The Day I Found a Body..

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. 

Time Flies

I'm leaning on one knee whilst resting my right hand gingerly on the window ledge, I'm looking obliquely at the sill. 

There's at least seventy three blue bottles. Some are on their side, some on their back. One or two look like they're spooning each other. 

I'm using one of our new face fitted masks, so there's no smell, yet. 

The occupants haven't been seen for a week. The neighbours noticed the curtains closed for a few days. We don't get a build up of milk bottles on door steps anymore, in fact, I can't remember the last time I saw a milk man.

Officers have attended because of concerns for the occupants by neighbours, they've not been seen for a week or more, which is unusual.

How long do you leave it before raising the alarm? You don't want to worry anyone, or cause undue panic, do you? 

When officers have arrived, they found a side window ajar and the probationer was made to climb through. Not only his first 'concern' call, not only his first discovery of a body. 

This was also his first discovery of two bodies.

Two deceased persons in one place without an obvious cause is good reason to be suspicious. 

Officers are often first to attend scenes where people are discovered dead, but they're not experienced at recognising what petechiae looks like or understanding what blood patterning looks like. Is that blood from the nose or is it purge? Is that an injury or is that fluid escaping from orifices after death? Has the person been moved after death? Does the lividity match the circumstances? 

These are all questions a CSI and CSM will consider when attending a sudden or suspicious death. 

Regardless of the outcome here, there's a bit of work to do, including lifting and moving the people found inside. I'll need help on this one. I called ahead and arranged for two CSIs from the local division to meet me at the address.

Before we do anything, I want to have a look, I want to see what we've got. I like to do this on my own, so I can just look and think, without distraction or bias from anyone else.

We're only human after all, if someone makes a suggestion, gives a reason for what we see, my mind keeps hold of that. I don't want to be influenced unintentionally.

When I do this, I don't touch or move anything. I want this scene to remain exactly as I found until I make a decision with the Detective Inspector as to how we're going to proceed. 

I take my logbook, a pen and my CrimeLite. 

Sometimes it's easy to be drawn to the people in a scene and get tunnel vision. I deliberately leave the deceased persons until last. I want to look at the post, what dates are on it? Has any been opened? How much credit is left on the electricity meter? Which lights are on? What channel is the television on? 

I start in the front bedroom on the first floor. The curtains are pulled. The lights are off, I use my CrimeLite to see the way. The CrimeLite is probably brighter than the 40W energy saving light in the fitting anyway. 

It's like I've walked into a time capsule. This room looks like it's sixty years old. Nothing has been changed or updated in the last half a century. The furniture looks like the stuff you see at the British Heart Foundation, after someone's passed away and the family can't sell the furniture so they give it away. It'll end up being a 'shabby chic' item on eBay in a few weeks. Although dated, there's nothing out of place in here. There's a double bed, but only one side of the quilt is peeled back. On the opposite side of the bed is a pile of genltemen's clothes, neatly folded. There's a perpetual calendar, which shows 'May 1st 1992'.

I'm confident that they've not been dead for 25 years. 

Maybe that's when the wife moved into another room. It's a common occurrence at these jobs, the male and female have separate rooms, normally due to ill health or mobility issues. I've been to one house where the couple had no contact at all on a day to day basis, the house was literally divided in two and they lived separate lives.

Each to their own, I'm not here to judge.

I walk down the hallway and I can't help but stare at the carpet. It's probably the original carpet, as in it's always been here and has never been replaced. It's an odd style. Full of browns and mustard colours. I shine my CrimeLite on the floor as I walk, it'll show up any blood or foreign articles easier. 

This floor looks like one of those colour blind test pages.

I tour the house, taking time to soak up what I'm seeing in each room, I make notes of some things and mental notes of others. Sometimes, something so insignificant at first can become vital as an investigation continues. I remember one job where the murder victim's laptop was stolen and the investigation team were trying to track it down using digital forensics. They needed the serial number but no one had it. I remember noting a HP laptop box in the garage when I did my walk through. We went straight back to the photos, zoomed in on the boxes and there it was, serial number on the side of the box. This helped tracked down the laptop at a Cash Converters which then identified a suspect.

Sometimes, something looks odd or out of place, to me or my colleagues, but may be the norm for the occupants of the address. There was what looked like the corpse of an animal on the kitchen floor. Technically it was. It was a carcass of a chicken, which appeared to have been put down next to the cat bowl. This stank. Even through my mask. 

Sometimes you can't explain what you see. Sometimes you don't need to. 

The female occupant was in an armchair in the conservatory, she still had her glasses on and a copy of the radio times on her lap. On the table next to her was a quaint cup and saucer, with just a small amount of tea in the bottom. There were two 'church window' biscuits on the table next to the saucer. 

She's got a flowery skirt on that comes down to her shins. She's wearing tights and slippers. Her slippers are a blue velvet material with a trim of 'fluff' over the top of the foot. I can see that her legs are deep purple in colour. The blood has settled in the lower extremities, this is normal. If you can call this normal. 

Nothing gives me cause for concern here. When she's been photographed, I'll search her whole body for injuries, I'll open her eyelids and check for any signs of strangulation, I'll open her mouth and check for anything obstructing her airway, I'll check her hands, front and back for offensive or defensive injuries, has she got skin and or blood under her fingernails? I'll only make a decision when I've fully examined her from head to toe. I'll tell the DI what I've seen and noted. Sometimes, the DI will be there whilst I do this, sometimes they'd prefer not to be. 

The male is on the kitchen floor. He has no top on and he's just wearing underwear. Unusual, it's two in the afternoon. However, it could have been two in the morning when he ended up here.

He's got a good head of hair. I'm jealous. I lost mine when I was 19. 

It's easier to search the male for injuries as he's almost naked. He's got what appears to be a skin complaint, with what looks like a bad case of eczema all up one arm. 

I can see that the process of decomposition is well underway. His abdomen is distended, it's purple and green in colour and there's the distinct smell of Pickled Onion Monster Munch that surrounds him. 

Anything that's moist, lovely word, will attract flies who then lay eggs. Nostrils, mouth, genitals and any wounds are all fair game, full of maggots. Looks strange the first time you see it, looks like the person is moving.

I finish my tour, noting everything I can and go outside. It's not a hot day, but the moment I step outside I feel the cool breeze on my face. Wearing this PPE makes you hot and sweaty real quick. I brief the two CSIs as to what I've seen and ask them to photograph the entire address. When they head in, I take my suit off, it's nice to have the chance to cool down.

I finish making some notes out the front of the address. Passers by are stopping and staring, some of the braver ones approach the PC at the front gate and ask them 'What's happened?' And they get the stock answer. 'Nothing to worry about' and the conversation normally stops there. 

The DI is on the phone, he's briefed his DCI as to the current situation. I wait for him to come off the phone and tell him what I've seen and what I've noticed.

There's nothing inside that indicates to me that the couple have died a violent or offensive death. The DI asks if their death could have been as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning, which is a good call when you've got more than one person deceased at a location. I recorded that there is no gas supply to the house and there are no small independent appliances that could have caused this. 

Sometimes, depending on the DI, we have the discussion about 'Let's do a forensic Post Mortem, just in case' and my response is always the same. We can do a forensic PM, but we treat the whole scene and investigation as a 'suspicious or unexplained' death if that's the case. We can't do half a job. It's either suspicious or not. If there's one small thing that doesn't make sense or appears suspicious, then the whole job is suspicious. There's no fifty fifty. 

The CSIs finish and come outside for air. I suit up again and this time so does the DI, I need to show her what I've seen and give my advice and interpretation of the scene.

Now the scene has been recorded, I move each of the couple in turn, checking them from head to toe for injuries and anything that can help with a version of events or circumstances that led to their deaths. There are no injuries on either of them, offensive or defensive.

It appears they've each passed away within a short time of each other. It's a sad story, someone has lost two relatives at the same time. 

People die every single day, sometimes we're involved, sometimes we're not. Sometimes it suspicious, sometimes it's not. 

There's dozens of points to consider when deciding whether or not deaths require further investigation, and I couldn't go through them all here. Every incident is different and unique and each presents varying factors to consider. 

When we're involved, we make sure we're one hundred per cent it's either non suspicious or otherwise, when there's any doubt, we continue investigating until we're convinced one way or the other. 

What is the Worst Thing You've Seen?

It's a question I hear all of the time, as soon as people find out I'm a CSI. 

I love my job, so why wouldn't I want to talk about it?! I love talking about it.

I'll often ask them to tell me about the worse thing they've seen first. It hardly ever compares. So then I think to myself, do they really want to know about the worst thing I've seen?

Most people really wouldn't want to hear about the worse thing I've seen, let alone see it. 

Most of the worst things ultimately involve death. The death of someone's son or daughter, mother or father.

Once you've seen it, you've seen it. There's no unseeing. Not only have I been there and seen it, I've smelt it, I've touched it and moved it. I've taken photographs of it, I've put it in a bag, I've undressed it, I've picked bits up from the other side of the room and pieced them together, taken it out of the boot of a car, from the bottom of a wheelie bin, from the conveyor belt of a recycling centre.

These things don't bother me. I'm not affected by them. It's not because I'm heartless or cold. It's because I don't know these people. This is my job. My career. Someone has to do this and I'm proud that it's me. 

Just because it doesn't affect me, it doesn't mean I don't do these tasks without compassion. I treat every person I deal with, with the utmost respect. Sometimes the things we do appear undignified, which is where I often find myself talking to the person who has passed, making a quick apology for the way we're doing something. 

I'm very rarely alone when I see these things, there will no doubt be at least another CSI or two with me. My colleagues see and smell the same things. We talk about it, whilst we're doing it, in the van on the way to McDonalds afterwards, in the office when we're writing the job up or weeks later when something reminds us of the job. We talk about it together because there's very few people who would want to talk about these things in the detail we do.

So, my question to you: What's the worse thing you've seen?

The Rhythm of My Life

I had to readjust my knee, as I knelt down next to his head, as there was a small pebble on the carpet.

He lay on his back, his left arm out perpendicular to his body. He was wearing a red shirt and black trousers. He only had one shoe on. I hadn't seen the other one yet.

I reached across his chest with my right arm to reach for the knot in the Woolworth's carrier bag around his head. It took me a few minutes to undo it, especially with two pairs of rubber gloves on. I photographed the knot extensively, knots can be very useful evidence. I wanted to keep the bag intact for fingerprints.

I knew I was going to have to take it off eventually, but I wasn't really looking forward to seeing his face. The amount of blood visible through the carrier bag was a very good indication that whatever had happened, wasn't pretty.

I slowly took the bag off, trying to be as careful as possible as I did. 

I concentrated solely on the bag and ensured I recovered it properly before focusing on his face, despite knowing that his face was directly in front of mine.

I put the carrier bag inside an open plastic bag and then sealed that, upright, inside a brown paper bag. This meant that the wet blood wouldn't soak through the paper bag before I had a chance to get it to the drying cabinet back at the station. 

I turned back to face him. I'd seen photographs of him throughout his house and this didn't look like him. I mean, it was him, but it didn't look like him. He had taken a real beating. There were dents and lumps all over his head and face. 

Apart from the offender, I'm the first person to see this gentleman like this. I photographed his face, documenting as many of the injuries as I could. I knew I was taking photographs that no one would want to look at. When he goes for a Post-Mortem, the injuries will be carefully washed and re-photographed, hopefully showing more detail and less gore.

This was a frenzied attack.

I called a colleague for help, this was going to take one person a long time, two people would speed the process up. I've been at work for thirteen hours already. 

The press gathered outside, partly because no one was quite sure what had happened at this point. There was a missing person enquiry for the gentleman involved, but the sudden flurry of activity at his address had attracted every news van for every station. It was a small cul-de-sac. There was barely enough room for my van and the Police car, but now we had the BBC, ITV, Sky and a couple of freelancers all trying to find a space on the pavement outside the neighbour's homes.

This all came about after me and another colleague were asked to attend the address and search for any clues of a disturbance. Officers had already been and couldn't find anything. 

We look for different signs. Our signs are much smaller than an upturned chair or broken window. 

Someone had been cleaning. Cleaning blood. However, they weren't thorough enough.

I left the house and took a breather in the scene tent at the front of the property. We'd erected the tent so that I had somewhere safe to put all of my equipment and exhibits, out of the rain and out of public view. The tent also doubled as a useful spot to take a break. I emptied a 750ml bottle of Evian into me in about thirty seconds. It's hot inside, even more so with a scene suit, overboots, two pairs of gloves and a mask on. 

Whilst I dug around my cases, desperately looking for a Snickers bar I was sure I had left there for emergencies just like this, my colleague arrived.

I abandoned the search for the Snickers, probably because I knew I'd have to share it.

I gave him a run down of what had happened so far and how we came to be where we were. 

He kitted up and then we entered the scene. I gave him a walk-through of the scene so he understood how everything fits together so far. We used the aluminium stepping plates as the floor needed preserving for footwear evidence recovery.

We got to the bathroom and he gasped "Oh shit!" It was a nasty sight, despite him being prepared for it. We see it all the time, but it doesn't mean we don't think it's hideous. 

Sometimes you find yourself just stood next to a deceased person, for what seems like five or six minutes, often next to a colleague, and neither of you say a thing. Just looking, thinking. 

These scene are shocking but it's our job to deal with them. I've seen some of the most horrific things I'll ever see in my life whilst doing this job.

It's a job like no other.

We had a number of forensic exhibits to recover from the gentleman before removing his clothes. It's important that things are done in the right order here as taking clothes off may dislodge a small, yet vital piece of evidence. 

I clipped the gent's fingernails. Always a strange task. When you clip kid's nails, they wriggle and whinge and sometimes you get a bit of flesh. This is much easier, yet a little eerie.

I recovered all of his jewellery, documenting where each piece was and it's condition.

I've never undressed so many people as I have in this job. Thing is, they're all dead when I do.

We recovered each item of clothing into separate bags, packing them as I did the Woolie's carrier bag. They'd need to dry in the cabinet when I get back to the station. If I were to seal wet clothing, whether it be blood or water, into a bag and put it into a dry store, it'd degrade very quickly and go mouldy. 

So, there he is, face battered and broken, naked and cold. Now we have to zip him up inside a black plastic bag. 

The black bags are new. The handles are stronger than the previous ones. I find them easier to use. Sometimes it'd be difficult to get anyone over six foot into the white ones. I sometimes have to resort to laying them diagonally in the bag to get the zip to shut. 

I finished by photographing the serial number of the tag on the bag when we zipped tied the zipper closed. 


We wait what seems an eternity for the on call undertaker to arrive, but in reality it was only forty minutes. We help the undertaker get the gent out of the house and into the van. 

I sign out of the log book at 0213. I've been at work for 19 hours and 13 minutes. 

I jump into my van and open the glove box for the sat nav. The snickers falls into the footwell. Bonus.

Back in at 0700 for a briefing with the investigation team.


I'd been out in the van no longer than twenty minutes, I was on my way to deliver an urgent statement to CID for a court case this week.

My radio went, I almost missed it as I was singing along to 'Millennium' by Robbie Williams.

It was a really sunny and warm day and I was happy.

"CSI Guy, go ahead, over"

"CSI Guy, we've got an unexplained death for you, if you'd be so kind"

I took the address down. I could get the rest when I arrive at the scene. Officers are still there, waiting for me to arrive.

Whilst I drive towards the scene, I'm going through my plan of action in my head. I don't know a lot about the scene yet but I do know what is required of me at these type of scenes. There's some things that I will always have to do.

I don't need to check the kit in the back of my van, it's always topped up if I'm using it. I'll need stepping plates, scene suits, two body bags and my camera as a bare minimum.

I arrive at the scene and I'm met by a familiar face. The PC who responded to the job was the same Officer I met at a suicide last week.

"Hello CSI Guy" She said. "It's a shame that death brings us together!"

It's true. I've only seen this Officer twice, ever, and in fact I've not seen her since. We cover such a vast area, on shifts, that I could go months without matching up to the same response team again.

We stood at the back of my van, at the end of the driveway to the house where the scene was. The sun was beating down on us. It was really warm. I wasn't looking forward to putting a scene suit and mask on.

She gave me the run down of what had occurred. She was holding a tissue in her right hand. Turns out they were on their way back from KFC with hot food when they were asked to attend. She wanted to eat, but before she could get a chance to ask if anyone else could attend, her colleague accepted the job. She rolled her eyes when she told me this. Her KFC was sat on the dashboard of their response car. At least it'll stay warm, I thought.

I could smell 'that' smell from the front garden. Her colleague told me that I'd need to spray something in my mask, as the smell was unbearable. "I'm used to it" I told him.

Truth is, you do get used to the smell. It's instantly recognisable. There's nothing quite like it. People relate certain smells to memories, and the smell of death always reminds me of pickled onion Monster Munch.

This is what I know before going in: The sole occupant of the address is a middle aged white male. He's an alcoholic. He has a dog. He doesn't have any family nearby. His friends visit from time to time, but only when he's been paid his benefits and he has alcohol in. What are friends for if they can't share your alcohol? 

The Officers have entered, realised he's deceased, rescued his dog and left. The male was last seen around a week ago when he was walking his dog by an elderly neighbour, Doreen. "He always asks if there's anything I need from the Co-op, he's ever so polite" she says.

Those with less, tend to give more.

He had a Doctor's appointment four days ago, but he never arrived. Not something that would set alarm bells ringing though.

I suited up, put my camera strap over my neck and started to take photos of the lead up to the house.

The front door has ben obliterated by an Officer who's just passed his method of entry course. He did do the fabulous task of noting what position the locks were in and noted that the keys were in the back of the door before he commenced. Job well done.

When I got to the front door, I put my mask on, partly due to the smell, but mainly to avoid me contaminating the scene with my DNA should this be a suspicious death. The quicker my nose gets use to that smell, the better it'll be.

I'll only really notice it if I leave the scene and come back in.

The property was a two bedroom, ground floor maisonette. The door was wooden framed with two fixed pane fire glass windows, one in the upper and one in the lower section. The wood was painted blue, but I could see flakes of red paint underneath. It was painted poorly.

I took photos of everything I saw, most things will be covered by at least two photos. I make sure I record everything, as it's not uncommon for something that first appears irrelevant and meaningless to become the most important thing someone wants to know six months later.

I get the not so gentle aroma of death, mixed with a hint of stale beer, dog faeces and the smell of an unclean home.

The first bedroom had a badly stained mattress on the floor, no bedding except one yellow tinged pillow. There were some empty supermarket home brand lager cans on the floor. The spare bedroom you think? No, this is the master bedroom. There's a bottle of urine in the corner, so I guess it's en-suite.

I pass the bathroom, it's got the obligatory unflushed toilet with something growing out of it.

Three, two, one, I hold my breath, go in, photograph the bathroom from two angles and depart, closing my eyes as I take a 'fresh' intake of air.

I push the door open to the kitchen and it's as expected, a mess.

There's dishes piled high. Some have rotten food on, some have been used as ash trays. I can see a collection of what appear to be toe nails in a small drinking glass. There's a black bin liner on the worktop by the window, I think the sink is underneath that.

There's a Co-op bag on top of a pile of old leaflets on the table. Inside is a four pack of Fosters lager, with one missing, the plastic ring is stretched as if one has been removed. There are two tins of Pedigree jelly dog food and a receipt for all of said items. It's dated a week ago, just after Doreen last saw him.

The living room is where I'll get the money shot.

The male is laying on his back. He's got a brown leather jacket on, open at the front, a polo shirt with a hooped pattern underneath. He's wearing black blue denim jeans with no buttons on the front, an ill-fitting belt is holding the jeans up. He's wearing black shoes.

He's decomposed quite badly. His skin has turned a really dark colour, somewhere between purple and black. His stomach is distended, it looks ready to burst. I lifted his polo shirt up slightly, I can see the skin is starting to slip off. I need to be really careful when I try to move him that I don't pull the skin off.

Something's not right here. The male's left hand is open and by his side. There's a can of Fosters lager open and on the floor less than a foot from his hand.

But where is his right hand? I can see that it's not tucked underneath him nor is it in his pocket.

It's not there. His hand is not there. He has no hand.

I lift up his right arm by lifting the jacket sleeve, all I can see is his forearm with a small section of his Ulnar or Radius protruding.

The section that is protruding is clean. No gunk, no skin, no fat, no blood stains, nothing. Just clean bone.

Well, this is new.

As I look around, I realise that there are small pieces of bones on the sofa, the window ledge and by the back patio door.

They look like pieces of the hand and fingers. All completely clean.

I know that the only forced entry is by Police Officers. This property is secured from the inside.

There's only two suspects for this. The first one is laying on the floor in front of me. He hasn't put his finger bones all over the room.

The other suspect has gone, he's been allowed to leave the scene by Officers. In fact, Officer's arranged for transport for him.

The dog.

It looks like the dog got so hungry, and couldn't find anything else to eat, that he's decide to eat part of his best friend.

Apparently, a dog will start to lick exposed flesh in an attempt to rouse it's owner. If the owner is dead, that's clearly not going to happen. The smell and lack of reaction tells the dog that you're dead. The next level from licking is biting and it goes from there.

I've read about a case where a dog has decapitated it's owner. the face and head is a favourite, apparently. It's animal instinct.

I picked up all of the pieces of bones I could find and with the absence of any other physical injuries, this was a natural death with an unfortunate subsequent event.

It's likely that the dog will probably pass the bones I'm missing. Someone's going to have to arrange to collect those.

I put the male into a body bag and zip him up, with the assistance of the undertaker.

When I get outside, I'm dripping with sweat. It's still really hot. I take my kit off, leaving my gloves until last and I put it all inside a large plastic bag for the biohazard bin back at the nick.

I sign out of the scene log with the Officers and I can't help but smirk to myself when I see the motto on the side of the KFC box on the Police car dashboard.

A Day at a Murder Scene

I saw my work van on the BBC News at the scene of a murder.  My immediate reaction was that I hope the van was still tidy and well stocked. If I use someone else's van, I'll always return it as I found it- sadly, not everyone has the same qualities.

I turned into work expecting to spend the day either at the scene or at a Post Mortem, I knew this job was well underway.

A colleague was waiting for me when I got to the office. We were going straight to the scene, in his van. 

'Your van is at the scene, CSI Guy'

'I know..' I replied. Turns out my van was in pretty much every photo and video shot taken by the press that day, everyone had seen my van. 

I put a large flask of hot water together to take with us, We were going to be there all day,  food and drink is often overlooked, it shouldn't be but it's the way it is on high profile jobs. It's not unusual to go to a scene for ten or twelve hours with only a mars bar and a bottle of water to keep you going.

This murder had hit the front pages of every paper. It was 'breaking' news on every TV channel- we were under the spotlight.

Thankfully, there was a Police campervan at the scene, this gave us somewhere to change in and out of our white suits. When I say campervan, think more Sooty and Sweep rather than a Winnebago.

I walked in the scene via the side door. The front door was likely to have been a point of entry or egress by the offender and we wanted to ensure we didn't disturb any evidence that may be present. I stood inside the door as I lay stepping plates ahead of me, the kitchen floor was linoleum and the hallway floor was laminate. These surfaces would need to be examined for footwear evidence, but not yet. There was a lot of work to be done before we got to that stage.

The victim had been murdered in the bedroom on the third floor. Despite this, the smell was clearly evident throughout the house. Death, mixed with the rusty smell of blood. The victim had already been taken away by us, late the night before, but the smell gets worse as each day goes on. The longer we spend in the property, the more we get use to the smell. You often think you've got something from the scene on you or your clothes when you get home, the smell lingers in your nostrils, it's not on your clothes. 

I'd been tasked with collecting certain items of interest from the room where the murder took place. I play the game of step on a plate, lay a plate for twenty plates. I got to the stairs and there was carpet. The CSM had decided that the carpet had been checked for footwear evidence and it's clear. I don't need plates here. I've got my footwear protectors on anyway.

I make it up to the third floor, the loft room. It's warm up here, and it doesn't help that I've got all of my uniform on as well as a giant, white onesie- I'm sweating. 

The blood is all over the wall beside the bed. There's hair and skull fragments on the floor. Beside the mess? A claw hammer. These aren't coincidences. This is the murder weapon. 

This victim didn't pass peacefully in his sleep, or  pass in a loved one's arms. He didn't pass of old age. This victim died a horrible and violent death, fighting for his life.

He lost.

The blood spatter was on the ceiling, the window, the bedspread, the wardrobe door and all over the wall. The blood spatter tells a story on it's own- the blood on the ceiling and wall were indicative of what we call 'cast off', where blood transfers from a weapon to a surface when it is swung back and forth. 

We'd most likely get a Forensic Scientist who specialises in blood spatter to attend this scene. Their expertise would go a long way to showing a version of events.

These scenes aren't completed in a day, sometimes they aren't even completed in a week. They take as long as they take, everything needs to be done methodically and thoroughly. One mistake could be the difference between catching the offender and not. 

I'm in a white suit, on my knees, in a stranger's house, inches away from flesh, blood, hair and skull. I don't get this close to my pillow. I didn't see the victim, but from looking at this scene, his face would be unrecognisable.

We come and go from the house all day, each time we change our white suits. The bag of rubbish gets bigger and bigger, each box of gloves contains fifty pairs- I'll use two boxes at a murder. 

It's my task to get the claw hammer packaged for transportation to the lab. I photograph the room from each corner, ensuring that there is something in each photo from the last one. Once I have the room covered, I work my way towards to claw hammer. As I get closer to it, I change to my macro lens. I love the level of detail this lens provides. It shows things I can't see with my naked eye. I lay an 'L' shaped scale next to it to provide perspective. 

I carefully turn it over, taking my outer layer of gloves off before picking my camera up again. I don't want anything from the weapon on my camera. Once it's photographed in it's entirety, I secure it in a box. 

I use a cardboard window box. It folds closed with tabs to keep it secure. The top section has a vinyl plastic window. This allows the exhibit to been seen without opening it. 

The next task is to secure the claw hammer inside the box. Easy you'd think? Wrong. I need to decide where to place sterile cable ties around the hammer to secure it to a card insert in the box. I don't want to put the ties where they could destroy or disrupt DNA or fingerprint evidence. I use only two. One at each end to hold it in place. It's likely this will hand delivered wherever it goes, due to it's great importance. I tape every edge of the box with brown tape. Taping the edges provides the exhibit with some integrity. The tape also prevents anything getting in or out of the box.

All in all, we spent eleven days in this scene. The offender was apprehended and convicted for murder. Our work is one part of a giant jigsaw. We provided a vast amount of information and intelligence from the scene that allowed the Detectives to develop the investigation further.

Now, where's that Mars bar. I deserve it.

There's Been a Murder

Its not Cracker. Robbie Coltrane is nowhere to be seen.

I work in a very busy force area. We have a large number of Murders compared to many other forces.

I've been in service with this force for four years. In this time, I've attended more Murder scenes than some CSIs in other forces will in their entire career.

I've seen some things that are truly horrific and I've seen things I never thought one human could do to another.

Don't get me wrong, we don't have a Murder every day, not yet, although sometimes it feels like it. Most of our time we visit volume crime scenes, we visit dozens of houses a day for burglaries.

Some Murder scenes I've worked on have been high profile, in the news for days and days. Some never even make the local rag. I've seen myself on most of the major News channels- I know it's me, you don't. I look like every other person in a hooded white suit!

I remember all of the murder scenes, I especially remember the people. When you see someone in such horrendous circumstances, you don't tend to forget them.

I remember the first time I saw brain and skull pieces on the floor, as small as confetti. I wondered what it was, now I recognise it instantly.

The smell is unforgettable. Strangely, you get very used to it. I'll never eat pickled onion Monster Munch again.

Murder scenes are ultimately what we train for. There's not many other crimes that will need more attention than a Murder scene.

The jobs come to light in many ways. People report not seeing their neighbour for a few days, the milk bottles are stacking up. Someone calls us after hearing a disturbance. Someone calls an ambulance after bashing someone's head in. They call us.

Whichever way it's reported, the initial attending Officers will secure and preserve the scene. A cordon is raised and no one else enters the scene. A log book is then kept and everyone who needs access to the scene has to give their name and it's recorded.

By the time this has happened and we're notified, it could be another hour before we arrive. There's usually some press interest, depending on the time of day.

We'll often speak with CID before attending. There will be a team of Detectives assigned to the incident too. The Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) will often have a briefing with the Crime Scene Manager and devise an initial plan of action.

We don our white suits, two pairs of gloves, a mask and footwear protectors. This usually gets the press interested, you know straight away that we're not here for a car break.

If required, we'll lay stepping plates. Small, metal, square plates, raised slightly off the ground which allow us to walk through a scene without disturbing any footwear evidence.

Someone is nominated to record the scene with a video camera as well as a digital camera. I hate hearing my voice on a camera, it sounds nothing like I think it sounds, but exactly as everyone else hears it. I often volunteer to do the video, the more I do it, I guess the less I'll hate it... Plus this gives me a good chance to have a look around the scene, take it all in and have a good think about it.

One of the priorities, aside identifying the offender(s), is to process the victim, in order to get them transported to a mortuary for a Post Mortem examination - see my post on my first PM here . Depending on the nature of their death, will depend on what we do when processing the victim.

We'll often try to recover trace evidence before moving the victim. We have a supply of sealed kits for recovering various different types of trace evidence. Being sealed and one use, means that they are sterile before we use them. Taking the time to do this before we move the victim minimises the risk of losing any evidence when transporting them to the mortuary. 

We take hair combings, nail scrapings or clippings, swabs from various external parts of the body and sometimes fibre tapings. These minute pieces of evidence could be the difference between linking an offender to a scene or not.

We'll often take nail clippings from victims. Holding a lifeless, often cold hand, whilst clipping their nails over a large sterile white sheet is an odd task. You think clipping a child's fingernail is tricky? Give this a try.

One thing that I'll never get use to doing is undressing the victim. Their clothes provide forensic opportunities and require seizing and individually sealing in appropriate evidence bags. A colleague once seized Crime Scene Investigation pants from a victim. If only they knew.

The victim will almost always leave the scene naked. They will always be inside two 'body' bags. The inner bag is lightweight and thin. The outer bag is heavy duty and are larger than the first. The outer bag has a number of handles manufactured in it to make it easier to carry.

Standby for a post on a specific Murder case I attended.