In the last post, we talked about the identification process if you had an offender in custody and they were disputing it was them. But, what happens if you have a crime but don’t yet know who your offender is? How do you identify them and what are your options?
There are a few and we will go through them.
This is where you’re at your crime scene and it’s you’ve arrived pretty much as soon as it’s occurred. There’s a very real chance your offender is still in the area and you are then lucky enough to find a witness. A witness who says they saw them and would recognise them again. You can pop them in your car and drive around looking. The witness then points out your offender and there you have it. One neatly wrapped up and served offender for interviewing.
What you can’t do while you’re driving around is direct your witness. You can’t ‘suggest’ people as you drive. This job is for the witness. Remind them to look in all direction, but do not point to people and draw their attention to them. Witnesses are very eager to please and they want to be helpful. It’s entirely possible for them to agree with you that this is your offender because they think that’s what you want.
Showing of Photographs
You weren’t lucky enough to have arrived at the scene when there was a chance your offender was still around, but, you do still have a witness (or witnesses) who saw your offender and say they could identify them. You could show them photographs.
The way a selection of photographs is decided is by the first description the witness gave at the scene.
This is done without input from the officer in the case. It’s a sterile procedure. Your witness will be asked to look through the photographs and inform the identification officer if they recognise anyone within the selected images.
Video and/or photographs of incident
This one sounds a little more leading than the above two, but if you have a pub brawl for instance and someone within the crowd used a knife to kill one of the other people within the group, showing a witness the CCTV from the pub before the fight takes place (and where the footage does show you who did it – otherwise there’d be no need for this) gives opportunity for an identification. They can view the video and point to the person they saw commit the offence.
This is one that I think we are all familiar with, we’ve all seen these images on the news at some point or another. Yes, this is the human drawn police sketch or computerised image. If the above aren’t an option or fail, then this is an option. I don’t have any numbers on how often these sketches work/identify an offender but this is in your arsenal to choose when attempting to track down your killer.
This is a UK policing series. There are different processes for other police forces around the world.
You can find the other posts in this series HERE.
If there are any questions you would like to see addressed in this series, let me know in the comments.
Rebecca Bradley is a retired UK police detective and now a crime writer.
She writes the DI Hannah Robbins series.
When catching a killer isn’t enough…
The naked, battered body of an unidentified teenager is found dumped in an alleyway and post-mortem finds evidence of a harrowing series of events.
Another teenage death with the same MO pushes DI Hannah Robbins and her team in the Nottingham City division Major Crimes Unit, to their limits, and across county borders. In a race against the clock, they attempt to unpick a thick web of lies and deceit to uncover the truth behind the deaths.
But it doesn’t stop there.
Just how far are the team willing to push themselves to save the next girl?