is full of junk. There's what looks to be the remains of a cannabis grow room. This is the room that the twins should be sleeping in.

I take photographs as I progress through the scene. I take a few steps and take another.

As I get to the living room I can see the door to the balcony. I walk outside and the remains of the bed sheet is flapping in the wind.

There are marks on the rail and the wall beneath the balcony, most likely to be where he desperately tried to climb back up.

I take a photograph from the balcony showing the ground. I need to shout down to clear officers out of the scene.

I take the remainder piece of the bed sheet and exhibit it.

I make note of some other bits and pieces that I can see about the place that may be relevant later.

I walk back downstairs with my cases and take some photos of the bin area. The rest of the bed sheet is on the floor, it's been cut of by Paramedics.

The guy didn't die. He was in hospital for some time. I'm unsure of what his circumstances are now.

A Load of Cr*p

I sat at my desk with a coffee at about 0645 hours. I start at 0700.
I had a flick through emails, responding to some and flagging others to deal with later.

The control room called up: "Any CSI on the air?"

I replied "CSI Guy, go ahead, over"

They passed me a log number that needed attendance as a priority as the owner was waiting to leave.

It was a break in at a nightclub. The manager had been working all night and wanted to get going.

I arrived by about 0725, missing most of the traffic on the way there.

I knew of the nightclub, but hadn't been to it. This would be the first time I see the inside.

As I pulled up to park the van, I couldn't see any obvious signs of a break in. There was a small blue Fiesta in the car park, that must be the manager'. I'll park there.

The manager opened the door before I knocked. He must have seen me coming.

"SOCO ain't it?"

Technically it's CSI, but hey, SOCO works for me.

"Yes fella, what've we got here then?"

I followed the manager in the door. I could smell stale alcohol and sweat. We walked past five or six large wheelie bins full of glass bottles.

"Busy night?" I asked.

"It was alright, bloody student night wasn't it?"

I laughed. No idea what he meant.

We walked through the nightclub. My feet stuck to the carpet each time I took a step.

We went through the bar area and along a corridor. The break in was in the office space upstairs.

As the manager opened the door, there was an awful smell.

I didn't say anything incase that was normal here.

The manager was pointing out rooms that had been broken into, drawers that had been opened and the space where the safe use to be.

And then he said "And I've been told to leave this for you"

He was talking about the smelliest pile of faeces I had ever seen.

"Right" was my reply. This was a surprise to me. No one had mentioned this before I attended.

It turns out an offender had entered the office area whilst the club was open and the staff were busy with 'the bloody students'. The offender had a sudden urge to defecate and couldn't make his way to the toilet at the other end of the corridor so squatted down at the top of the stairs.

I'm also assuming that he had no toilet roll. There was a brown swipe across the Health and Safety poster on the wall.

It's before 0800, I've had no breakfast and I'm about to scoop up someone else's excrement.

Oh Joy.

I'm not touching this stuff without a suit and a mask. There is no chance that any of that is ending up on me.

I want to keep the pile as a pile. I've got some tubs the size of a small ice cream tub in the van. I'll use one of those.

This is going to be a tricky mission. The success of this depends on the consistency of said faeces. I get a piece of acetate that is usually used in footwear recovery. I slide it slowly into the base of the pile and push. It works it's way through and underneath.

All sorts of smells are now hitting me. My face is no more than two feet away. This stinks.

I hold the stool on the acetate in my right hand and without moving my eyes off of it, I slide the tub closer with my left hand.  It goes in, just. The lid is touching the top of it.

I pull the poster down and roll it on itself.

I recover a few fingerprints and take some photos.

The prints didn't give me a match against anyone.

The faeces are sent off to the lab. This costs a fortune; probably because the task is so unpleasant.

Thankfully I got a name from the faeces and the guy is locked up for the job.