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SIO Corner: Fast-Track Forensic Submissions

This week we look at issues relating to exhibits and forensic submission and the review process.

In this series we look at various aspects of life as an SIO. This includes the necessary skill sets for the successful SIO, the management of serious crime investigation and specific elements of investigative practice from initial response through crime scene examination and investigative strategies to dealing with suspects and the media. The articles are excerpts from the 2nd edition of Blackstone's, the 'Senior Investigating Officers' Handbook', written by two highly experienced SIOs (see 'About the Authors' at the end of the article).

Fast-Track Forensic Submissions

It is essential during the early stages of any homicide investigation for the SIO, working alongside the CSM, to identify fast-track forensic submissions that may result in the early identification of a suspect and give a speedy arrest. These should be a standard feature and agenda item for discussion at any forensic and/or exhibit strategy review meetings.

Case study—Fast-tracked forensic evidence

A 10-year-old schoolgirl had been playing with some friends during a warm summer evening near to her home. She did not return home and was reported missing. A search of the local area began, involving family, members of the public, and the police. Unfortunately her grandfather found her in the early hours of the following morning in nearby dense woodland. She had been beaten to death and concealed in undergrowth, beneath a pile of leaves.

The scene was cordoned off and a huge murder investigation commenced involving over 400 police staff. A detailed forensic examination of the crime scene was undertaken which covered a large rural area including trees, bushes, and shrubs.

Within a few feet of the body recovery site, forensic scientists found minute airborne droplets of the victim’s blood on surrounding leaves and vegetation at various height levels. This was consistent with the actual site and nature of the attack causing the death of the young girl.

During the early hours of the investigation, a 17-year-old youth was identified as being one of the last people to see the victim alive. He was treated as a TIE subject and as part of the elimination process his clothing and footwear were seized for blood and fibre screening. On initial visual examination of his training shoes, small blood spots could be seen.

The youth was arrested and taken into custody for questioning. The usual PACE custody time limits came into operation, whilst in the meantime his training shoes were sent off for fast-track forensic examination. Within three days, inside the custody time limits, the tests were completed. They revealed blood on the suspect’s training shoes originated from the victim and was of the exact shape and size as the airborne blood distribution found at the attack site. This result linked him to the victim at the time of her death. The youth was subsequently charged and later convicted of the murder based on the evidence from the blood found on his training shoes.

Expert Adviser’s Database

There are many types of forensic evidence, examination techniques, and experts who may be able to provide assistance in providing useful evidence. Some sciences are constantly evolving and the SIO and their enquiry team should strive to make the best use of what is available to them. It is always useful to keep up to date or find out what scientific methods and techniques there are.

The NPIA Specialist Operations Centre (SOC) maintains a database which contains details of a wide spectrum of forensic experts. The SOC identifies areas of expertise and forensic experts who can assist in major crime investigation. There are staff available who can help to identify and are able to supply a list of expert advisers. They can be contacted by email at soc@ npia.pnn.police.uk or by telephone at 0845 000 5463.


The extensive procedures and topics covered in this chapter in relation to crime scene management have included explanations of the roles of the SIO, CSM, and exhibits officers. The complex subject of crime scene processing was separated into six stages for ease of reference, followed by sections on forensic exhibit reviews and the all-important fast-track forensic actions.

It is hoped the relevant checklists will act as a quick and easy guide and aide memoire for reference purposes and give added benefit to the SIO when considering those vitally important scene and forensic recovery strategies that so often can produce that one piece of irrefutable evidence.

About the Authors:

Detective Superintendent Tony Cook was a CID officer with Greater Manchester Police for over 31 years until his retirement in 2009. During his time as an SIO, he led a number of high profile investigations including operations into gangland violence at Moss Side, the Bolton murder of a teenage girl in 2002, and the Denton strangling case. He was a trained assessor for promotion and a qualified Authorising Officer under RIPA. Tony received 14 commendations and a first-class BSc Honours degree in social sciences and a Diploma in Social Policy & Criminology from the Open University.

Andy Tattersall, formerly Detective Superintendent in Greater Manchester Police on the Force Major Incident Team, retired in 2007 after 33 years service and became the first ever Support Staff SIO in charge of a new Homicide Support Unit. With over 29 years in CID at all ranks Andy received the Homicide Working Group National Award for his Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Homicide in November 2006.

To see more details about the Senior Investigating Officers' Handbook, or to purchase a copy, click here

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