Crime scene management has evolved to meet the challenges of today’s crime scene experts. There have been a lot of changes over the past 75 years, especially in the type of evidence which can now be recovered and the investigative tools used to process it.
The employment of qualified Scientific Support Managers take charge of all experts involved at a scene and this ensures evidence is recovered In-tact and un-compromised.
The following paper shows how modern scene management methods are used to investigate the Ruxton case today.
The Initial Call
A hill walker in the south of Scotland, spots an arm reaching up out of the river. She immediately calls 999 and Police officers are dispatched to her location.
Actions of the First Officers at the Scene (FAO)
Quick preservation is the key to success in recovering evidence from any scene. Crime scenes are easily compromised and evidence can be destroyed by walking over or moving any items before experts have cleared the area.
In 1921 Locards Principle was founded and it simply states “every contact leaves a trace” there is always evidence at a scene and failure to find evidence may be due to Poor preservation and search techniques.
The officers contact their supervisor as to what they found and requested a Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) to attend the location.
FOAs now cordoned off the scene and identify safe parking for technical bureau vehicles. A logbook is opened to record all personnel who attend the scene.
Major Crime Scene Management
Towards the end of the 1980s it was decided new management and training techniques were required and the roll of Crime Scene Manager was developed. The establishment of the National Training Centre provide crime scene investigators with higher standards of training. (As per G. Keeling and A. Scott – Crime scene management workbook, P4)
Proper management of staff at major crime scenes was found to be paramount if an investigation is to be successful. All major crime scenes present complex issues which may lead to misunderstandings and conflicts between the various forensic teams. A co-ordinated approach to the investigation is essential and must be agreed by all the various experts if the investigation is to be handled properly.
(As per G. Keeling and A. Scott – Crime scene management workbook, P14)
The management structure includes:
Senior Investigation Officer (SIO)
Scientific Support Co-ordinator (SSC)
Crime Scene Co-ordinator (CSC)
Crime Scene Manager (CSM)
In major crime scenes the SIO will seek the assistance of a Senior Forensic Scientist to co-ordinate with the forensic laboratory.
Senior Investigation Officer
The Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) is the principle decision maker in the investigation and will control the enquiry with the management team.
(see fig 2)
Scientific Support Co-ordinator
This Scientific Support Co-ordinator manages and co-ordinates the various scientific support teams (outlined later) and advises the SIO on the scientific support strategy.
The Crime Scene Co-ordinator
The CSC advises the SIO on contamination issues. If it becomes obvious this is not the primary crime scene then the CSC will coordinate personnel at all the various scenes.
The Crime Scene Manager
The CSM is an experienced CSI who will take control of the scene and is responsible for all matters relating to its examination. The CSM is the liaison between the SIO and CSIs.(See fig 3) (As per G. Keeling and A. Scott – Crime scene management workbook, P14)
This detective is in charge of keeping all evidence secure. The exhibits officer records, catalogues and assigns exhibit numbers to each piece of evidence i.e. LCH1.
The incident Room
Information is controlled and stored in the incident room using a computer system first introduced in the UK in 1986 known as HOLMES (Home Office Large Major Enquiry System). The Incident room provides the SIO with accurate up to date information on the examination of evidence. The Incident room also provides a two way information system for detectives during the investigation.
Police and staff at the scene include
Personnel under the control of The Scientific Support Co-ordinator include:
The Crime Scene Investigator is responsible for persevering and collecting evidence at the scene.
The Photographer provides a full pictorial record of the scene and the Post Mortem and produces albums for trial.
The Surveyor provides detail maps and plans of the scene.
The Fingerprint Lab tech is used to recover prints at a scene.
The Fingerprint expert is used to examine prints at a scene and aid in eliminating any persons who have cause to be a scene.
Experts provided by the Forensic Science Service (FSS) include:
Dynamic Risk Assessment
Under the Health & Safety at work Act 1974 The Crime Scene Manager completes a Dynamic Risk Assessment for every scene which addresses:
Water born hazards (drowning, weil’s disease)
Biological issues (HIV/AIDS/HEP A&B)
Items infested with parasites
Welfare issues which must be addressed:-
Critical Stress Debriefing
Personnel working at this scene were presented with a horrendous sight of decomposed and butchered body parts strewn across the area. All staff must be offered the opportunity to undertake Critical Stress Debriefing.
The Crime Scene manager compiles a Contamination Matrix which ensures no person or vehicle attends more than one scene. This will eliminate any possibility of cross contamination.
The Forensic strategy
The SIO needs the following questions to be answered:-
Are the parts human
Could the remains be animals?
Who is the deceased
The victim(s) needs to be identified as soon as possible.
Age and sex of the victim(s)
Age and gender of the victim will aid in the identification process.
Time and date of death
The pathologist will be able to determine a rough time of death and an entomologist may be able to produce an estimated date of death.
Cause of death
The pathologists will give an indication of how the victim(s) died.
Can a suspect be eliminated
There is no point spending money investigating an innocent person. Can evidence prove this person is or is not a suspect?
Is this linked to another crime
If this crime is linked to another crime, evidence and investigations from the other crime scenes may be able to direct investigators to a suspect.
(As per G. Keeling and A. Scott – Crime Scene Management workbook, P20)
Using the forensic strategy it is important to keep an open mind and read the scene based on knowledge and experience as the facts fall into place, testing each hypothesis as it develops. (As per P. White – From Crime Scene to Court P47)
Believe no one
(See Fig 4)
Agreeing and delivering a forensic strategy
Once a forensic strategy has been decided the SIO and CSM must before the investigation can continue. The SIO records the agreed strategy in the investigation policy book and the CSM records the strategy in the scene management log.
Recording the forensic strategy
To avoid any misunderstanding between the SIO and CSM the scene log is updated with actions identified in the forensic strategy. The log is also updated with the outcomes from briefings, meetings and directions to the CSIs.
Delivering the forensic Strategy
The CSM is responsible for Planning, coordinating and managing the search and recovery of evidence. The CSM details tasks and activities from the strategy to the forensic teams. (As per G. Keeling and A. Scott – Crime Scene Management workbook, P21)
Managing Police and Forensic experts at the scene
Processing a crime scene involves a team of experts who can deal with any piece of evidence uncovered during an investigation. These experts need to be managed and coordination to avoid any overlaps during their examinations. (As per G. Keeling and A. Scott – Crime Scene Management workbook, P21)
Major Crime Scene vehicles
The attendance of a Major Crime Scene Vehicle is requested. (See fig 6). This vehicle will act as a command post to allow briefings to be held on site.
Crime scene vehicles also attend which contain equipment such as lighting, tarpaulin, plastic tape and any non-routine equipment needed at an external crime scene. (As per P. White – From Crime Scene to Court P46)
The CSM contacts Police Search Advisors (POLSA) who are trained in systematic searching techniques for large areas. A fingertip search of the area is conducted to locate evidence. The CSIs will recover and transfer the evidence to the Exhibits Officer to hold until their value to the investigation is ascertained. (As per P. White – From Crime Scene to Court P49)
Recovery of Evidence
The CSM produces an Evidence Recovery Plan which outlines the steps required before any piece of evidence is recovered.
Sequencing of examination
The Sequencing of Examinations must always be done in such a way that the recovery process does not destroy other evidence.
Evidence should be processed in this order:-
Pictorial record and sketches of the position of the item
Recovery of fragile evidence first i.e. DNA, fibres
(As per G. Keeling and A. Scott – Crime Scene Management workbook, P22)
The Planning Cycle
NEW INFORMATION – New information can be obtained from any source at any time
STOP – stop and obtain a briefing
ASSESS – Using the CSMs initial questions. What do I know? Now formulate a plan, immediate action required
PLAN – What specialists do I require? Is my Evidence Recovery Plan in place.
REVIEW – review the actions put in place
(See fig 5)
The CSM will confirm the positions of the cordons are. The CSM will identify the position of a second outer cordon. Once the inner cordon is in place, only personnel wearing PPE will be allowed pass.
Crime Scene Surveillance
All personnel will be aware a suspect may be present or revisit the scene during the investigation asking questions. It is best practice that details are recorded of any person enquiring about the scene or vehicles driving around the area. (As per G. Keeling and A. Scott – Crime Scene Management workbook, P11)
Common Approach Path (CAP)
A common approach path is established to allow access to the scene. This is completed by identifying a route to the scene which would not likely to have been used by the suspect. This route is subjected to a fingertip search and a full video and photographic record is completed. Once this route is established the CSM, SIO, Pathologist and Forensic Scientist will approach the main area where the biggest concentration of the body parts are located.
Body parts are placed in new plastic body bags and labelled appropriately. The body parts are accompanied back to the morgue by the Crime Scene Manager and a Police Officer. The Officer will remain with the bodies for the duration until the Post Mortem is completed.
Under Water Search Unit
An Under Water Search Unit is bought in and will search the river to recover body parts and the instruments used in the possible murder and dissection of the bodies.
The Post Mortem
The Pathologist will systematically examine the body to establish cause and time of death. An attempt to identify the weapon and instrument used to dissect the bodies will be made. A full video and photographic record including sketches are made for each step. The Pathologist will take various samples, blood, hair (head & body), DNA and swabs from all body orifices and send to the lab for processing.
An Anthropologist will aid in the identification and reassembly of skeletonised remains of the victims. (see fig 8)
Examination of the skulls
Examination of the skulls can give an estimated age and gender of the victims. It is estimated the shorter body is aged between 20 and 30 years and female. The taller of the two bodies was approximately between 30 and 40 years of age, also female.
Examining maggots recovered from the scene the Entomologist constructs a timeline using the insects life cycles to estimate the date of death.
This date coincides with the date on the newspaper which some of the body parts were wrapped in.
Cause of death
The taller woman had damaged of the hyoid bone consistent with strangulation. Five stab wounds to the chest were found. The smaller woman’s skull was fractured and her tongue shows signs of swelling consistent with asphyxia.
When the PM is complete the Senior Investigation Officer asks the Pathologist for a cause of death.
Results of the Post Mortem
The post mortem has proven there are two bodies, both female, one in her twenties and the other in her thirties. The bodies were dismembered using a knife at the joints. The Pathologists concluded the bodies were mutilated to prevent identification and possibility by somebody with medical training. Both victims died a violent death.
After the PM the coroner is informed and takes responsibility for the bodies until they are released for burial. .
Finger and palm prints
Automatic Fingerprint Identification Systems (AFIS) developed in the late 80s is now widely used in Police forces all over the world. Palm and fingerprints of the victims are taken and entered onto the AFIS system for possible identification or comparison later.
Tool marks on the bones are casted and confirmed they were made by a knife.
2D facial reconstruction was first used in Texas during the 1980s (As per Reichs and Craig. Facial Approximation: procedures and pitfalls) and allows the forensic artists to reconstruct faces on the skulls. 3D facial re-construction can also be done by using clay or 3D computer software using known profiles for race, age, and gender. The reconstructed face is photographed or printed and submitted to the incident room. (See fig 11)
Further examination of the scene
During the Post Mortem, searching the scene and the river continued and the cordons reviewed. Potential evidence such as footprints, drag marks, clothing snags and blood is recovered and examined for intelligence.
Once the scene has been fully examined, a final inventory is compiled of what’s left and not removed. This will insure whatever is left is not part of the investigation. Although this is normally completed on an inside scene there is merit for carrying out this process for every scene.
De-commissioning the scene
Before the scene is released it is good practice for an independent Crime Scene Manager to walk the scene to establish if there are any items of interest to the investigation overlooked. The SIO and CSM walk the entire scene and on completion the scene is released.
Evidence recovered at the scene
Each piece of evidence should be photographed in its location; sketches drawn of its exact location and when collected, packaged in its own separate container, labelled and exhibit numbers assigned. Evidence collected at the scene included:
Various body parts
A patched blouse
Tyre marks and footprints
Casts of Foot prints and tyre tracks are made and recovered. Intelligence on the class characteristics of the tyre marks can establish a type of tyre present at the scene. The tyre marks can also be compared on the national tyre tread database. If a vehicle is later identified the individual characteristics of the tyre can be compared with the recovered casts.
Foot prints recovered can be compared on the national shoe database and be matched to a suspect’s shoe.
The newspaper is examined for fingerprints, handwriting, hairs, fibres, blood and DNA.
This paper is the Sunday Graphic which displays the date and part of a headline which refers to a festival in Morecambe near Lancaster.
Intelligence from the newspaper points the investigation team to believe the murders may have taken place in the Morecambe area and the bodies driven up to Scotland on or soon after the date on the newspaper. (Wilson & Wilson 2003)
Missing Persons Reports
The investigating team now look at missing person’s reports for women in their mid twenties and late thirties from around the Morecambe and Lancaster areas.
Mary Jane Rogerson (see fig 10) was reported missing by her stepmother. She had been employed by a Doctor Ruxton, who lived in Lancaster. 34 year old Isabella Ruxton, Dr Ruxtons wife (see fig 9) was also reported missing by friends.
These women are good matches to the images the forensic artists generated.
The patched blouse
The blouse is tested for the presence of hair, fibres and traces of DNA. Any recovered particulates are compared to the victim and possible suspects. A photo of the blouse was shown to Jessie Rogerson and identified as been owned by Mary Jane.
Incident room Detectives now turn their attentions to Dr. Ruxton. (See fig 7)
Crime Scene 2 (Dr. Ruxtons House)
The First Officer on scene preserved the scene using barrier tape to restrict entry to the building. The suspect’s car and the area surrounding the vehicle is cordon off. The scene log book is started and only persons wearing full PPE can enter the building.
The Scientific Support Officer reviews the cordons and the personnel required at the building. The SSO will take into account if there is evidence external to the building.
The Contamination Matrix and Dynamic Risk Assessments are completed before any persons enter the building. The SSO marks out the common access to the building. Method of entry to the building will be determined by the Crime Scene Manager.
Once the Evidence Recovery Plan is complete, the building is searched.
Blood was found on the stairs and in the bathroom. Blood, DNA and other material was discovered in the bathtub. This evidence was recovered and sent to the lab for examination. This blood and DNA will be compared to DNA on file from the victims and on the national DNA database.
Evidence recovered from the building included:-
Skin and Bone Fragments
Hair and fibres
Clothing from the victim and suspect
The suspect’s shoes
Dr Ruxtons Doctors Bag
Medicines and drugs including their containers
Various control samples
Fingerprints recovered at the house are compared to the victims on AFIS.
As the bodies showed stab wounds and was dissected, a search for any instrument capable of accomplishing this is carried out. Ruxtons Medical bag was collected and sent to the lab.
Ruxten`s shoes was collected and soil samples compared to soil from the dump site. The size, make and sole patterns were recorded and compared with marks recovered at the dump site. The shoes were also examined for blood and other trace evidence.
Ruxtons clothing was collected and examined for the presence of the victim’s blood and other trace evidence.
The suspect and victims mobile phones are recovered. The phones software is interrogated for cell tower information which can track the movements of the phones imei numbers as they travel between cell towers. Call logs, text messages, photos and emails can be reviewed by investigators.
The car is impounded, transported to a special examination centre and searched for evidence it transported a body. The vehicles tyres are compared against tyre-tracks recovered from the scene. Soil in the tyres is compared against soil from the dumpsite.
The National Vehicle File
The vehicles number-plate is checked against the National Vehicle File (NVF) for intelligence. This car was reported as having been involved in a hit and run in Kendal placing it near the crime scene around the estimated date of the murders.
ANPR and Speed Enforcement Camera Systems
The cars number-plate can also be checked against various databases such as:-
Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) systems
Gatso and Robot Speed enforcement cameras
CCTV recordings are collected from Petrol stations, shops and Cafes along the entire route from Dalton Square to the crime scene in Scotland. Image annalists examined the recordings for sightings of Dr Ruxton or his car.
A final inventory is conducted by an independent CSM and once the SIO is satisfied there is no more evidence to be recovered, the building as a scene is decommissioned.
Post Scene Activity
When all the scenes have been examined the incident management team develop and agree a submission policy. (As per G. Keeling and A. Scott – Crime Scene Management workbook, P24)
The SIO, CSM, SSO and the Exhibits Officer must meet once or twice daily and explore if there are any links between the scenes and the recovered evidence.
The CSM will continue to meet and liaise with the SIO and on the progress of the evidence. (As per G. Keeling and A. Scott – Crime Scene Management workbook, P24)
The SIO is responsible to keep control of expenditure during the investigation. The SIO will see that overtime is kept to a minimum and only staff working their normal shift are used.
As external agencies charge for their services the SIO in consultation with the CSM prioritise evidence to be processed. As intelligence from the lab emerges evidence will move up or down in priority.
Submission for finance will consider the following:-
Evidence which will prove/disprove a suspects involvement
Does the evidence corroborate the suspect’s, witnesses or victims version of events
Will the examination of this evidence further the investigation
If these criteria are fulfilled the CSM will authorise its examination. (As per G. Keeling and A. Scott – Crime Scene Management workbook, P25)
Statements of evidence
Every person involved in the investigation will be required to provide a statement. Police and experts notebooks are obtained. These documents will be received, read, catalogued and exhibit numbers assigned.
Copies of all documents and reports will be compiled into the book of evidence and submitted in the court file.
Experts in court and the trial
If the case goes to trial then experts will be required to present their findings on the evidence to the Judge and jury. The defence has the right to cross examine any witness and have any evidence independently examined.
On completion of the evidence, the prosecution and defence barristers give their closing statements. The judge will then charge and send the jury to deliberate. The jury can at any stage request clarification on any piece of evidence.
When deliberations have finished, the jury return a verdict.
“The murder scene is, without a doubt, the most important crime scene an officer will be called to attend. Because of the nature of the crime death by violence or unnatural causes, the answer to what happened can only be determined after careful and intelligent examination of the crime scene.” (Gerberth,.J. Practical Homicide investigation tactics, Procedures and forensics)
This essay is based on the Jigsaw murders of 1936 where Dr. Ruxton was found guilty on both accounts of murdering his wife Isabella and their house maid Mary Rogerson. He was sentenced to death.
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