Off the Map: Zbigniew Michniewicz

Blog Category: Off the Map

The death of Zbigniew Michniewicz in December 2013 was originally treated as a murder after a postmortem revealed evidence of an assault.

Five suspects were arrested on suspicion of murder but nobody was ever charged with causing the death and a medical expert concluded that that the death was caused by drug abuse rather than the injuries to his head.

In June 2014 three men were jailed for plotting to conceal the death of Zbigniew Michniewicz by digging a grave in the back garden of the squat where they all lived in Greenford.

As a result of the medical conclusion in this case we have decided to delete this case from the database.

This is the text of the page before deletion in July 2014:

The body of Zbigniew Michniewicz, 36, was found at a squat in Greenford, west London, on 5 December 2013.

When police called at 251 Greenford Road at around 12.35pm they found a 5ft deep grave had been prepared in the back garden.

Mr Michniewicz was pronounced dead at the scene and an initial postmortem revealed the cause of death was a head injury, including fractures to his eye-socket, cheekbone and jaw.

Detectives said they believed he died a few days after being assaulted at the house on 13 November 2013.

However a pathologist later concluded that Mr Michniewicz died of drug abuse rather than the assault injuries.

Four men aged 20, 20, 40 and 46, and a 17 year-old woman were arrested on suspicion of murder during the investigation.

On 7 March 2014 Grzegorz Roznerski, 40 (17/11/73), of The Crescent, Slough, pleaded guilty to conspiring to prevent the lawful and decent burial of a dead body.

On 5 June 2014 Arkadiusz Majchrazak, 45 [28/5/68], no fixed abode, and Piotr Juszczak, 20 [13/03/93], of Greenford Road, Greenford, were convicted of conspiring to prevent the lawful and decent burial of a dead body after a trial at Isleworth Crown Court.

On 9 June Majchrazak was jailed for nine years, Juszczak was jailed for two years and nine months and Roznerski was jailed for two years and three months.

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The Cycle of Crime

Blog Category: Uncategorized

Jae'don Fearon, aged 21.

Jae’don Fearon was ten years old when his father was shot dead.

He was asleep in bed that night in April 2003 when gunmen opened fire on an Audi TT driving away from a nightclub in Clerkenwell, east London. The front passenger, 26 year-old father-of-two Jason Fearon, was found slumped in his seat with a single bullet wound to the head. The case remains unsolved but detectives believe that he was the unintended victim of a gangland shooting.

At the funeral Jae’don Fearon gave a speech – which was filmed and shown on TV – vowing that his father’s death had made him more determined to become a professional footballer and a father figure for his younger sister.

The speech was used in an anti-crime video and Jae’don became a spokesperson for the Mothers Against Guns group. He was awarded a Woman’s Own Children of Courage award and met Tony Blair and Prince Charles and was still campaigning against gun crime in 2006, aged 13.

Tragically Jae’don failed to uphold the vow he made as a young boy to stay out of trouble.

In  2011, aged 18, he found himself driving around in a car with Rory Gordon, a 20 year who made a living dealing cannabis and stealing luxury cars to order for criminals. The plan was for Gordon to take the car from its owner, by force if necessary, while Fearon sat in the getaway vehicle. Once Gordon had seized the vehicle, Fearon would follow him to the edge of Epping Forest where the car was to be left for collection.

Their payment for carrying out the carjacking was to be £1,000.

It was the misfortune of 32 year-old businessman Harjinder Singh Bhurji to be driving the car they wanted, a black Mercedes SLK. While Fearon waited nearby, Gordon confronted Mr Bhurji and demanded the keys. When Mr Bhurji insisted he did not have them, Gordon stabbed him in the chest. The injury proved fatal and Mr Bhurji bled to death at the side of the road in Ilford, east London, as Gordon drove away in the Mercedes.

The police investigation quickly identified Gordon and Jae’don Fearon as the suspects but it was not until July 2013 that they had gathered enough evidence to charge the pair with murder.

In April 2014 – eleven years after his father was murdered – Jae’don was convicted of the lesser charge of manslaughter by the jury, reflecting his role as the ‘backup’ rather than the killer.

Having learned of Jae’don’s background during the case, the judge sentencing him said: ‘You know well the devastating effects of losing a loved one at the hands of a violent criminal.’

Jae’don was jailed for 13 years.

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Joint Enterprise

Blog Category: The Justice System

The legal doctrine of Joint Enterprise remains controversial in murder cases because of the stakes involved.

For the families of victims, it is a law that helps to bring to justice all those who took part in a gang attack and not just the person who inflicted the fatal injury.

But for some suspects and their families it feels more like ‘guilt by association’, condemning young men to spend decades in prison for a crime they did not personally commit. (see this letter from the mother of one man convicted of murder)

The law is not always simple and depends on the individual case (see the CPS guidance on the subject). The most common example used to explain joint enterprise to jury involves a robbery. Under joint enterprise the lookout and the getaway driver are just as guilty as the robber. This makes sense, as they knew what the plan was and the robbery would not be as successful without them.

In murder cases, joint enterprise is used when the prosecution claim that a suspect took part knowing or foresaw that really serious harm might be inflicted. So if a group attack the victim but only one of them uses a knife to inflict fatal injuries, the jury has to decide whether the others knew that principal suspect was armed with a knife and foresaw that he might use it to inflict really serious harm.

Two weeks ago this issue was highlighted by a report by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, prompting renewed calls for reform of the law (just as there were in 2012).

To illustrate joint enterprise in murder cases in London we looked at a single year, 2012, when it was used in at least nineteen of the 99 cases (just under 20 per cent). There are also several examples of only one person being charged even though the murder took place against the background of gang or group violence. Two of them are the case of Thomas Overton, who was stabbed to death in Leyton in August 2012 and Liam Woodards, who was stabbed to death in Stratford in June 2012.

So it is clear that juries are capable of rejecting prosecutions based on joint enterprise. Does that mean the system is working well or is there still need for reform to remove the risk of injustice?

2012 Joint Enterprise cases:

1 January – Aaron McKoy, 22, was shot dead in Clerkenwell after a mass brawl broke out at a bar. The gunman and five other men alleged to be part of the gang violence were charged with murder. Only the gunman was convicted of murder.

1 February – Ali Armagan, 32, was shot dead in a gangland execution in Turnpike Lane. Five men were charged with murder although none were alleged to be the gunmen. All were cleared.

2 March – Kwame Ofosu-Asare, 17, was chased and stabbed to death in Brixton. Two men were charged with murder. Both were convicted.

16 April – Carole Waugh, 49, was stabbed to death at her home in Maida Vale. Two men who admitted defrauding the victim were charged with murder but only one was convicted.

18 April – David Petch, 55, died of a head injuries after being attacked in New Addington. A man and a woman were charged with murder as it was the prosecution case that both took part in the fatal attack. The woman was acquitted and the man was convicted only of manslaughter.

19 May – Luke Fitzpatrick, 25, was stabbed to death in Dollis Hill. Three men were charged with murder. Two of them (one was said to have inflicted the fatal injury and another was linked by DNA to a knife found at the scene) were convicted by the jury. The third was acquitted of murder but convicted of manslaughter.

28 May – Luke Harwood, 28, was battered to death in Woodford Green. Four men and a woman were charged with murder. The charge against one man was dropped before trial. The jury convicted the woman and two men of murder and acquitted the third man.

8 June – Prabjot Singh Rayat, 54, was stabbed to death in a robbery in Thamesmead. Two men and a woman were charged with murder. Only one of the suspects inflicted the fatal injury. The two men were convicted of murder while the woman was convicted only of robbery.

15 July – Umar Tufail, 25, was shot dead in a drive-by attack in South Norwood. Two men were charged with murder. One suspect blamed the other for the shooting and claimed he had no knowledge of what was to happen. Both were convicted.

1 August – Nathaniel Brown, 16, was stabbed to death at a party in Downham. Three teenagers were charged with murder. One admitted inflicting the fatal injuries in self defence. The other two were present and fled the scene with the first man. The jury cleared all three of murder.

21 August – Hanad Osman, 24, was stabbed to death in Streatham. Two men were charged with murder. CCTV captured one man stabbing the victim and the prosecution claimed the second bought the knives beforehand and provided a safe house. The jury convicted only the first man.

13 September – Arron Payne, 36, was fatally stabbed in the stomach and thigh in Wembley. Although only one man inflicted the fatal wounds, five men were charged with murder as it was alleged to be a planned revenge attack. The jury convicted only the knife wielder of murder.

27 September – Junior Nkwelle, 15, was stabbed to death in Brixton. Two youths were charged, the boy who inflicted the wounds and the girl accused of encouraging or inciting him to carry out the attack. The jury cleared both of murder but convicted them of manslaughter.

25 October – Jamie Sanderson, 20, was stabbed to death at a nightclub in Kingston. Four men were charged with murder. Two men were convicted, the man who inflicted the stab wounds and the man who handed him the knife.

3 November – Thomas Cudjoe, 29, was stabbed to death in Ilford. Five men were charged with murder, although only one caused the fatal stab wounds. All five were convicted.

10 November – Thierry Gnanakumar, 22, was beaten to death in a suspected gang attack in Lewisham. Eight men were charged with murder but only one was convicted.

19 November – Marcus Innocent, 35, was shot dead with a shotgun after being confronted by a group of up to 20 people. Twelve men were charged with murder although only one fired the fatal shot. The trial is due to take place in June.

20 November – Paula Castle, 85, died after being pushed to the ground by two teenage muggers. Two boys were charged with murder but the prosecution accepted pleas to the charge of manslaughter, accepting that they did not intend to cause really serious harm.

30 December – Darryl McClymont, 23, was stabbed in the heart outside his home in Isleworth. Four men were charged with murder but only two were convicted of the lesser offence of manslaughter.

 

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The Unnamed Victim

Blog Category: Murdermap

For the first time since the website launched in 2010 we have been unable to name a murder victim due to a court order designed to protect the 15 year-old boy accused of the crime.

This is a rare case (but not unique) and comes about because of the link between the victim and the accused.

The judge made an order under section 39 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933, which bans identification of anyone under 18 involved in the proceedings.

This type of order is often removed following conviction and it has been established via case law that it lapses when the defendant turns 18. Interestingly it is currently being argued at the High Court that these orders should last indefinitely, on the basis that young killers need “the space and protection to grow, to learn, and to put their past behind them.”

We will continue to follow the case of the 43 year-old unnamed victim nonetheless.

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Offering No Evidence

Blog Category: Murdermap

One of the more unusual conclusions to a murder case is the decision by the prosecution to offer no evidence.

This happened in two of last year’s cases with the result that the suspects were acquitted without the need to stand trial. Only one of these was reported in the media and no reasons were given for the decision.

The first case concerned the death of Gilbert Barber, an 80 year-old man who died after a suspected assault at his home in Harley Street, central London, in early March 2013.

It took another eight months for further medical evidence to cast doubt on the link between the attack and Mr Barber’s death ten days later and the suspect was acquitted.

The second case concerned a fight in Finsbury Park, North London, which ended in the death of Matthew Fallon, 45, on 21 March 2013.

This time further evidence emerged that supported the suspect’s claim to have acted in self defence and he was acquitted seven months later in October 2013.

It could now be argued that both of these cases should be removed. However it is our current policy to retain all cases in which a suspect is charged with murder or manslaughter, no matter how they are resolved.

UPDATE: In February 2014 the prosecution dropped the case against Ali Tasci, who was accused of the murder of Selhouk Behdjet in 1994.

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London Homicides 2013 – Review

Blog Category: Murdermap

Homicides in London have increased year-on-year for the first time since murdermap launched in 2010.

As it stands we have counted 108 victims for 2013 compared to 100 in 2012.

Taking a more detailed look at the figures, the most striking change is in the percentage of female victims – up to 37 per cent of the total (39 out of 108) compared to around 23 per cent in previous years (e.g. 23 out of 100 in 2012) .

 

Here’s a chart showing the changes in weapon type compared to the overall total of homicides over the last six years.

In terms of borough by borough totals, Hackney has the most at eight, followed by Ealing, Newham, Lambeth and Enfield on seven and Islington and Croydon on six.

NOTE: This post has been updated as new cases come to light.

On 16 January 2014 it was updated to include the murder of Paula Newman in New Addington in November 2013 (previously categorised as a suspicious death).

On 8 February 2014 it was updated to include the manslaughter of Shenol Shevka-Ahmed in January 2013. (Health and Safety at Work investigation)

On 7 March 2014 it was updated to include the manslaughter of Amani Abdi in October 2013 (previously causing or allowing the death of a child).

On 11 March 2014 it was updated to include the murder of Ellie Butler in October 2013 (previously classed as unexplained/suspicious).

In June 2014 it was updated to include the manslaughter of Mark Haley, who spent two years in a coma before dying in August 2013.

In July 2014 it was updated to include the manslaughter of Ram Gharu in July 2013.

On 12 July 2014 it was updated to remove the death of Zbigniew Michniewicz, whose death was found to be due to drug abuse rather than an assault.

On 29 July 2014 it was updated to add the manslaughter of Sylwester Mendzelewski, who died in a fire in a derelict building in Croydon.

In October 2014 it was updated to include the death of Oliver Farrell, who was hit by a car in Islington.

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Unsolved Homicides 2013

Blog Category: Unsolved Murders

Nine London homicide cases (murder or manslaughter) from 2013 remain unsolved. Can you help?

Nobody has been charged in respect of the following victims (click to read more about each specific case):

Joseph Burke-Monerville, 19, was shot dead in Clapton, east London, on 16 February 2013.

Champion Ganda, 17, was stabbed to death in Forest Gate on the afternoon of 9 May 2013.

Yassin Omar Mohammed,  28, died on 14 May 2013, four years after being hit with a bottle in Wembley, northwest London.

Surjeet Singh, 23, was stabbed to death during a brawl at a fairground in Southall on 26 August, 2013.

Aamena Hussain, 28, was found dead at her home in Leyton on 3 September 2013.

The body of Damian Chlywka was found in a well on the outskirts of London near Warlingham on 15 November 2013.

Antonio Rodney-Cole, 22, was stabbed to death in Stoke Newington on 2 December 2013.

Rowan Thomas-Williams, , 20, was shot dead in Neasden, northwest London, on 6 December 2013.

Dora Matthews, 43, was found unconscious at her flat in Wood Green on 19 December 2013.

Slideshow of victims:

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Homicide and Mental Illness

Blog Category: The Justice System

Following a series of stories about the number of people killed by mental health patients (1,200 in Britain in a decade, said The Sun), we decided to look at a single year in depth to illustrate the situation in London.

In 2011 there were a total of 119 homicides. Twelve out of those 119 (just under ten per cent) were killed by suspects who were genuinely suffering from a mental illness.

Here are a breakdown of the cases, followed by another nine cases where suspects claimed that their responsibility was diminished by mental illness but were convicted of murder.

Suspect was being treated for mental illness in the community:

Kasey Gordon, 15, was stabbed to death by a man suffering from paranoid schizophrenia in January 2011. The killer was being treated while staying at a care home.

Badi Saleem, 35, was stabbed to death by a a paranoid schizophrenic in May 2011. The killer had been released from a secure hospital the previous year.

Sally Hodkin, 58, was stabbed to death in the street by Nicola Edgington in October 2011. Edgington was a diagnosed schizophrenic and attempted to admit herself to hospital shortly before the attack.

Carmel Charles, 20, was stabbed to death at her home in November 2011 by her partner Richard Henry, a diagnosed schizophrenic. He had stopped taking his medication after being discharged from hospital.

Suspect had undiagnosed/untreated mental illness:

Ram Bhasin, 80, and his lodger Sunil Koosuru, 29, were killed in a house fire started by Mr Bhasin’s son in March 2011. Aaron Bhasin had developed a mental illness after suffering a heart attack.

Clarence Larteh, 23, was stabbed to death in May 2011 by a man suffering from a mental disorder as a result of alcohol dependency.

Sarwat Malik, 60, was stabbed to death by her husband in June 2011. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity after doctors said he was suffering from depression at the time of the attack, but had recovered by the time of trial and was sentenced to a conditional discharge.

Mary Quinn, 81, was strangled by her son in June 2011. Thomas Quinn admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility (depression). The prosecution did not accept the plea but the jury cleared him of murder.

Umesh Chaudhary, 41, was battered to death with a brick by a complete stranger in July 6, 2011. The killer was later diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and detained indefinitely under the Mental Health Act.

Maymoun Zarzour, 39, was strangled in his office in September 2011. The killer was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Desbert Welsh, 50, was stabbed to death by his uncle Ezekiel McCarthy in November 2011. McCarthy pleaded guilty to manslaughter due to diminished responsibility (dementia and acute alcohol delirium) and received a suspended sentence.

Suspect’s claims of mental illness rejected by the jury:

Wing Ho, 18, was stabbed to death by his younger brother Andy in January 2011. Andy Ho claimed his responsibility was diminished by mental illness but was convicted of murder.

Lorna Smith, 45, was killed by her ex-boyfriend, who claimed his responsibility was diminished by reason of a split-personality / schizophrenia. He was convicted of murder.

Alan Smith, 63, was stabbed to death in March 2011. His killer claimed his responsibility was diminished by reason of schizophrenia but was convicted of murder.

Zandra Maxwell-Nelson, 24, was stabbed to death by her estranged husband in April 2011. He claimed his responsibility was diminished by reason of his depression but was convicted of murder.

Alice Adams and Tibor Vass, both 20, were stabbed to death in August 2011. Killer Attila Ban claimed he was suffering from mental illness but was convicted of murder.

Sashana Roberts, 24, was stabbed to death by her former partner in September 2011. He claimed he suffered from a mental illness and heard voices telling him to kill her but was convicted of murder.

Charito Cruz, 37, was battered to death by her partner Asad Niazi in September 2011. Niazi claimed diminished responsibility (severe depression) and loss of control.

Richard Ward, 37, was beaten to death in Battersea by Cameron McFly, who claimed to be suffering from a borderline personality disorder.

Ruby Love, 23, was strangled and dumped in a canal by her boyfriend Manzar Juma in December 2011. Juma denied murder on the grounds of loss of control (previously known as ‘provocation’) and diminished responsibility (depression and personality disorder).

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Fitness to Plead: The Pritchard Criteria

Blog Category: The Justice System

What happens when the suspect in a murder trial is unable to understand the trial process? And what has that got to do with a man accused of having sex with an animal in 1836?

In October 2012, 65 year-old Colin Hammond was stabbed to death in a street in Fulham, southwest London, by Frederic Russell, a 27 year-old Frenchman who had been in the country for only a few days. The two men were almost certainly complete strangers.

Russell had a history of paranoid schizophrenia but unlike other mentally ill defendants did not respond to treatment. By September 2013, psychiatrists agreed he was so unwell that he was not capable of even giving his lawyers instructions.

When this issue is raised by the prosecution or the defence, the judge has to decide whether the defendant is ‘fit to plead’ using the ‘Pritchard Criteria’, as set out in the case R v Pritchard from 1836.

That case involved a deaf and mute man accused of bestiality. As he could not speak, he was unable to plead ‘not guilty’ (although he could indicate this by a sign, having been educated at the Deaf and Dumb Asylum in London).

It was left to the jury to decide ‘whether he was sane or not’ – meaning whether he could understand the trial proceedings enough to mount a defence to the charge. The judge set out his own three points, which were later turned into the ‘Pritchard Criteria’.*

Under these criteria, the accused is unfit to plead if he or she is unable:

  • to comprehend the course of proceedings on the trial, so as to make a proper defence;
  • to know that he might challenge any jurors to whom he/she may object;
  • to comprehend the evidence; or
  • to give proper instructions to his/her legal representatives

If the judge finds the defendant unfit to plead then a jury is asked to decide whether he ‘did the act’ or not (instead or guilty or not guilty). The defendant can then be detained under the Mental Health Act, put under a supervision and treatment order or given an absolute discharge (meaning no futher action).

In the case of Frederic Russell, he was detained indefinitely under the Mental Health Act, meaning he can only be released when medical professionals find he is no longer a risk to the public. Theoretically, if his condition improves and he is found ‘fit to plead’ he can then be tried in the normal way (although the sentence is effectively the same). [Read more on the case of Colin Hammond]

*Pritchard was found unfit to stand trial and was locked up ‘during His Majesty’s Pleasure’ (His being William IV’s). The judge in R v Pritchard said he had adapted his three points from a similar case, R v Dyson, a few years earlier. Esther Dyson, 26, was accused of murdering her newborn baby daughter by cutting the infant’s head off with a knife at her home in Eccleshill, West Yorkshire. Dyson was both deaf and mute and unable to read or write. According to a report in the York Herald for 26 March 1831:

In consequence of the prisoner labouring under the infirmity of being born deaf and dub, the greatest interest was excited and the galleries were crowded on the opening of court… She is rather tall, and of slender make. She has light hair and complexion, and of rather a pleasing and pensive cast of feature. She was dressed in a  coloured silk bonnet, a light calico printed dress, and a red cloth cloak. She had the appearance of a respectable female in the lower walks of life.

The jury found she was ‘mute by the Visitation of God’ and could not understand the trial (even if she knew right from wrong).

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CSI London: Bugs and Bodies

Blog Category: Criminology

When the body of Leah Questin was found in a suitcase on farmland in Kent in September 2009, Metropolitan Police officers investigating her murder took a tip from CSI’s Gil Grissom and his fascination for bugs.

The activity of Blowflies and their eggs at the site of the corpse was crucial in working out approximately when Leah died. In this case it was some 12 days earlier. As a result the officers could focus on a narrower timeframe when it came to collecting crucial evidence including CCTV footage and mobile phone use and prioritising lines of enquiry.

It soon became clear that someone had been using Leah’s phone and withdrawing large sums of money from her account. Detectives quickly focused on the man she had recently met through the dating section of the Gumtree website: Clinton Bailey.

Bailey had killed the 37 year-old nurse after inviting her to his home in Brockley, southeast London, on 12 September 2009. And although the decomposition of her body prevented pathologists from working out the case of death, there was enough evidence to prove it was murder rather than accidental death.

The following year Bailey was jailed for life with a minimum of 30 years before parole.

This study of insects in connection with crime – forensic entomology – gained greater recognition thanks to the lead character in the US TV series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Gil Grissom’s fascination with bugs may have been creepy, but it often cracked a case that had foiled the human members of his team.

Forensic entomology can not only estimate the time since death, it can also provide evidence as to whether a victim has been stabbed or shot, whether their body has been moved from another location and the type of that location and whether there was a longer period of neglect or abuse before death.

Samples taken from insects that have fed on a body can also indicate what substances were present if the remains have decomposed too much to be analysed.

The insects in question include flies, beetles, bees, wasps, ants, butterflies and moths. The most commonly used by forensic entomologists are blowflies, otherwise known as bluebottles and greenbottles. Blowflies are generally the first to arrive at a dead body and provide the most accurate means to estimate the minimum period since death.

After the eggs are laid by the female blowflies, they hatch into tiny larvae about a millimetre long which grow into maggots to feed on the body before moving away to turn into adult flies, leaving behind a brown case

The time intervals between each stage, and the size of the larvae allow the scientist to estimate the minimum time since death. However, when the body is placed in a zip-up bag – as in the case of Leah Questin – this timeframe is disrupted.

It was this issue which led MSc student Poulomi Bhadra to carry out a three-month experiment titled ‘Factors influencing accessibility of bodies to blowflies’ to determine how what delay can be caused by physical barriers like zip-up bags.

Chicken liver was placed in zipped containers of varying types and exposed to flies both in the laboratory and outdoors.

Commenting on her study, Poulomi Bhadra said: ‘The research itself has been so interesting; we have obtained some surprising results so far and there is much more to investigate.’

Her study is one of more than 100 research projects which have been carried out as part of the Metropolitan Police’s partnership with King’s College London since 2001.

No doubt her findings will be of use to the Met’s Evidence Recovery Unit and its staff of more than 100 forensic scientists and 400 crime scene examiners, who together investigate more than 11,000 crime scenes every month – that’s well over 132,000 a year.

The Unit is also responsible for blood pattern analysis, shoeprints, fingerpint enhancement, fibre analysis, crime reconstructions and DNA sampling.

Read the full case summary of the murder of Leah Questin

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