So, we’ve been to a crime scene – but we’re not touching anything there, your CSI’s (yes, most forces have switched to the Americanism by now) do all the work in this domain – and we’ve entered premises to execute a search. But what happens once inside those premises? What do you do if you find items you want to seize?
How do you bag them up correctly to preserve the evidence? Because, yes, there is a correct way, and an incorrect way that will quickly cause any evidence you’re after to deteriorate and be lost.
If you think the premises you are about to enter and search is the actual kill site and where you found the body was just the dump site, then stop, you don’t go traipsing in and searching as normal. You treat it as you do your initial crime scene. You don’t go in without your full protective gear and only if you really really have to and you get the full forensic search team in to do the full and proper forensic testing and searching.
However, if it’s simply the home address of your probable murderer, and you’re looking for the clothes he was wearing and any other clues he may have left you like a diary full of phone numbers, then it’s all yours.
Take with you a large collection of exhibit bags of varying sizes as you don’t know what you’ll find or how much of it you’ll find. Also tape to seal and exhibit labels to sign.
Most of the bags you are going to use are going to be brown paper bags. (All brand new specially bought for exhibiting items.) This is because if you placed a jumper that contained a couple of drops of unseen blood on it, into a plastic bag, the blood would soon start to sweat and then break down and if that was the victim’s blood then you’ve lost the evidence. Paper bags let the evidence breathe.
You also need to place anything that could have fingerprint evidence on it, in a paper bag. I’d suggest, that would be most items because you’d want to be able to place the item in your offender’s hand at some point and not have them be able to say they’ve never seen it.
Sharp knives, however, are different, they do have to be placed in their own special containers. You can’t just go shoving them in bags.
Each item has to have an exhibit label, signed by the officer seizing the item from the address and then signed by every single person who handles it, so the next person on the list should be the exhibit officer. Also every single item you find goes in its own bag.
At the scene, you will have an allocated exhibits officer. This officer will have been identified by your SIO at the start of the investigation as the exhibits officer and they are responsible for all exhibits for the entirety of investigation, even throughout the trial. Everything goes through this officer. It’s all logged through them. Nothing moves without their say-so. They are the person who liaises with the forensic lab as well. It’s a massive task as there are so many exhibits seized within the length of a murder investigation. Though, it doesn’t look like it in a novel!
I hope this helped.
Was it as you expected?
Let me know in the comments if you have any topics you’d like answered in one of these posts.
Rebecca Bradley is a retired police detective who now writes the DI Hannah Robbins crime novels set in Nottingham, UK.