I direct you to my website where I list some fun facts about fingerprints that I learned from S/Sgt Wade Trottier, the St. Paul RCMP Ident officer (Forensic Identification)
An author's research is never done. It seems I run into interesting forensic tidbits which ever way I turn. Whether it be a Ducks Unlimited fundraising dinner (where I learned about double barreled shotguns), a SciFi Convention, or a workshop for volunteers. The experts seem to be especially
FATAL ERROR in the UK
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"A wise, haunting, deeply moving sequel to The Traz..."
enthused about teaching me things that debunk the miraculous crime-solving skills, techniques, and technologies of those CSI guys on TV. They also share some wonderful facts that would go real well on a CSI episode...or a crime novel.
What tidbits have I learned lately, which legends have been disproven and where did I learn it all?
- Yes, it is true that useable fingerprints are found at most crime scenes. Yes it is true that fingerprints are considered immutable evidence in courts of law and prints properly lifted and handled and with a clear connection to the crime will often elicit a guilty plea because it is so difficult to call such evidence into question. All my fingerprint facts were learned at a workshop for RCMP volunteers
- Fingerprints can't be lifted from rocks, but can be lifted from wood. However, the wood will likely be destroyed in the process. If your diamonds are stolen from your heirloom cedar jewellry box...you might be facing a tough decision.
- Disappointingly, no, it is not true that the time of death can be established. Not by liver temperature, stomach contents, rigamortis, or the lifecycle of maggots or other insects. The time of death (unless observed, of course) can only be determined to be sometime between the last time the victim was seen alive and the time the body was found. Bodies known to have been dead for only a week, said the investigator from the Medical Examiner's Office at the 2011 PureSpec Festival in Edmonton, can be reduced to a skeletal state within a week, given the proper conditions. Estimated time of death, he said, is never listed on an autopsy report.
- Despite the fact that it makes a good story, no, it is not true that you can hand a police dog the possession of a missing person and the dog will sniff around until it finds the scent and follow it to the object of the search, says Cpl. Steve Prior of the RCMP Police Dog Services in St. Paul. The dog needs to be directed to the scent of the person on the ground before he can take up the case. Thus, it is important not to mess around at a crime scene or missing person's scene--you don't want to contaminate the scent that may have been left. It also helps if someone is around who can say where the object of the search was last seen.
- Yes, it is true that police dogs are crossed trained. Dogs are trained in three areas: to track individuals, to sniff out drugs, and to locate bombs. All dogs are trained to track individuals, but bomb dogs are not trained for drug searches and drug dogs aren't trained to sniff out bombs. Because... well, suppose the police receive a call about a bomb threat in an airplane. The bomb-sniffing dog that's sent on board picks up the scent of marijuana coming from a backpack. Is it a bomb or a toke? Nobody would know, which could be a tad dangerous.