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A day with the forensic team
AS I headed to the forensics department in Cheshire Police HQ I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect – would I see evidence of a murder scene or fingerprints left by a burglar?
But as I was shown into the e-forensics unit, the breadth of cases dealt with by the department began to unravel before me.
From the interrogation of technological equipment, mobile phones and CCTV to fingerprinting, a CSI laboratory and imaging, the large forensic investigation team has specialisms to deal with any crime scene across the county.
Hugh Owen, acting head of forensic investigation, said: “The aim is to maximise evidence from those scenes. Even the most basic domestic murder is a complex scenario.”
The e-forensics unit was a hub of technology investigating data storage from USBs, iPods, games consoles, TVs with smart cards, mobile phones, laptops and computers.
Det Sgt Andy Dodd said: “The vast majority of seized technological equipment relates to paedophile cases.
“We have to keep up to speed with technology. It used to be just the pc at home.
“Mobile phones are now almost as intricate as a PC and sat navs and tacographs can tell us an awful lot about where people have been.”
The CCTV officers trawl through hours of footage from private systems as well as town centre cameras to compile an edited version of key evidence for the courts.
Over in the CSI laboratory within the glass ‘glue’ cabinet, chemical processes were taking place to reveal hidden fingerprints or those contaminated by grease or blood.
After the evidence has been treated it is examined under high intensity lights but can also be viewed before the chemical enhancement to look for trace evidence such as fingerprints, body fluids, fibres and hairs.
The evidence is then sent to photographic – where they deal with everything from PR campaigns to post-mortems, crime scene photos, UV imagery for invisible injuries and SmartWater robberies, e-fits and 360 degree photos of crime scenes for courts.
The bureau is split into two areas – establishing the identity of people brought into custody in Cheshire whose fingerprints are digitally transferred to the unit and obtaining fingerprints from the scene of a crime (idents).
Anyone with a previous criminal record will already have a number and the slide will be added to the database while those new to the system will have their details entered into the police national computer to search against unsolved crimes.
Nigel Davies, head of the bureau, said: “We get around 1,200 idents a year and 2,500 sets of fingerprints a month from people brought into custody in Cheshire.
“We identified a murderer from 1953 last year when we received the crime scene marks, which we hadn’t had before. It was a case where a man was killed in a petrol station in Knutsford.
“The cold case review team found some information on the case and we were able to locate the culprit’s fingerprints who we discovered had long since died.”