The report considers the crime scene investigation requirements for the Arthur murder case. This case involves the death of a 42 year old man, Paul Smith, whose body was found at his home in suspicious circumstances. The report considers the important points for crime scene investigation in the scenario, as well as evaluates the specific technique of interviewing throught the PEACE model and cognitive interviewing techniques. The impact of these techniques and underpinning technologies on interviewing practice in the modern era, is also evaluated.
The deceased Paul Smith was a 42 year old, recently divorced man who lived alone at Flat 8, Atlas Close, Westchester in a rented accommodation. Atlas Close is considered to be a low crime rate area.
Paul Smith had a drinking and gambling issue but otherwise he was a creature of habit.
The deceased family members have proven alibis and there is very little forensic evidence to be found in the flat, linking to the suspects. Paul Smith had spoken to his daughter, the night before the death.
Paul Smith’s dead body was found by his brother-in-law.
According to the local constable present at the crime scene, the deceased may have died of a head injury when he hit his head on a potted plant. The diseased’s neighbor, John Cadd, was a person of interest in another murder investigation of a male victim 4 years ago. Although, the police did not at the time find any evidence against John, he is a person who is known to the police as a violent offender. John and his partner Melinda Cadd are arrested on suspicion. Another piece of evidence is given by an old man, who may have seen a young person wearing a grey hoody walking towards the deceased’s flat on the morning when his body was discovered. However, the old man is not a reliable witness, as he is unsure of what he has seen. However, the CCTV footage definitely shows a young man in a grey hoody therefore, the statement of the old neighbor is also collaborated by the CCTV evidence, making this young man a person of interest in the investigation. Another witness has said they saw a man and a woman through a heavy object into the water by the yacht, ‘Maiden of Westchester’.
Initial advice on coming to the crime scene will contain important points of consideration to evidence handling, crime scene management and PPE. As the crime scene by itself is devoid of evidence linking to the suspects, we will also have to consider the investigation of the address of the suspect, that is John Cadd. At this point John and Melinda have alibis that are proved to an extent and they are set to be released on bail. However, this does not by any chance discharge them completely. Also, there is a suspect in the grey hoody observed going to the victim’s address on the same morning when the body of the deceased was found. The CCTV footage of the suspect has to be put in evidence.
As the victim is found dead next to a potted plant, there is a hypothesis that he may have struck his head on the pot leading to the injury. This hypothesis can be used to focus the resources by providing an initial direction to the investigation. This hypothesis may be tested systematically against the emerging findings of the examination. At the same time, there may be another hypothesis that the victim was murdered by someone and that too should be tested systematically.
The different resources are Cordon officers; CSMs; Pathologists; Photographers and video camera operators. These resources are important for gathering relevant forensic evidence at the crime scene itself. The parameters of the investigation must be set out at the start itself (Andrew, et al., 2016).
The crime scene itself was cordoned by the police. However, the paramedics and two ambulances which were at the scene were being held at the scene. A crime scene log must be maintained to account for the presence and movement of people in a designated crime scene area. Our next action should be to brief the paramedics as to how they should enter the crime scene and without interfering with their work, we should observe their movements and note how they handle any objects, as nothing should be removed or taken away from the scene of the crime (Fisher & Fisher, 2012, p. 38). If there are any medical equipment to be disposed of by the paramedics, then this should be done outside the scene of crime (Fisher & Fisher, 2012, p. 38). Also any intimate samples that are to be taken are to be taken by paramedics (Graça, et al., 2013). The possibility of secondary transfer of evidence is always present at crime scenes and therefore, we have to ensure that no such transfer happens through the paramedics or the family members. In case, we observe any such transfer, we need to seize the object on which transfer has occurred, securely package it and put it in the evidence (Pepper, 2010, p. 13).
If we or some of us decide to go into the crime scene for assessment, then we also need to think carefully about the PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), if it is required for the handling of the crime scene. As the victim has lost some blood PPE may be necessary for the purpose of preventing any infection from blood borne virus that the disease may be carrying (Pepper, 2010). This is very important in the crime scene investigation and not wearing PPE may expose the investigators to risk of infections or some other risks (Beaufort-Moore & Cook, 2015). Another measure that can be taken is to use clear stepping plates on the floor. These stepping plates help the investigators enter the crime scene and navigate the entire crime scene without disturbing or transferring any evidence in the crime scene.
The record of the crime scene may even be taken with the help of digital imaging of the crime scene, which helps the investigator to record everything that he sees on to the digital camera (Pepper, 2010, p. 42). However, there is one issue with the digital images for the purpose of presenting evidence at the court at a later stage. This is because it is easy to enhance something in the image or even remove something form the image (Pepper, 2010).
Crime scene preservation is also to be considered thoroughly. Crime scene is the place where the participants of the crime meet in time and space, therefore, it is the place where the event takes place (Shaler, 2012, p. 13). There may be multiple places of crime, such as, when the crime has taken place somewhere else, but the body is found in a different location. However, in this situation, the crime scene appears to be one and the same, with Paul Smith’s dead body found at home and signs of injury and bleeding from the injury also being in the same spot. If we find that the death is suspicious, then we can prepare a forensic strategy.
One method of investigative interviewing, which is known as the PEACE model, can be applied in the scenario. This technique allows the interviewing of the witnesses and even suspects in a relaxed environment and an environment in which the interviewer has rapport with the interviewee, and the latter is more likely to cooperate with the investigator.
The PEACE Model was developed in the early 90s as a collaborative effort between law enforcement agencies and psychologists in England and Wales. In 1992, the PEACE model was formally adopted by the police service for use in the interviewing process. Initially, the PEACE model was conceived as a way to prevent the practice of false confessions that in part were attributed to the style of interviewing, which was accusatory and aggressive in nature. PEACE stands for: Preparation and Planning; Engage and Explain; Account, Clarify and Challenge; Closure; and Evaluation (Clarke, et al., 2011). As a method, the techniques of PEACE are non-accusatory, motivated to gather information through a process of investigative interviewing.
This new approach was built upon research examining good communication skills, human memory, and the management of conversation (Clarke, et al., 2011). However, recent research has highlighted the difference in training and the actual application of the method of interviewing (Clarke, et al., 2011).
The sister and brother in law who have been taken back to the Police station for questioning, may be questioned using the PEACE model of interviewing.
The other suspects, that is, John and Melinda Cadd are known to the police and there is also a suspicion with respect to another murder of a male 4 years ago in which John Cadd is a person of interest. The PEACE model may still be helpful in interviewing Melinda as she may have some information about John, which she may give to the police and investigators if they do not antagonize her. As the PEACE model is considered to be a best practice of interviewing and is suitable for any type of interviewee, that is victims, witnesses or suspects, this method may be used in this scenario with respect to John and Melinda Cadd, the sister and brother in law of the victim, the old neighbor who reported the suspect in the grey hoodie, as well as the witness who saw the man and woman through something heavy into the water.
The elements of the Cognitive Interviewing techniques are organized around three basic psychological processes: cognition (witness’s ability to retrieve information about the crime), social dynamics (witnesses and interviewers function as a dynamic social unit, where each person’s behavior is influenced by the other), and communication (by the interviewers of their investigative needs) (Fisher & Geiselman, n.d.). This technique has been tested in approximately 100 laboratory tests, most of which were conducted in the United States, England, Germany or Australia, and these studies demonstrated that Cognitive Interviews typically elicited between 25 percent to 40 percent more correct statements than did the control interview (Fisher & Geiselman, n.d.).
Guidelines on community impact assessment were first issued by the ACPO Crime Committee in 1999. This requires the Chief officers in crime scene investigation to be satisfied that the assessment represents an accurate interpretation of the impact of the crime. The community impact assessment needs to be carried out in a regular manner during the course of the investigation. Community consultation is usually confined to family members or specific sections of the community, as in this case neighbours and other police officers have been consulted with.
The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) lays down the instructions for interviewing suspects, which must be followed by the lawful authority. Section 11 of Code C of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) and PACE (NI) Codes of Practice defines an interview as: ’...the questioning of a person regarding his involvement, or suspected involvement, in a criminal offence or offences which, by virtue of paragraph 10.1 of Code C, is required to be carried out under caution’.
The evidence available at this point is the testimony of the old neighbor and the corroborating CCTV footage showing a young man in a grey hoody coming to the deceased man’s flat the morning of the discovery of dead body. The alibis of the family members appear to be strong at this point. The alibis of the arrested suspects, John and Melinda are also proved to an extent. However, if the man and woman throwing something heavy into the water are recognized by the witness to be John and Melinda and that heavy object is recovered and may be the murder weapon, then they are likely to remain suspects.
As the victim lost a lot of blood, there is a possibility that there are stains in places of the flat, other than where the victim was found. In that case, this may give some clue as to the exact location of the crime. The suspects address and vehicle should be thoroughly investigated, in case there are any blood stained clothes that may link them to the crime. The heavy object thrown into the water needs to be retrieved. Although its relation to the crime may be a little far-fetched, however, as forensic evidence, the recovery of the object may help prove or disprove the hypothesis.
The crime scene investigation and community assessment has revealed some particulars that may have a bearing on the death of Paul Smith. The strategy at this point involves the use of cognitive interview technique and the PEACE model for interviews.
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