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CSI: Sheffield

As a true crime nerd, crime drama fan and upholder of the law (admittedly, health and safety legislation) I could not have been more excited for our August meeting! We welcomed two ladies from Huddersfield based Think Forensic ( who brought a case full of crime scene investigating goodies for us to play with.

But before we got our Horatio Caine on, we welcomed Cavendish Cancer Care, who we presented with a cheque for £300! Whilst not our 2017 charity, CCC were kind enough to let us share their charity stall at this year’s Sunfest. Money made from our boozey bake sale was split between SHWI’s chosen charity Mental Health Action Group Sheffield and Abbeydale Brewery’s chosen charity, Cavendish Cancer Care.

First up for Think Forensic, CSI Sue gave a little presentation showing all the fun stuff they get up to at their centre in West Yorkshire. This included checking out a variety of crime scenes and looking at bloody splatter patterns by whacking dummy heads in until red paint flies out. Who doesn’t want to pretend to be Dexter?

Of course, testing out blood splatter patterns isn’t really appropriate in a church hall – so we started off by learning about footprints! Turns out CSIs are unlikely to give an exact foot size when looking at footprints as the environment can distort them. In fact – CSIs try to be as non-specific as possible when giving evidence in case it comes back to bite them in court. So a black fibre found at a crime scene would be noted as “dark coloured fibre” just in case the defence try to argue specifics. Committee member Victoria volunteered her shoe for a demonstration and sunk her foot into some foamy polystyrene that was then filled in with a quick drying orangey substance. It was dry enough an hour later for her to take home! A unique paperweight methinks.

Next up we looked at fingerprints. We all had the chance to take our own fingerprints using black tiles and squirrel hair brushes pre-loaded with powder. We also learnt that there are hundreds of powders available to CSIs, to handle all the different colours and textures of materials that need testing – including magnetic powder for paperwork and fluorescent coloured powders that I wanted to stash in my makeup bag.

Our last demonstration looked at hair and fibres. CSIs can take a sample of hair and tell you if it belongs to a human (and what race they are) or an animal (and what animal it is!) Apparently, rabbit hair is the prettiest to look at. We looked at teeny slices of human hair and cross sections of animal hair, and various types of fibres before moving on to THE COOLEST TOY I HAVE EVER SEEN CONNECTED TO A LAPTOP. A super tiny microscopic camera that focuses on an area the size of a pin prick. SHWIers volunteered their sweaters so the group could see what type of fibres were involved in the clothing. Then Sue started putting the camera in volunteer’s hair – she could tell what product they had used on their bonce! As a group of mature and sensible ladies, you’ll be pleased to know we all resisted the urge to shove the camera anywhere unsavoury.

Laura Bainbridge-Hattersley SHWI Secretary (and Health & Safety Advisor)


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