Forensics

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Fire in the front part of a living room or bedroom. The window, couch, carpet, chair etcetera have all been affected by the fire. The window shows cracks that are inconsistent with destruction by heat. The fire patterns and heat indicators show the fire came from the side of the window. With the help of electronic devices a flammable liquid is discovered on the surface of the couch as well as on the carpet.

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This same liquid is discovered under the pillow even though there is no seat of fire there. The fact that it is found in two independent locations could mean that the liquid has been intentionally applied or left behind.

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Fires break out in several specially prepared homes. For every new training session all the walls, ceilings and floors are completely refinished. The whole interior is adapted to a desired scenario and specific trace evidence is left. The domestic fires are set by the instructor who keeps a close eye on the behavior of the fire. (supplied with fire-resistant clothing and breathing air) After sufficient fire patterns have emerged, the fire is extinguished. The home is sealed and the following day students start their investigation. Scenario: There's been a birthday party. After the guests have left, the occupant decides to have a nightcap at the local bar. A neighbor hears a fire alarm fifteen minutes after the occupant has left the house. He goes outside, sees the fire and calls the emergency services. Students receive this information in the morning and are asked to start investigating. This is done in pairs. All the parties involved in this scenario are at their disposal (via PD or telephone) allowing them to gather information during the orientation phase. A thorough investigation is started both indoors as well as outside and every piece of evidence is photographed, labeled and confiscated. Several standard instruments are used such as detection equipment to determine the presence of flammable liquids. Safety is of great importance throughout the entire procedure. Students use safety devices and have electronic equipment which will detect any dangerous substances in the atmosphere.

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A small fire in a living room. Where did it start? What's the source of ignition? How did the fire spread and can a suspect be identified? Scenario: A divorced father is celebrating his sons birthday. After the presents have been opened the father returns the child back to his ex. Upon arrival he receives a phone call from the lady next door who has discovered a fire in his house after hearing a fire alarm. She has already notified the emergency services and the fire has been put out. The father can stay with his ex for the time being.

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After having been taught the theory of investigating vehicle fires, students get to set fire to vehicles themselves. Thinking about the desired effects and ways to achieve them, four vehicles are set fire to in different ways and in different locations with and without the use of flammable liquids and other products. Students observe as the fires evolve and fire patterns emerge. During the course of the fires students receive visual education from an instructor who keeps an eye on safety as trace evidence is being created. After the desired effects has been achieved, the students put out the fires and get first-hand experience of the effects fire repression has on latent trace images. When the vehicles have cooled down sufficiently, students investigate each other's cars. In the investigation of a fire, apart from the standard investigation of trace evidence, the investigation of the area directly surrounding the crime scene is of great importance as well. A possible suspect could have left behind traces. It is just as important to establish the legal framework of the event. One of the legal requirements for criminalization for instance is whether or not there was 'immediate danger to goods and/or life'? All of this is investigated, recorded and then put in the final police report. After the investigation, students get a chance to inspect all the other vehicles. Without doing a full investigation they are able to 'read' the fire patterns and identify where the fires must have started. (Reading fire patterns: from the time a fire starts and begins to expand it creates patterns on the body-work and the interior of the vehicle. Fire indicators show where the fire originated from and how it behaved)

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This photograph shows a piling up of fire debris. The dashboard has melted and burnt parts of the canopy have collapsed on top of it. This same piling-up is found in other parts of the interior of the vehicle. Students examine the debris layer by layer to determine the order in which these layers have collapsed before conclusions can be drawn. Sooting of the windshield and a particular pattern of destruction can also be seen. Combined with the fire patterns and heat indicators they seem to point to the fire having started in the back seat.

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Underneath the layered debris of the fire-damaged windshield, parts of the dashboard are discovered which have not been burnt. The windshield itself shows typical signs of destruction and after an investigation of fire indicators and patterns it is determined that the fire started outside of the vehicle.

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In lessons about electricity, students are taught the construction and inner-workings of small household appliances. They are asked to cause an electrical fire without blowing the fuses in the house. Some causes of fire are internal and some are external. After tinkering with he appliances, students plug them in to see whether the desired effect has been achieved. Students then need to be able to explain why they have been successful or unsuccessful in causing a certain type of fire. The burnt appliances are then given to another group of students for inspection. They are asked to investigate the cause of the fire and present their findings and their version of the events as they must have happened.

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Under the supervision of the Netherlands Forensic Institute students of The Police Academy are taught how to locate and excavate bodies. These bodies are actually plastic skeletons which were buried together with animal meat three months prior. This makes it as realistic as possible. The white orbs in the picture are markers for the 3D scanner which is used to reconstruct the crime scene as accurately as possible as a 3D computer image.

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After the excavation of the body the entire crime scene is meticulously photographed and documented with a 3D scanner.

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Students securing shoeprints by making plaster casts near a crime scene. The Politieacademie has several outdoor facilities where small scenarios can be acted out.

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Students securing shoeprints by making plaster casts near a crime scene. The Politieacademie has several outdoor facilities where small scenarios can be acted out.

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Reading the signs. Trying to reconstruct an event using the clues left at the scene. Various marks, fingerprints and blood trails and different items have been deliberately left here by instructors for students to find. It's their job to piece together the series of events which must have unfolded there.

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Students at The Politieacademie (Police Academy) in Apeldoorn are trained in the science of dactyloscopy, or fingerprint identification. Here students are taught how to search for fingerprints and how to enhance and secure them.

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Selecting the right tool. Matching a specific type of tool to a set of marks found at a crime scene is an intricate puzzle which students here must learn to solve. Crowbars and screwdrivers and such all leave unique toolmarks which, like fingerprints, can help lead to the identification of the perpetrator.

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Thermal Imaging Camera: this camera shows heat signatures or heat concentrations. A cup of coffee for instance will leave a heat signature on a table after it is removed. Bodies also leave heat signatures.

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Spectral Camera by FTS/AMC; this camera detects residual biological material (blood, seamen, etc.) invisible to the naked eye. It can also test these materials for age.

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