As I removed the blue council recycling bin, I saw a pair of feet, covered in a Tesco carrier bag.
That's not right. Blue means paper.
We weren't expecting to find a body here, this was a missing person enquiry. I most certainly wasn't expecting to find a body.
My immediate reaction was a gut wrenching blow to the stomach. I thought I was going to be sick. I see cadavers all the time. I touch them, I move them, sometimes my face is side by side of theirs whilst I look closely in their ear or eye. I'm use to cadavers. They don't worry me.
Except this one. This one is different.
I've just found a dead body. Normally other people find them and then I rock up expecting to see one.
This one is different.
I called to my colleague, who was in another room. Thing is, I was so confident that we weren't going to find a body, I'd joked only ten minutes ago about finding the occupant in a large compost bin. My colleague fell for it, until I laughed out loud and then we carried on, after an expletive or two.
I said 'Hannah, He's in here. I've found him under the boxes in the lean to'
Hannah clearly thought I was pulling her leg again. 'Ok' she said, 'I'm going for lunch'
'I'm being serious, Hannah, He's in here. I''m not fucking joking.'
She didn't say anything else, she just came to the door way, where I was stood, doubled over, holding my stomach with my right hand.
She saw his feet and gasped 'Shit' followed by a long silent pause, we just looked at each other.
The family had reported the single elderly occupant missing, he hadn't been seen for more than a day, which was unusual. Police had attended, searched the premise and took misper (missing person) details and left. It's not unusual for people to come back a few hours late, having been somewhere or done something and not told their family. This didn't appear to be any different to that. As time passed over the next two days, family members noticed things missing, like the TV which should have been inside a cabinet in the front room, the iPad which should have been in the sofa tidy. Police came back, re-searched the house, under beds, in sheds, compost bins, nothing.
The occupant's vehicle was missing, presumed to be with him, so Officers were also searching local areas or it, pub car parks, shopping centres. There was even a press release with a photo of the van. No one had seen it.
We were called in to examine the house, see if we could find anything unusual, we did, within seconds of arriving. I noticed small amounts of blood on the utility room floor. We're trained observers.
Someone had tried to clean up, poorly.
The blood was diluted, as if it'd been washed. I could see small blood stains on the kickboards of the cupboards. Something happened here.
Someone was injured. There were drag marks in blood on the conservatory floor. Towards the door. The flooring was a dark wood, so the blood was difficult to see. I wouldn't have expected Officers to have noticed this. But we're trained observers.
Now I often wonder if we'd been victims of confirmation bias. We'd been told that the house had been searched, twice, and the occupant wasn't there. The blood raised the game, but the fact that the car was missing and there were drag marks made us wrongly assume the occupant had been taken elsewhere. We relied on the information we'd been given to form our opinion. Maybe we should have challenged our thoughts more.
Turns out the drag marks were away from, not towards the door.
The van had been stolen by the suspect.
Even though we thought that the victim wasn't there, we searched anyway, turning beds upside down, moving wardrobes, inside cupboards and the likes. The problem here was that the lean to was tidy, it looked like a lean to was supposed to look, empty cardboard boxes for home appliances, washing baskets, empty recycling bins. But, we're trained observers?
The victim lay here, undiscovered for days. In our defence, the male was well concealed, under a pile of neatly stacked boxes, with a void carefully constructed in the centre.
'I'll call the SIO' Hannah said.
'Rather you than me' I said. That's going to be an awkward conversation.
'Hi Boss? You know that body we said definitely wasn't here? Yea, well, about that'
I continued to uncover the male, box by box, taking photographs after each one. Tesco toaster, in hot pink, Hobbs coffee maker in beige, Britta water filter, Ikea washing basket, times two.
All of these boxes and baskets can provide forensic opportunities, I handle them with great care. My brain is chucking thoughts and scenarios at a thousand miles per hour whilst I'm working.
Once all the boxes have been removed, the male lays there, covered in black bin liners. His sock covered feet are poking out of the Tesco carrier bag.
For the first time, I felt uncomfortable at a murder scene. I didn't want to touch the male, I didn't want to unwrap the bin liners. When I got to his head, which had been subject to incredible blunt force trauma, I didn't want to look at his face.
I guess there's a little bit of me that feel responsible for not finding him sooner. If it's any consolation, he was definitely dead before we even got the call about him being missing. The pathologist confirmed this. At least it meant finding him sooner wouldn't have saved his life, which makes me feel better in a strange kind of way.
I text my girlfriend and said 'I just found a body' Not the text she was expecting when she slid the notification to the right on her iPhone.
Normally, at this sort of job, we get on with the tasks required, like fibre taping exposed skin, swabbing areas for DNA transfer, removing jewellery and clothing. When we do this, we talk to each other, about normal things, like what films we've watched, what we're doing on our rest days and the ridiculous things the boss said to us last week.
This one is different.
We both worked in silence, only saying the odd word or two, which related to what we were doing at that moment.
Talk to any Officer or CSI and they'll tell you about that one job that sticks with them. That one job they'd rather not talk about. That one job their family has no idea they dealt with.
I remember all of the murder scenes I've been to, but I'll definitely not forget this one.