What to expect when you reach the border of life and death. A Medical Study. — JcgregSolutions

“We characterize the testimonies that people had and were able to identify that there is a unique recalled experience of death that is different to other experiences that people may have in the hospital or elsewhere,” Dr. Parnia said, “and that these are not hallucinations, they are not illusions, they are not delusions, they are […]

What to expect when you reach the border of life and death. A Medical Study. — JcgregSolutions
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Do Inmates Need Educational Protocols?

ISO 13485
ISO 13485 Medical devices — Quality management systems — Requirements for regulatory purposes is an International Organization for Standardization standard published for the first time in 1996; it represents the requirements for a comprehensive quality management system for the design and manufacture of medical devices.

This standard supersedes earlier documents such as EN 46001 and EN 46002, the previously published ISO 13485, and ISO 13488.

The essentials of validation planning, protocol writing, and change management will be explained.

via ESSENTIALS OF VALIDATION – Do You Really Need It? — Compliance4all

Using Hair as an Indicator of Antidepressant Use Post-Mortem via Forensic Bites

Source for header: “pharmaceuticals” by idea-saras is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

For forensic scientists, determining the cause of death is frequently fraught with uncertainties, especially depending on the state of the body and its surroundings at the time of death. Climate, animals, and duration of exposure to the elements contribute to a body’s decay in ways difficult to quantify. As a result, identifying how and when somebody passed away remains complicated. Thankfully, researchers are working to untangle all the elements that can contribute to someone’s death – including drugs. Typically, drug testing takes the form of a urine sample and conversation regarding history of drug use, whether illicit or prescribed. However, someone who is deceased is unable to provide these, so other ways of identifying drug use need to be developed.

Two labs led by Jytte Banner and Sys Stybe Johansen in the Department of Forensic Medicine at the University of Copenhagen decided to tackle this problem. They focused on a commonly-prescribed antidepressant, citalopram. Citalopram is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, the most common class of drugs prescribed to treat depression. As antidepressant prescriptions per year tripled over the past decade to ~71 million (as of 2018), forensic experts encounter antidepressants more frequently in their toxicological screens. However, it is difficult to determine the frequency and amount of the citalopram dose – current techniques can only confirm the presence or absence of the drug in postmortem analysis.

These groups aimed to define how citalopram levels in postmortem samples could indicate use of the drug while the person was alive. This would provide valuable information regarding compliance with prescribed doses and whether there was abuse of the drug prior to death. To do this, the group used a two-pronged approach: they analyzed citalopram levels in small (~1 cm) hair segments from deceased subjects and compared them to calculated estimated daily doses. Their hypothesis was that the levels of citalopram in hair segments would directly correspond with the patient’s citalopram intake during that period of hair growth (fig. 1).

Fig 1. A graphic depicting the hypothesis of the Banner and Johansen groups. The researchers believed that small segments of hair would contain levels of citalopram that directly correlate to the amount of citalopram consumption during that hair growth period. Created by Barbara Szynal in BioRender.

However, unfortunately, they found no correlation between estimated daily citalopram dose and the amount of citalopram in the postmortem hair segments. Instead, they found a correlation between hair color and citalopram concentration-to-dose ratios. Black or brown hair in the segment closest to the skin retained higher levels of citalopram and its metabolite, demethylcitalopram, than blond hair in the same segment, regardless of dosage (Fig. 2). The researchers speculate that this may be due to metabolite presence in the oil near the scalp as well as metabolite wash-out from farther segments of hair. With more research, this information can help estimate dosage based purely on hair samples without needing to obtain pharmacy records prior to determination of cause of death. This would involve the determination of concentration-to-dose ratios for each hair color group, likely for the hair closest to the scalp. While this creates a more complex analytical scenario than using one standard concentration-to-dose ratio, it also prevents the generation of false positives or negatives based on hair color.

Fig 2. The ratio of concentration of citalopram in the hair segment closest to the skin to estimated dose. (Johansen et. al. 2022)

A technique used to accurately determine drug consumption prior to death would be an incredibly powerful tool, especially in cases where the drug is prescribed and drug abuse or neglect is suspected as the cause of death. This would allow investigators to define the cause of death with more precise, scientifically-sound means rather than gathering information via circumstantial, potentially misleading pharmacy records. The Banner and Johansen groups made important contributions to the development of such a technique, and with additional work this technique could eventually provide justice to those most in need of it.

TitleConcentrations of citalopram and escitalopram in postmortem hair segments
AuthorsKaren Rygaarda, Marie Katrine Klose Nielsen, Kristian Linnet, Jytte Banner, Sys Stybe Johansen
JournalForensic Science International
Year2022
URLhttps://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0379073822001797?via%3Dihub

MORE IN FORENSICBITES

Researchers searching for a way to track antidepressant usage from postmortem hair find that hair color influences drug retention more than time or length of hair.

Using Hair as an Indicator of Antidepressant Use Post-Mortem — ForensicBites

Different types of Fingerprints via The Legal Conundrum

The study of fingerprints is centuries old and with evolving technology fingerprints have become an accurate and reliable source of human identification as well as a significant part of criminal investigations. Crucially no two individuals have exact same fingerprints. Two fingerprints are identical only if they are both produced by the same finger of the same person. Even identical twins, with identical DNA, have different fingerprints. In this article I cover the fingerprint patterns into which the forensic scientists classify fingerprints according to their characteristics, the law on fingerprints in India, and the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) used by Investigating Agencies to store and process fingerprints.

Also read: Forensic Science and its Governing Principles and Laws.

The human fingerprint is a unique pattern that is intrinsically linked to each individual. No two fingerprints are identical, which greatly assists in its role in forensic identification. This uniqueness has allowed for various uages of fingerprinting including background checks, biometric security, mass disaster identification, and in particular criminal investigations with forensic science being increasingly used by investigating agencies in establishing the guilt of an accused as well as for exculpatory or elimination purposes. A fingerprint is a reproduction of the ridge formation of a finger on a surface. Identity is established or denied by the minutia of smaller details. The ending ridges, its bifurcations or forking, islands or enclosures, short ridges and dots that make up the patterns, and surrounding friction skin area determine whether or not a fingerprint is made by the same finger. It is not only the appearance of these details in the fingerprint but also their relative position to each other that is a major factor in the identification process.

Fingerprint analysis relies on this unique pattern with forensic scientists having categorised these patterns into distinct groups. A fingerprint classification system groups fingerprints according to their characteristics and therefore helps in the matching of a fingerprint against a large database of fingerprints.

The common terms that will be used, in brief, are as follows:

The covering of bulb of the fingers and thumbs and the palm of hands is called friction skin. The narrow elevated lines on the friction skin are called ridges and they are studded with sweat pores. The depressions between the ridges are known as furrows. The ridges are characterized by minute peculiarities such as ridge endings, bifurcations, enclosures, dots, cross overs, spurs and short ridges. Pattern is the design formed by the ridges in a fingerprint. Core is the innermost or central part or the heart of a pattern. The core of a loop fingerprint pattern may consist either of an even or uneven number of ridges called rods not joined together at the top or may consist of two ridges joined together at their summit called as staple. Whereas, in whorls pattern, circular or elliptical, the center of the first ring is the point of core. In case of spiral, the point from which the spiral begins to revolve is the point of core. The delta is a triangular plot which may be formed either by the bifurcation of a single ridge or by the divergence of two parallel ridges. The number of ridges that cut an imaginary line drawn from the delta to the core, neither the delta nor the core being counted, is known as the ridge count.

Fingerprint Patterns

1. Arch

These occur in about 5% of the encountered fingerprints. An arch is also known as a pattern less pattern. It is a pattern is which the ridges of the finger run continuously from one side of the finger to the other, slightly rising in the centre, making no backward turn.

Normally, there is no delta in an arch pattern but when there is the appearance of a delta, no ridge should intervene between the delta and the core. It is then called an arch approximating loop or a loop without count.

1.1. Plain Arch

Plain Arch

In a plain arch there is consistency of flow. It starts on one side of the finger and the ridge then slightly cascades upward. This almost resembles a wave out on the ocean and then the arch continues its journey along the finger to the other side. The plain arch pattern is the simplest of the fingerprints to discern.

1.2. Tented Arch

Tented Arch

In tented arch, the ridges near the middle may have an upward thrust arranging themselves as it were on both sides of a spine or axis towards which adjoining ridges converge.

The difference between plain arch and tented arch is that the tented arch lies in the ridges in the centre and is not continuous like the plain arch. They have significant up thrusts in the ridges near the middle that arrange themselves on both sides of an axis. The adjoining ridges converge towards this axis and thus appear to form tents.

2. Loop

Left Slant Loop
Right Slant Loop

The loop pattern is observed in almost 60 to 70% of the fingerprints. It is a pattern in which one or more ridges enter on either side, take a diagonal upward course, recurve, touch or pass an imaginary line drawn between the delta and the core, and end or tend to end towards the same side of the pattern.

The ridges make a backward turn in loops but they do not twist. This backward turn or loop is distinguished by how the loop flows on the hand and not by how the loop flows on the card where the imprint is taken. There is one delta and a core, one recurving ridge and at least one ridge count between the delta and the core.

2.1. Ulnar Loop

Loops can be classified as ulnar where it slopes towards the ulna bone, the ulna being on the little finger side. Thus, in ulnar loops, the ridges slant towards the right in case of right-hand fingers and towards the left in case of left-hand fingers.

2.2. Radial Loop

Loops can be classified as radial where it slopes towards the radial bone, the radial being on the thumb side. Thus, in radial loops, the ridges slant towards the left in case of right-hand fingers and towards the right in case of left-hand fingers.

3. Whorl

Plain Whorl

These can be found in about 25 to 35% of the fingerprints that are encountered. A whorl is a pattern in which one or more ridges form a series of circles or spirals around the core. The ridges in these whorls make a turn of one complete circuit with two deltas and are therefore circular or spiral in shape. Plain whorl is the simplest form of whorl and also the most common.

3.1. Central Pocket Loop Whorl

Central Pocket Loop Whorl

In central pocket loop whorl, the ridges immediately above the core deviate in course from the general course of other ridges, making a pocket at the center. These whorls consist of at least one re-curving ridge or an obstruction at right angles to the line of flow with two deltas so that if an imaginary line is drawn in between them no re-curving ridge within the pattern area will be touched or cut. These whorl ridges make one complete circuit and may be oval, circular, spiral or any variant of a circle.

The essential conditions of a central pocket loop whorl are there should be at least one looping ridge, the recurve about the core should be at right angles to the line of exit of the looping ridges, line joining the deltas should not cut any of the recurving ridges, and there should not be more than five recurving ridges.

3.2. Lateral Pocket Loop Whorl

When the ridges constituting the loop bend sharply on one side before recurving, thereby forming on that side an inter space or pocket usually filled by the ridges of another loop, such an impression is termed a lateral pocket loop.

3.3. Double Loop Whorl

Double Loop Whorl

A double loop whorl consists of two distinct and separate loop formations surrounding or encircling the other. It has two distinct and separate shoulders for each core, two deltas and one or more ridges that make a complete circuit. There is at least one re-curving ridge within the inner pattern area between the two loop formations that gets touched or cut when an imaginary line is drawn.

In lateral pocket loop, the ridges containing the points of core have their exits on the same side of either delta, while in double loop the ridges containing the points of core have their exits on different sides of either deltas.

3.4. Accidental Whorl

Accidental Whorl

Accidentals are combinations of two or more patterns too irregular in outline to be grouped in any other pattern.

The composition of the pattern in accidental whorl is derived from two distinct types of patterns that have at least two deltas. Therefore, whorls containing ridges that match the characteristics of a particular whorl sub-grouping are referred to as accidental whorls.

What the law says

Fingerprints and palmprints have been widely recognized and accepted as a reliable means to identify a person. A fingerprint may be left on an object when it is touched which permits the impression to be used for personal identification of individuals in criminal investigations. Thus, the forensic science of fingerprints is utilised by law enforcement agencies in support of their investigations to positively identify the perpetrator of a crime, as well as for exculpatory or elimination purposes.

In India, the law of fingerprinting is covered by the Indian Evidence Act, 1972, the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and the recent Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act, 2022.

1. Indian Evidence Act, 1872 and the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973

Section 45 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 states that “when the Court has to form an opinion upon a point of foreign law or of science or art, or as identity of handwriting or finger impressions, the opinions upon that point of persons specially skilled in such foreign law, science or art, or in questions as to identity of handwriting or finger impressions are relevant facts. Such persons are called experts.”

As a general rule, the opinion of a witness on a question whether of fact or of law, is irrelevant. A witness has to state the facts which he has seen, heard or perceived, and not the conclusions which he has formed on observing or perceiving them. The function of drawing inferences from facts is a judicial function and must be performed by the Courts. If a witness is permitted to state not only the facts which he has perceived but also the opinion which he has formed on perceiving them, it would amount to delegation of judicial functions to him and investing him with the attributes of a judge.

Sections 45 to 51 of the Act are some important exceptions to this general rule. When “the subject-matter of inquiry is such that inexperienced persons are unlikely to prove capable of forming a correct judgment upon it”, or when “it so far partakes of the character of a science or art as to require a course of previous habit or study”, the opinions of persons having special knowledge of the subject-matter of inquiry become relevant; for it is very difficult for the Court to form a correct opinion on a matter of this kind, without the assistance of such persons.

Section 73 provides that the Court may direct any person present in the Court to give his/her finger impressions to enable the Court to compare such finger impressions with any other finger impressions alleged to have been made by such person.

Section 293 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 exempts Directors of Finger Print Bureau from personal appearance in the Courts for expert testimony. As long as the report of the Director of Finger Print Bureau shows that the opinion was based on observations, it can be accepted without examining the person who gave the report. But if there is any doubt, it can always be decided by the calling of the person making the report

2. The Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act, 2022

The Criminal Procedure (Identification) Act, 2022 was passed by the Lok Sabha on 4th April 2022, by the Rajya Sabha on 6th April 2022 and received the President’s assent on 18th April 2022.

The Act authorises taking measurements of convicts and other persons for the purposes of identification and investigation in criminal matters and to preserve records. It widens the power of State and its enforcement agencies during a criminal investigation, with regard to the taking of biometric and other biological data of any person arrested by the police, including persons detained under preventive detention laws. It is a modification of the Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920, which stands repealed through Section 10(1) of the 2022 Act.

Section 3 of the 2022 Act allows police officers to collect fingerprints, footprints, biological samples, behavioural attributes including signatures, handwriting and examinations under Sections 53 and 53A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, of any arrested person, including convicts. Such data also includes blood, semen, hair samples, swabs and analyses such as DNA profiling.

While the resistance or refusal to allow the taking of measurements under this Act shall be deemed to be an offence under section 186 of the Indian Penal Code, an exception also states that any person arrested under any law will not be obliged to provide such data, except when they are arrested for any offence committed against women and children or any offence punishable with imprisonment for a period not less than 7 years.

The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) will be the central agency to maintain the records.  It will share the data with law enforcement agencies.  Further, States/UTs may notify agencies to collect, preserve, and share data in their respective jurisdictions. Further, Section 4 allows the record of measurements to be retained in digital or electronic form for a period of 75 years from the date of collection of such measurement. Records will be destroyed in case of persons who are acquitted after all appeals, or released without trial. However, in such cases, a Court or Magistrate may direct the retention of details after recording reasons in writing.

Under Section 5 of the Act, a Magistrate is competent to order any person to allow his finger impressions to be taken for the purpose of any investigation or proceeding under the Code of Criminal Procedure.

Automated Fingerprint Identification System

Increase in crime together with the resultant increase in criminal records has made the manual comparison and identification of fingerprints a challenging and arduous task. The manual system of fingerprint identification was unable to keep pace with the enormous increase of the fingerprint records and the number of queries required to be answered every day. The need for an Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) was, therefore, felt by Police Officers and Fingerprint Professionals the world over.

As digital technology progresses, fingerprinting is increasingly being used as a fraud prevention measure. AFIS is a system for storing and processing digital fingerprints. By digitising the fingerprints, found traces can be compared to those recorded in the database. A fully functional AFIS provides the facilities of a database creation, an identification-oriented enquiry that includes ten print to ten print search, chance print to ten print search, ten print to chance print search, and chance print to chance print search, a remote query processing and creation of a criminal attribute database. AFIS is used mainly for two areas, the fingerprint verification and fingerprint identification. For the fingerprint identification, a found or present fingerprint is compared with the stored fingerprints in order to allow identification.

AFIS in India

In India, AFIS was first installed at the Central Finger Print Bureau of the National Crime Records Bureau in 1992. The Indian Version of AFIS is called FACTS, which was co-developed, by NCRB and CMC Ltd. India. The current version of FACTS is 5.0. The system uses image processing and pattern recognition technique to capture, encode, store and match fingerprints, including comparison of chance prints. It uses pattern class, core and delta information, minutiae location, direction, neighbouring information, ridge counts and distances, density, type, print background/foreground information etc. for matching fingerprints.

Criminal attributes such as name with aliases if any, parentage, sex, age, address etc. are also stored in the data base. The database contains all the conviction details i.e. data of conviction, Court, Section, sentence, P.S. FIR No., information regarding absconders and death reports. It has become an important aid to finger print experts in their day-to-day work of updating and querying on large database of fingerprints.

Facilities offered by AFIS

  • Automated ten print search with the trace percentage not to be less than 98.
  • Automated replacement of better quality prints.
  • Automated pattern recognition.
  • Automated ridge direction determination.
  • Automated minutiae, core and delta detection and extraction.
  • Automated minutiae quality assignment.
  • Automated capture of logical rolled print area.
  • Automated capture of logical plain print area and comparison of plain prints with rolled prints.
  • Automated selection of matching digit.
  • Full range of integrated chance print and ten print image enhancements.
  • Manual editing of minutiae and core/delta location(s) and direction(s).
  • Facility to re-edit chance print images without requiring a re-scan.
  • Facility to launch secondary searches.
  • Secondary/temporary database for document case examination.
  • Rotation of chance print images.
  • Side-by-side comparison.
  • User defined search filters.
  • User defined candidate thresholds.
  • Integration of AFIS with personal information system.

Advantages of AFIS

  • Diversifying the functioning of Finger Print Bureau through better utilization of expert manpower.
  • Better management of fingerprint data.
  • The entire database could be searched against chance prints.
  • Replacement of poor quality prints with better quality prints.
  • Less physical handling of finger print record, thus protecting original record from wear & tear.
  • Matching is automatically done by the computer, at a high speed, thus substantially reducing the search time.
  • Networking of AFIS at different levels possible.
  • Automatic enhancement of poor quality prints.
  • More accurate compilation of Statistics.

AFIS Processes

(i) Input or Acquisition or Enrolment

Flat-bed scanners are used for input of Ten Digit Record and Search Slips and Chance Prints. A unique number called the Personal Identification Number (PIN) is generated by the system and a label bearing this number is fixed to the finger print slip or behind the Chance Print photograph. The Ten-digit/Chance print is placed with the probable orientation on the scanner bed and is subjected to preview scan if required to confirm the print position followed by high resolution scanning.

Encoding takes place immediately after the high resolution scan. The features extracted by the system are:

  1. Pattern class and alternate pattern class
  2. Core and Delta points
  3. Minutiae (ridge end points and bifurcation points)
  4. Ridges
  5. Smudge area

(ii) Matching

The basic features used for finger print matching are the minutiae. Each minutiae is characterized by its coordinates, the direction of the ridge flow at the location of the minutiae, the ridge counts between itself and its nearest neighbours. The system extracts the minutiae of each fingerprint automatically. These extracted features represent the fingerprint’s uniqueness. Whenever a fingerprint is to be identified, the system compares the characteristics of the minutiae of that fingerprint against the characteristics of corresponding minutiae in each of the fingerprint in the database. The result of matching is a shortlist in the descending order of probability.

(iii) Verification

In verification, the expert compares a search finger print against short-listed finger prints from the database and identifies the right match. Finger Print images are presented to the expert in the form of split screen display – the search print on one half of the monitor and the short listed print retrieved from the system on the other. The user can select the prints from the shortlist as required. Once the expert is satisfied about the identity, he/she marks it as TRACED or else it is marked as UNTRACED.

(iv) Data Updation

Record slips are updated and stored in the database. If the finger print slip is a new one, the transaction is added to the database and is stored on hard discs. In case a duplicate is already present in the database, the system itself compares the quality of prints of both the slips and the better quality print replaces the other. The old PIN is retained.

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The World of Fingerprinting — The Legal Conundrum

Forensics: DNA from letter helps solve 34-year-old cold case murder of Pa. mom — FORENSICS and LAW in FOCUS @ CSIDDS | News and Trends

The cold case murder of a 26-year-old Pennsylvania mother in 1988 has been finally solved thanks to DNA evidence found on a chilling letter. — Read on http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/dna-letter-helps-solve-34-year-old-cold-case-murder-pa-mom-rcna44185

Forensics: DNA from letter helps solve 34-year-old cold case murder of Pa. mom — FORENSICS and LAW in FOCUS @ CSIDDS | News and Trends

FBI Forensic Science : Incompetence or Malice? — Intel Today

“The FBI could be the most dangerous agency in the country if not scrutinized carefully.”

FBI director Louis Freeh

Tainting Evidence — Inside the Scandals at the FBI Crime Lab

August 29 2022 — Last week, FBI Las Vegas tweeted a picture of a special agent fingerprinting child actress Margaret O’Brien during her visit to the FBI in January 1946. This tweet brought back quite some memories… Follow us on Twitter: @Intel_Today

RELATED POST: Forensic science — FBI Bullet-Lead Technique Dead Wrong

RELATED POST: FBI Experts : Monkey Science in Monkey Courts?

RELATED POST: Do you have what it takes to be an FBI Intelligence Analyst? [Parody]

RELATED POST: Two Years Ago –The August 4 2020 Beirut Explosion : Debunking the FBI Conspiracy Theory [UPDATE : Lebanon marks grim anniversary of Beirut explosion]

RELATED POST: Lockerbie — Why I ruled out the bomb theory [Technical Analysis of the Debris Lines]

The fingerprints of Margaret O’Brien brought the total number on file to 100,000,000. Since 1924, the FBI has been the single U.S. repository for fingerprints. Computers were first installed to search these files in 1980.

Since 1999, the FBI has stored and accessed its fingerprint database via the digital IAFIS (Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System), which currently holds the fingerprints and criminal records of over 51 million criminal record subjects and over 1.5 million civil (non-criminal) fingerprint records. US Visit currently holds a repository of the fingerprints of over 50 million non-US citizens. [Vintage photographs show the massive FBI’s fingerprint files, 1944]

Perhaps, you believe that ‘fingerprint evidence’ is rock solid evidence. Allow me to quote a very important analysis [Tainting Evidence — Inside the Scandals at the FBI Crime Lab] :

Occasionally, proficiency testing in one specialist area of forensic science exposes widespread incompetence. In 1995, Collaborative Testing Services tested 156 U.S. fingerprint examiners — the cornerstone of forensic science — in a proficiency test sponsored by their professional body, the International Association for Identification. Only 44 percent (68) of those tested identified all seven latent fingerprints correctly. Some 56 percent (88) got at least one wrong, 4 percent (6) of these failing to identify any. In all, incorrect identifications made up 22 percent of the total attempted.

In other words, in more than one in five instances “damning evidence would have been presented against the wrong person,” noted David Grieve, editor of the fingerprinters’ magazine, the Journal of Forensic Identification. Worse still, examiners knew they were being tested and were thus presumably more careful and freer from law enforcement pressures. Calling for immediate action, Grieve concluded: “If one in five latent fingerprint examiners truly possesses knowledge, skill or ability at a level below an acceptable and understood baseline, then the entire profession is in jeopardy.” The same must be true of every suspect in the country, the vast majority of whom never get a fingerprint expert onto their defense team or any chance of a reexamination. Many crime laboratories routinely destroy fingerprint evidence.

It is clear that forensic science is massively error-ridden, while the flaws in the sole laboratory accreditation program designed to improve performance are obvious. ASCLD/LAB has no powers to regulate or inspect a crime lab or to stop a lab that has failed inspection from doing examinations in criminal justice cases.

Many U.S. crime labs have never even risked inspection and the possibility of failing, most notable among them the one that bills itself the premier forensic science laboratory in the world — the FBI lab in Washington.

Sadly, widespread incompetence is just one side of the problem. There is worse, much worse…

“Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity, but don’t rule out malice.”

Albert Einstein

Did you know? FBI agents intervened in the Shirley McKie case — a former detective wrongly accused of leaving her fingerprint at a murder scene — to urge a cover-up amid fears it could scupper the trial of the Lockerbie bombers.

David Grieve, the senior fingerprint expert at Illinois State Police who helped clear Ms McKie in 1999, said FBI agents had asked him to keep silent before the Lockerbie trial began in the Hague in February 2000.

Mr Grieve said : “I was asked not to mention anything about the case and not to publicise it because we had to think about the higher goal, which was Lockerbie.”

Meanwhile, Allan Bayle, a fingerprint expert formerly of the Metropolitan Police, has said it was his “firm belief” the SCRO’s evidence was “far more likely to be fabrication rather than gross incompetence”.

And now, allow me go back to the Lockerbie Case. Let us discuss the so-called evidence of SEMTEX!

To be continued.

Forensic Science: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO) 

REFERENCES

Tainting Evidence — Inside the Scandals at the FBI Crime Lab

Lockerbie FBI team urged a cover-up on McKie — The Herald, Feb. 2006

=

FBI Forensic Science : Incompetence or Malice?

“The FBI could be the most dangerous agency in the country if not scrutinized carefully.” FBI director Louis Freeh Tainting Evidence — Inside the Scandals at the FBI Crime Lab August 29 2022 — Last week, FBI Las Vegas tweeted a picture of a special agent fingerprinting child actress Margaret O’Brien during her visit to […]

FBI Forensic Science : Incompetence or Malice? — Intel Today

Forensics: Genetics and genealogy. Coffee cup helps police crack one of US’s oldest cold cases after 300 interviews since 1975 via FORENSICS and LAW in FOCUS @ CSIDDS

Genealogy researchers traced possible suspect’s DNA to Calabria region of Italy — Read on http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/police-cold-case-coffee-cup-b2127282.html

Forensics: Genetics and genealogy. Coffee cup helps police crack one of US’s oldest cold cases after 300 interviews since 1975 — FORENSICS and LAW in FOCUS @ CSIDDS | News and Trends

Employment Law: What to Know Before You Start a Job — Naomi Soldon

it’s important to understand the legal requirements before applying for any position.

In this article, attorney Naomi Soldon, who has a wide experience in employment law, will answer questions regarding employment law and fill you in on what to expect when you start a new position.

What Are the Different Types of Employment Law?

Naomi Soldon indicates that there are many different types of employment law that you’ll come across in your job search.

Some examples include:

Davis-Bacon Law: This is the law that regulates the way that construction workers are hired and paid. It’s named after Massachusetts congressman Lewis “Boss” Bacon who championed the law during the construction of the U.S. Capitol.

Gross National Product (G.N.P.) Law: This is the law that regulates how much businesses can charge for their products and services.

Human Rights Law: This law protects employees from being mistreated at work. It applies to all employees, not just employees of a specific business.

Health and Safety Law: This law regulates how safe and healthy the workplace is.

Hiring and Employment Law: This covers how an employer finds, hires, and trains an employee. It includes things like how an employer advertises for jobs, what type of job postings to include, and how to go about the process once you’re hired.

How Does Employment Law Apply to Me?

Employment law applies to all employees, whether that person works full time for you part time or on a contract basis. Naomi Soldon points out that if an employee works for you part time, you must comply with the same employment law that applies to full-time employees. For example, if you have a rule that employees must work a certain number of hours each day, even if they work for other companies nearby, you must also follow that rule if you work for the same company as a full-time employee. On the other hand, if you have different employment standards for your part-time employees and full-time employees, those standards

What Is Employment Law?

According to Naomi Soldon, employment law is a branch of legislation that regulates how employers must treat employees. It encompasses a variety of topics, including how long an employee may work for one employer, how employers must treat employees who are on a leave of absence, whether an employer has to provide certain types of medical care, and how long an employer must keep an employee on the job after the employee has exhausted his or her legal rights. Employment law applies to every industry and can be complex, especially if you’re a first-time employee or a new type of job. Many companies have specialized employment departments that manage the different types of employment law issues encountered by their larger company employees. Some employment law experts are invested in trying to expand the scope of employment law to include issues that are unique to certain types of businesses such as management by team or cooperative ventures.

only apply to part-time employees and not to full-time employees.

Bottom line

Employment law is complex and can be daunting to navigate when you’re just starting out in your career. Skilled attorney Naomi Soldon recommends making sure you understand the various types of employment law and how they apply to you so that you don’t accidentally violate the law. Get help from an employment law expert if you’re stuck.

Today, more than ever, people are looking for jobs. The job market is tight and competition for spots is high. Even though the job market is generally strong, it’s not guaranteed that you’ll be able to find a job after graduating from college. If you’re looking for your first job or a new career path, […]

Employment Law: What to Know Before You Start a Job — Naomi Soldon

Serial Killer: Robert Zarinsky killed at least 3-10 people via Bonnie’s Blog of Crime

Victims
Police Officer Charles Bernoskie, [11/28/1958] (acquitted at trial)
Mary Ann Klinsky, 18 [9/16/1965] DNA linked him
Jane Katherine Durrua, 13 [11/5/1968] died before trial
Rosemary Calandriello, 17 [8/25/1969] life in prison
Linda Balabanow, 17 [3/27/1969] prime suspect
Joanne Delardo, 15 [12/13/1974] prime suspect
Doreen Ann Carlucci, 14 [12/13/1974] prime suspect

Find-A-Grave: Charles D. Bernoskie
Find-A-Grave: Mary Ann Klinsky
Find-A-Grave: Jane Katherine Durrua
Find-A-Grave: Rosemary K. Calandriello
Find-A-Grave: Joanne Delardo
Find-A-Grave: Doreen Ann Carlucci
New Jersey Girl Murders 1960-1980
Linden Man Held in Slaying of Girl, 16
DNA links suspected serial killer to teen’s 1965 murder in New Jersey
Suspected serial killer tied to 50-year-old homicide
Suspected serial killer investigated in teen’s cold case homicide
A pleasant, not perfect, hometown
Killer’s House Is Searched for Clues in Other Slayings
Suspected serial killer investigated in teen’s cold case homicide
State of New Jersey v Robert Zarinsky 1976 (conviction and sentence affirmed)
Suspected serial killer Robert Zarinsky dies in prison
Robert Zarinsky: Why he’s 1 of N.J.’s most notorious killers
Serial Killers: Robert Zarinsky
Murderpedia: Robert Zarinsky
Wikipedia: Robert Zarinsky
Find-A-Grave: Robert Zarinsky


Robert Zarinsky

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Victims Police Officer Charles Bernoskie, [11/28/1958] (acquitted at trial) Mary Ann Klinsky, 18 [9/16/1965] DNA linked him Jane Katherine Durrua, 13 [11/5/1968] died before trial Rosemary Calandriello, 17 [8/25/1969] life in prison Linda Balabanow, 17 [3/27/1969] prime suspect Joanne Delardo, 15 [12/13/1974] prime suspect Doreen Ann Carlucci, 14 [12/13/1974] prime suspect Find-A-Grave: Charles D. Bernoskie […]

Serial Killer: Robert Zarinsky killed at least 3 people, probably closer to 10 — Bonnie’s Blog of Crime

Forensic Linguistics & its Application in Forensics — Forensic’s blog

Introduction Forensic linguistics first appeared in 1968 when Jan Svartvik, a professor of linguistics used its analysis by statements. Roger Shuy also advances Forensics linguistics with his work. He authored many books related to linguistics, one of them is “language crimes: the use and abuse of language evidence in the courtroom”. Forensic Linguistics is the […]

Forensic Linguistics & its Application in Forensics — Forensic’s blog

Lend us a hand in 2022: The queen of crime-solving via FORENSICS and LAW in FOCUS @ CSIDDS

Forensic scientist Angela Gallop has helped to crack many of the UK’s most notorious murder cases. But today she fears the whole field – and justice itself – is at risk

by Imogen West-KnightsThu 24 Mar 2022 02.00 EDT

Early one morning in June 1982, a smartly dressed man was found hanging from scaffolding beneath Blackfriars Bridge in central London. The dead man was carrying two Patek Philippe watches, one on his wrist and one in his top jacket pocket, both of which had stopped. The pockets and seams of his suit trousers contained 5kg of bricks and rubble. He was also carrying a forged Italian passport and about £10,000 in cash. The next day, police in Rome confirmed the man’s identity. His name was Roberto Calvi and he was the chair of an Italian bank with close ties to the Vatican. Calvi had been missing for at least six days. He was due to appear in an Italian court the next week to appeal against a conviction for illegally transferring several billion lira out of the country. The press called him “God’s Banker”.

Calvi’s death was recorded as a suicide, but his family believed he had been murdered, possibly by the mafia. In 1991, almost 10 years after Calvi’s body was found, the family hired Kroll, a private detective company, to carry out a new investigation into his death. To review the evidence, Kroll in turn hired a forensic scientist named Angela Gallop. In the previous five years, Gallop had gained a reputation as an expert prepared to go beyond the methods favored by her peers – the straightforward DNA tests or fingerprint comparisons – in order to solve a crime. “She was meticulous, very open-minded, and her scientific methods were second to none. There weren’t many others doing it in quite the same way,” said Michael Mansfield, a barrister who often worked with her at the time.

The key to her work, Gallop believes, is imagination. “People always hate when scientists use the word ‘imaginative’. They think you’ve been inventing your results,” she told me not long ago. “But it is critical.” Looking at what was known about Calvi’s death, Gallop agreed that the suicide story didn’t add up. If Calvi had climbed down a ladder from Blackfriars Bridge and onto the scaffolding in order to hang himself, wouldn’t paint flecks from the poles have transferred to the soles of his shoes? Wouldn’t the movement of the bricks inside his trousers as he walked have produced abrasions on his thighs? The postmortem had found neither. That suggested another possibility: Calvi’s body had been put there by someone else.

Gallop designed an experiment to test her theory. She would need the original scaffolding from under the bridge, clothes similar to those Calvi was wearing, and a man of a similar build to re-enact the scene. Finding the man was easy enough. Russell Stockdale, a fellow forensic scientist, who also happened to be Gallop’s husband, had the right proportions for the job. And by a stroke of luck, the company that erected the scaffolding had not only kept the poles, but knew precisely which ones they were. Gallop asked to borrow them, and asked Calvi’s family for one of his suits and a pair of his shoes. Calvi’s son, Carlo, told me that at this stage, having hired private detectives at “horrendous” expense, the family would have granted Gallop anything she wanted. “I wasn’t going to tell them no,” he said.

One afternoon in 1992, Gallop stood in her garden in Newbury, Berkshire, watching as the scaffolding was rebuilt on the lawn next to her pond. Once it was up, Gallop and Clive Candy, a colleague who specialised in forensic chemistry, watched closely as Stockdale clambered on to the scaffolding wearing Calvi’s clothes. In her A4 notepad, Gallop noted down the difficulties her husband was having as he climbed, and how the bricks in his clothes were affecting his movements.

Satisfied with her initial findings, Gallop and Stockdale went to London to inspect the scene at Blackfriars Bridge. Gallop asked Stockdale to climb down a fixed iron ladder that led from the embankment next to the bridge down to the foreshore, from where it would have been possible to walk to the scaffolding at low tide. Gallop wanted to see if it was plausible that a 62-year-old man like Calvi could have done so without slipping, and without dislodging the bricks and rubble in his clothes.

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“I was absolutely terrified. I’m no good with heights, or water,” Stockdale told me, “but Angela’s very persuasive.” This was not the first time Gallop had encouraged him into an unusual activity in the name of crime-solving. “We beat my favourite hat to death with a hammer once,” he said, a little forlorn. “It was never the same again.” (He and Gallop separated in 2003, but remained close. Stockdale died late last year.)

Through the experiments in her garden and by the riverside, Gallop concluded it was almost impossible that Calvi’s death was a suicide. And although the case has never been resolved – various mafia members and associates have stood trial for the murder and all have been acquitted – Gallop did what she set out to do, which was to prove that God’s Banker had been murdered. Calvi’s family are still waiting for his killer to be brought to justice, but Carlo told me that Gallop’s findings remain essential to them, even all these years later. “I couldn’t have been more pleased about her work,” he told me. “It was exhaustive and authoritative. I was extremely impressed, then and now.”

Over almost 50 years as a forensic scientist, Gallop has seen enough grisly cases to fill several lifetimes. Murder, bestiality, rape, incest, the contents of Princess Diana’s stomach, war crimes, alleged alien abductions, an elderly woman stabbed in both eyeballs. Name a famous crime that took place in Britain since the 1980s and there is a good chance that Gallop was involved in the investigation. The killings of James BulgerStephen LawrenceDamilola Taylor and Rachel Nickell, the Pembrokeshire coastal path murders. People in her field describe her as an icon, an idol, a star. “She is the doyenne of her profession,” William Clegg QC, a retired defence lawyer who specialised in serious crime, told me. “If I had a forensic issue in a case, then it was always the same instructions to the team: phone Angela Gallop.”

Picture a forensic scientist and one of the following images probably comes to mind: a mild-mannered oddball in a white lab coat, or a leather-jacketed pseudocop stalking around a crime scene. Gallop is neither of these people. She is ebullient and stylish. We first met last spring, in a converted barn where she does some of her work, near her house in Oxfordshire. We met several more times, and I never saw her without nails that matched a pair of statement earrings, and never saw the same nails or earrings twice. She has a jolly, mile-a-minute energy, and being in her presence brings to mind old-fashioned phrases like “chatterbox” and “go-getter”. One colleague described her as “a human dynamo”. The clue, with Gallop, is in the name.

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No individual has had a closer view of the way the science of crime-solving has changed in the past 40 years. Gallop started out in the 70s, at the government’s Forensic Science Service (FSS), which conducted all forensic work for the police. She then led the charge in dismantling the FSS’s monopoly by establishing rival companies in the 90s, cracked some of the UK’s most notorious cold case murders, and now finds herself at the forefront of what sometimes looks like a losing battle to save the field from collapse. In 2019, The House of Lords’ science and technology committee found that a lack of funding, an absence of leadership and poor research and development means that England and Wales, once considered world leaders in forensics, are now in crisis. Gallop sees herself as one of a dying breed of scientists who have been given the training, the time and the money to solve complex crimes. Her growing fear is that she and her peers will take those skills to their graves.


Forensic science is a relatively young discipline. Its origins can be traced back to two attic rooms in Lyon, where a Frenchman named Edmond Locard, inspired by the still-fictional techniques he read about in Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, opened the world’s first crime investigation laboratory in 1910. One of Locard’s core beliefs was that every contact made between two objects leaves a trace. This idea, known as Locard’s principle, is still central to forensics. Most of us are aware of the traces left by fingerprints, hairs and body fluids, but Locard’s principle goes much deeper. We give ourselves away wherever we go. We are constantly shedding clothing fibres, brushing them on to other people, picking them up in the office, on the bus, at the pub. Then there are the tiny quantities of radioactive isotopes in everything we eat and drink, which are retained in our bones, soft tissues, nails and hair. By analysing the isotopes in human bones, scientists are able to trace someone’s movements across their entire lifetime.

Today, forensic science contains a dizzying number of specialisms. Forensic entomology pinpoints time of death by examining the insects that proliferate on a dead body. Forensic ecology can tell us where a deceased person has been from pollen in their nasal mucus. Because every brand of matches uses slightly different chemicals to make their product, forensic fire investigators can track down an arsonist by finding a single match head in a burned-out building and establishing where those matches are sold.

Gallop came to forensics almost by accident. She spent much of the early 70s on the Isle of Wight, working on her DPhil about the biochemistry of sea slugs. “There were only about six people in the world who cared what I was doing,” Gallop said, a certain sadness in her voice. (She still loves sea slugs.) Hoping to apply her scientific training to something of greater consequence, in 1974, Gallop applied for a job with the FSS, which was then part of the Home Office. She got the gig, and soon began working at a lab that had been cobbled together in a grand Edwardian house in Harrogate.

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Today, forensic labs are made floor-to-ceiling of wipe-clean surfaces and all the air in every room is replaced 20 times every hour. In the 70s, things were different. “There was a marble basin in one of the bathrooms we did all our blood grouping in,” Gallop said, “and we used the ballroom for our big X-ray crystallography machine.” Scientists did not wear protective covering over their noses and mouths, which meant that when they examined blood-stained clothing they would sometimes taste iron in the back of their throats from breathing in the particulates that dried blood creates, a substance she refers to as “blood dust”. Recalling this era, Gallop seemed almost nostalgic.

Members of the Roberto Calvi inquest jury at Blackfriars Bridge in central London.
Members of the Roberto Calvi inquest jury at Blackfriars Bridge in central London. Photograph: Ted Blackbrow/Daily Mail/Shutterstock

In the early years, the work was gruelling. The police could send as much evidence to the FSS as they wanted, and the government would foot the bill. “There was so much to get through, police were sending whole wardrobes of clothing,” Gallop told me with exasperation. “And if you missed something the police could say,” – here she adopted a pompous voice – “‘Oh, you missed a spot of blood on that cardigan among the other 56 items.’”

In 1977, Gallop and her FSS colleagues moved out of the converted house and into a proper lab in Wetherby, West Yorkshire. Over the years, the facilities improved, but Gallop felt overworked and understimulated. In 1986, she decided to strike out alone. The idea for Forensic Access, her first company, was to provide genuinely expert forensic expertise to the defence. At the time, only lawyers for the prosecution had access to FSS expertise. If defence lawyers wanted to challenge forensic evidence, they could hire independent consultants, but many had no accreditation. They were, in Stockdale’s words, “hired guns”, who would say whatever they were paid to say in court. Forensic Access, Gallop hoped, would change all this. She set up a small laboratory in her own home, a three-bedroom 60s chalet-style house in Newbury. “With everything, I’ve always just thought: I’m gonna make this bloody work!” she told me with delight. “How difficult can it be?”

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The answer was: very difficult, at least at first. To drum up customers, Gallop contacted criminal law solicitors and advertised her services as a forensic biologist in the Yellow Pages. Soon she found herself fielding calls from jealous husbands who wanted her to establish whether their wives had been unfaithful: what those in the business used to call “dirty knicker cases”. Clients would bring Gallop a suspicious piece of clothing, and she would test it for semen. That was the easy part. Trickier was breaking bad news to clients. On one occasion, Gallop recalled, a client “just became incredibly tense, his knuckles were white and he was frozen in the doorway in the house. I thought, oh Jesus, he could take it out on the messenger.” After this, she had a panic button installed in the laboratory.

Little by little, Gallop built a reputation for her skill and trustworthiness. More salubrious customers arrived. In one early case, she was asked by an officer from the Department of Health to confirm that a reddish-brown smear on a cheese and tomato sandwich they examined during a restaurant inspection was human blood. (It was.) By late 1986, Forensic Access had grown enough for Gallop to hire full-time employees and move its operations out of her house and into a proper laboratory.

Recently, Gallop has started to write books about her career, in order to leave behind a record of her life’s work. Her first, When the Dogs Don’t Bark, came out in 2019 and details her early cases. A few months after we first met, I tagged along to a meeting between Gallop and her ghostwriter Jane Smith, again in the barn, where they were working on a second book, which came out earlier this year. Gallop sat flicking through an archive of case files with her pearlescent turquoise nails, happily mumbling things like “drowning” under her breath. “Marvellous case,” she said as she produced the one she was looking for, about an impaling.

Gallop has to be careful about what she puts in her books, in case they become guides for getting away with murder. Midway through this meeting, Gallop and Smith discussed an element of forensic technique that is not public knowledge. “There are one or two things we don’t want people to think too deeply about, because it would make our job a lot more difficult,” Gallop said. They decided, ultimately, that it was too revealing to include. “Maybe we just keep that one up our sleeve,” she said, tucking a case back into her file.


People who know Gallop often describe her as someone who likes people. More important for her line of work is the fact that people like her. She has needed to persuade people to use her services and to liaise successfully between the police, the lab, the court and, later in her career, the shareholders: to be a scientist, but also a canny businesswoman. Gallop has a warm, slightly goofy charm. “I do just smile when I think about her,” Deb Hopwood, an expert in hair analysis who left the FSS to work with Gallop, told me. Another former colleague, a cannabis expert called Anne Franc, recalled a series of arduous strategy meetings to which Gallop brought a Buzz Lightyear toy. When the team’s energy flagged, she would press a button to make the toy’s wings pop out and then say “To infinity and beyond!” It became a catchphrase for the team. “Once Angela’s decided to do something, then that something will happen,” said Franc.

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In 1997, Gallop set up another company, Forensic Alliance, which would offer forensic expertise to the police. By this time, it was no longer legal for the FSS to have a monopoly on forensic work for the police, and forces in England and Wales had to pay for this work out of their own budgets rather than from a central fund. “The FSS were in trouble from that point,” says Chris Gregg, a former detective chief superintendent who later went into business with Gallop. “They were having to look in the mirror and think, well, we’ve got serious competition.”

Gallop began approaching police forces with the offer of looking into their cold cases for a competitive price. Her pitch was simple: if Forensic Alliance didn’t solve the case, nobody would complain because the cases had already gone cold. But if they did, the police could take the credit. A detective at Merseyside police, David Smith, offered Gallop a particularly grim case. In 1997, a 74-year-old woman named Alice Rye had been discovered dead in the bedroom of her home on the Wirral, tied up half-naked, with a kitchen knife driven into each of her eyes. The initial investigation had failed to discover any conclusive evidence. When Gallop took on the case in 1999, her team re-examined the initial evidence and found DNA belonging to the prime suspect. He was arrested and later sentenced to a minimum of 18 years in prison. Smith was impressed. “She brought a different type of thinking,” he told me. “And it made me look good.”

Later in 1999, South Wales police asked Gallop to review a case that had remained unsolved for more than a decade. On Valentine’s Day in 1988, in a cramped, dingy flat above a betting shop in Cardiff’s docklands, Lynette White, a sex worker, was found dead. The flat was covered in blood and White had been stabbed more than 50 times.

The initial investigation had been a fiasco. In 1990, five men, all of whom were black or mixed-race, were tried for the murder, and three of them were sentenced to life in prison. One of those three, Stephen Miller, was White’s boyfriend, and had confessed to watching as his friend, Tony Paris, killed her. But two years later, their convictions were overturned. It emerged that the police, who wanted the case closed quickly, had aggressively questioned Miller on 19 separate occasions over four days and for a total of 13 hours, working him into such a state of confusion and distress that he made a false confession. The three men were released, as there was no reliable evidence to tie them to the scene of the crime. At the time, the police resisted calls for the case to be reopened, saying that the three men were still the prime suspects and that they had only been released on a technicality.

Angela Gallop, photographed in Oxfordshire.
Angela Gallop, photographed in Oxfordshire. Photograph: David Levene/The Guardian

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In 1999, when South Wales police commissioned Gallop and her team to take another look at White’s murder, it was partly because of advances in DNA techniques since her killing. “But it’s not all about new technology,” Gallop told me. “It’s finding the things to test. It’s understanding the crime scene.” In the initial investigation, some blood had been found in White’s flat that did not come from the victim or any of the suspects. Its presence had never been explained. Eleven years later, the chances of turning up new evidence seemed slim. In 1988, the police had sprayed the entire flat in luminol, a chemical used to detect blood, which has the unfortunate side-effect of destroying DNA. The flat had also been repainted twice since the murder. But Gallop thought that if they looked in the right places, they might still find blood that could yield a DNA profile. “With Angela, it’s the adage of no stone unturned,” Gregg told me. But, he added, Gallop’s greatest skill is knowing which stones to turn and when.

During their investigation, the police had removed strips of wallpaper from the bedroom where the attack took place. Gallop got hold of these strips and attached them to boards, in order to reconstruct, in her laboratory, the room. By examining the blood spatter patterns on the wallpaper, she established that any remaining blood might be found on a particular section of the skirting board in the flat, under the new layers of paint. She had the police cut out this section and bring it to the Forensic Access lab, where she asked a colleague, April Robson, to scrape away the paint. It took two weeks of delicate work with a scalpel, but finally, under the paint, was the microscopic flake of dried blood they were looking for.

That flake of blood yielded a DNA profile. Searching the DNA database did not initially produce a match, until they ran a search for people whose DNA was very similar but not identical. This search brought up a 14-year-old boy who had committed a minor crime. He was not a suspect – he hadn’t been born when the murder was committed. But the police were interested in speaking to members of his family, including a reclusive uncle named Jeffrey Gafoor. The police tracked Gafoor down and asked him for a DNA sample, which he provided. Gafoor then left the station and went to buy a lethal dose of paracetamol. But the police had him under surveillance, and were able to intercept him before he killed himself. Gafoor went on to plead guilty to the murder of Lynette White. In 2003, he was convicted and sentenced to a minimum of 13 years in prison.


By the 2000s, whenever police forces needed to commission big cold case reviews, they would call Gallop. In 2004, the Metropolitan police asked her to examine forensic evidence relating to the death of Princess Diana. Gallop helped establish that there were no grounds to support allegations by Mohamed Al-Fayed of a murder conspiracy involving the Royal Family.

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During the same period, the FSS, which had been underfunded for decades, was declining fast. Between 1997 and 2004, the organization had, under pressure from private companies such as Gallop’s, reduced its turnaround time for cases from almost a year to closer to six weeks, but this had come at a cost. “There was this change of culture whereby the forensic scientist was almost living in fear,” said Doug Stoten, who worked at the FSS at the time. “Management is on my back, I’ve got to meet my target, I’ve got to turn around this case. And a lot of the scientists thought, hang on, that’s going to impact on quality, and mistakes are going to be made.”

There were high-profile failures. In November 2000, Damilola Taylor, a 10-year-old schoolboy, was killed in Peckham, south London. The FSS did not identify evidence that could be linked to any suspect. In 2003, the Metropolitan police gave Gallop this case to review, and very quickly she and her team discovered a bloodstain on a trainer that belonged to one of Taylor’s suspected killers, a local boy called Danny Preddie. Danny and his brother, Richard Preddie, who were 12 and 13 at the time of the killing, were sentenced to eight years in youth custody on the strength of this evidence.

Sometimes the main obstacle to solving a case is money. Between 2000 and 2010, police budgets increased by 31% and they spent more on forensics. Then, during the following decade, under first the coalition government and then the Conservatives, this progress was undone. Police budgets in England and Wales were cut by 19% in real terms between 2010 and 2018, and police spending on forensics fell from about £120m to about £50m. One of the more niche approaches Gallop is skilled in, and one she’s scared we’re going to lose in the future because of its cost, is searching for textile fibre evidence, the tiny bits of clothing you leave wherever you go. This involves a process called taping, where a scientist presses strips of sticky tape all over the surface of an object, picking up tiny pieces of debris – skin flakes, clothing fibres, paint fragments, glass, soil. Then they examine each strip, millimetre by millimetre, under a microscope. It sounds simple, but it’s expensive and time-consuming. This is rarely the kind of work that police want their budget spent on. Instead, as David Halliday, an ex-FSS forensic fire investigator, put it: “Out on the ground, the police officer wants a new patrol car.”

But Gallop has seen over and over again how useful taping can be. In 2006, she was approached to work on what are known as the Pembrokeshire coastal path murders, which dated back to 1985, when Richard and Helen Thomas, middle-aged siblings, were shot in their home near Milford Haven, a port town in Wales. After the shootings, the house was burned down with the bodies inside. Four years later, a member of the public informed a local policeman that they had seen a curiously large swarm of flies on a stretch of windswept clifftop near where the Thomas’ house had been. Here, the bodies of a husband and wife, Peter and Gwenda Dixon, were discovered. They, too, had died of gunshot wounds. Both sets of killings went unsolved. But in 2005, a Dyfed-Powys detective named Steve Wilkins noticed a possible connection between these murders and a third unsolved case, the violent sexual assault of some teenagers in the same area in 1996. In 2006, he commissioned Gallop to review all three cases, because the man he suspected – John Cooper, a 62-year-old farm worker from the local area, who was serving a 14-year prison sentence for armed robbery – was due for parole.

Gwenda (left) and Peter Dixon, who were murdered on the Pembrokeshire coastal path in 1989.
Gwenda (left) and Peter Dixon, who were murdered on the Pembrokeshire coastal path in 1989. Photograph: Dyfed Powys police/PA

Wilkins, like detectives all over the country, did not have an unlimited budget for these reinvestigations. So he told Gallop and her team that they were to look for DNA evidence and nothing else. For months, they searched in the obvious places: the rope that had been used to tie Peter Dixon’s hands, items of Gwenda Dixon’s clothing that had almost certainly been handled by the killer, the swabs taken from their bodies. But they found nothing. Gallop’s team felt hamstrung. What they wanted to look for was clothing fibres that could connect garments worn by John Cooper to the scenes of the crimes.

After 18 months, Wilkins was running out of money and patience. He threatened to take the case away from Gallop, but she convinced him that they should meet in person at the police station. “They were so unpleasant,” she said, grinning. “This whole team sitting there, stony-faced.” Gallop told them that if they wanted the case solved, they needed to let her look for what she wanted to look for: fibre evidence. I asked Wilkins about his memory of this confrontation. “Oh, Angela is more than happy to argue the toss with you,” he said. As we spoke, I was reminded of something William Clegg, the QC, said to me about watching Gallop being cross-examined in court. “It’s a bit like trying to tell off a very stern headmistress,” he said, “you don’t get very far.” Gallop got her way: she would keep the case, and her team would be allowed to look for textile fibre evidence.

Whoever killed Gwenda and Peter Dixon had covered their bodies with branches from nearby trees. Gallop suspected that the reason her team had had such trouble finding DNA was because the killer had been wearing gloves. If that was right, fibres from the gloves would be on those branches. And as it happened, those branches had been sitting, unexamined, in evidence bags at Milford Haven police station for almost 20 years. On the branches, Gallop and her team found the fibres they were looking for, which they were eventually able to prove came from gloves owned by Cooper. And as a result of taping other items of Cooper’s clothing, they found a tiny flake of blood that belonged to one of the victims.

Gallop and Wilkins remember this moment distinctly. Wilkins was in the car driving home from a policing seminar in south Wales when his phone rang. “She said: ‘Steve, are you driving? Pull over,’” Wilkins recalled. Gallop told him that she and her team had found the DNA linking Cooper to the crime. “I think I actually proposed to her,” Wilkins said. Cooper was found guilty of the double murders in 2011, and is now serving four life sentences.

If they hadn’t looked for textile fibres, they wouldn’t have found the DNA. Examinations of textile fibres were also key to solving the murder of Stephen Lawrence. But tapings of evidence are being taken less and less. “Because fibre evidence is perceived to be very expensive, [it is] not used,” Bob Green, vice-president of the Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences, told me, “and yet it can be vital.”


One day last summer, Gallop gave me a tour around the main Forensic Access lab, which is located in an anonymous business park in Oxfordshire. Here, a team of 24 scientists do their daily work: examining tissue samples from victims, studying textile fibres from crime scenes, using the in-house firing range to determine how far an attacker was standing from their target, and so on. In many areas, it looks like any office – an empty Colin the Caterpillar cake box sat on one of the desks – and in others, it does not. One internal window that we passed was blacked out, and I was informed that this was because one of the scientists was usually working on “body parts” in there.

As we toured the lab, Gallop’s pride was palpable. But the shiny facilities of Forensic Access do not reflect the current state of forensic science in England and Wales, which has been getting worse for at least a decade. Even Gallop, who describes herself as an “appalling optimist”, is worried. To her, the mid- to late 00s were the high point for forensic science in England and Wales, when private companies and the FSS competed for work. But in 2012, the government closed the FSS, claiming that it was too expensive to keep running.

Many, including Gallop, view the decision as disastrous, not least because the government used to fund important forensic research through the FSS – research that is now simply not being done. They also mourn the loss of the training that used to be given by the FSS, training that Gallop herself received in her early career. “There are some people in the business who will point the finger at Angela for the demise of the Forensic Science Service, because she created another commercial provider that would go into business in opposition to it, and that’s when the rot set in,” says Niamh Nic Daéid, director of the Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science at Dundee University. “I think that’s a bit unfair. But what she did do was demonstrate that a private sector laboratory could deliver services into the justice system.” Gallop has written that rather than being closed, the FSS should have been “modernised and made properly commercial”, though whether a “properly commercial” outfit would have pursued the kind of research and training that made the FSS institutionally valuable is debatable.

Stephen Miller, one of three Cardiff men wrongly convicted of killing Lynette White.
Stephen Miller, one of three Cardiff men wrongly convicted of killing Lynette White. Photograph: Martin Godwin/The Guardian

One consequence of the FSS closing is that, to save money, police forces have started to do more testing in their own forensics laboratories, rather than outsourcing the work to specialised forensics companies. The result, said Jim Fraser, a forensic scientist at the University of Strathclyde, is “a real dog’s breakfast”. Police officers, who may have no training in forensics, are often tasked with choosing which simple forensic tests to have carried out. Their options are restricted to a limited “menu” of tests, and younger forensic scientists are being trained in how to do just one or two of the tests on that menu, and not much more. “The real nadir of all this is when, instead of sending in an item for examination for blood, where the pattern might tell you something about what happened, the police cut a stain out and just send the stain in for DNA,” said Fraser. In summary, he said: “The police have completely fucked forensic science in England and Wales.”

After we left the Forensic Access laboratory, Gallop drove in her shiny, blood-red Tesla to her home in rural Oxfordshire. (“I’ve had some really, deeply nice cars,” she admitted to me later. “I like going quite fast.”) When we arrived, two sleepy Siamese cats were listening to the radio by an aga in the same shade of red as her car. As we drank tea in the garden, Gallop spoke about the wider crisis in the criminal justice system in England and Wales. Legal aid has been cut by almost half since 2005, and the courts currently have such large case backlogs that people are waiting more than a year for their cases to be heard. Meanwhile, the general quality of forensic work continues to deteriorate, as police increasingly do work that she believes should be conducted by specialists. “I don’t see how you can expect the people in the organisation that is charged with going out, finding criminals and then helping to prosecute them, to come up with independent, impartial, scientific evidence,” Gallop told me. “I think that is completely wrong.”

Sometimes all this talk of cuts and declining standards can sound rather abstract: a series of statistics, percentage decreases, laments about a lack of research that might possibly yield something at some point in the future. But the real meaning of forensic science is felt in lives saved, injustices averted, victims consoled. In February, I spoke to Damilola Taylor’s father, Richard, on the phone. He agreed to speak to me about what Gallop and her team’s work meant to him, although it still makes him distraught to speak of what happened to his little boy, more than 20 years later. Had the evidence that helped convict the killer not been found, he said, “it would have been a lifetime depression for me and my family. It helped us a lot in getting closure. In being able to move on.”

Olof Palme with swedish flag super-imposed

A few months ago, Gallop met John Actie, one of the five Cardiff men who were wrongly accused of the murder of Lynette White. He spent two years in jail. The meeting, which took place in Actie’s local park, was being filmed for a documentary that will air on Channel 5 in April. For Actie, it was a moment he will never forget. “Without Angela Gallop, my life would have been fingers still pointing at me, people nudging each other and whispering,” he told me. “She’s cleared up so much for us and our families.”

Gallop doesn’t often come face to face with the living people involved in her cases. This was the first time she’d met someone falsely accused of a crime she then solved. She found it moving and humbling. “I suppose it also made me determined to continue to do my bit,” she said. And then she went back to work.

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The long read: Forensic scientist Angela Gallop has helped to crack many of the UK’s most notorious murder cases. But today she fears the whole field – and justice itself – is at risk — Read on http://www.theguardian.com/science/2022/mar/24/queen-of-crime-solving-angela-gallop-forensic-science

Forensics: The queen of crime-solving | Forensic science — FORENSICS and LAW in FOCUS @ CSIDDS | News and Trends