Why South Wales Police are using the Leica Geosystems BLK360 for Laser Scanning Major Crime Scenes

South Wales Police has found the BLK360 works well in confined indoor spaces, enabling them to rapidly and accurately capture crime scenes and then ‘revisit’ them much later.

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The journey to buying a forensic laser-scanner

Russell Gardner is principal forensic imaging officer at the Joint Scientific Investigations Unit at South Wales Police Headquarters, which also provides services to Gwent Police. The force had been using manual measurement techniques and traditional video/photography at crime scenes, but could see the benefits that laser scanning could bring. “So for a few major cases we paid to bring in an external service – but that was never going to be a long-term solution,” explains Russ.

“The BLK360 has worked well in our crime-scene investigations.” Russ Gardner, South Wales Police

The benefits of long-term scene capture

According to Russ Gardner: “Our use of the system helps us avoid disturbing the evidence, and we can permanently capture the whole scene before anything is removed or disposed of. We can then go back to the data any time, even years later, to see the height of a bed or a witness viewpoint. This really matters because when you’re at the scene, you can’t possibly know what questions might come up several months down the line.

As forensic imaging specialists, we increasingly make a difference to the outcome of a case, which can also mean making a positive difference for the victim or their loved ones.

Using scan data can be important. We’re there at the very start of the case, gathering the evidence, and then again at the end when we present and interpret it in court. It’s a privilege to be involved in the whole journey, rather than just part of it.”

Scenario 1 – A buried victim

A missing person case became a murder case when a body was found in a makeshift grave. Russ’ team scanned the burial area both before and after the body was removed, unsure what the data might offer but wanting to capture the best possible evidence as fully as they could.

Experts including forensic archaeologists were able to infer how the grave had been dug and where the suspect had been standing as they had dug and shovelled the soil.

The scan data was key in producing a very accurate visual record of the grave shape and structure, which is often difficult to see from 2D scaled drawings, photographs and plot diagrams.

A Forensic Archaeologist said, ‘The scan did work very well on this case and it does a great job of recording the scene to scale with relative ease, speed and most importantly to me, with no intrusion to the grave or what it contains. The videos you produced of the fly through were exceptional and really assisted in the presentation of the evidence.’

Senior Investigating officer DI Andy Miles said, “As the senior Investigating officer in this case I would have attended at the scene to view the landscape and deposition site for myself. Where this technology has a significant impact is for the benefit of others. The jury at the subsequent trial-obviously they would not have the benefit of being there themselves, the trial would have been many months later. I have no doubt that showing this emotive footage within the courtroom setting to the jury and the defendant has had the knock on effect of the defendant offering a guilty plea. Technology such as this cannot be underestimated in such cases”.

Scenario 2 – An In-vehicle murder by stabbing

CCTV footage showed a stabbing late at night in a vehicle parked outside a house. However, it was so dark that it was difficult to interpret the footage. So the following day, Russ’ team used the system to create a “bird’s eye” fly-through of the scene, orienting the vehicle in relation to the CCTV camera and its range of view.

Although the suspect was apprehended by other means, the scan data provided important confirmation and understanding of the location and orientation for all concerned in the case, especially the jury. A conviction resulted.

To find out more on how 3D reality capture solutions can help assist an investigation, speak with our team here.

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