Mock crime scene helps test students’ CSI skills

Mon 22 November, 2021
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Budding Silent Witness and CSI stars of the future have investigated a mock crime scene at the University of Bedfordshire, preparing them for the real-life conditions which they could face in their careers.

Hosted at the University’s Putteridge Bury campus earlier this month, approximately fifty students – from courses including Forensic Science, Policing and Photography – grabbed their crime kits and set out to study the fictional homicide scene and test their crime-busting analysis skills.

This night-time crime scene is a regular, much-anticipated event, hosted by the School of Life Sciences in collaboration with the Schools of Applied Social Sciences and Art & Design. However, this was the first time the activity had been able to take place since the disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The event was designed by staff to develop in a way that represents a real life crime scene. This year’s scenario was chosen and set up by Dr Vicki Barlow, Senior Lecturer in Forensic Science. Setting the scene, she explained:

“A man was walking in the grounds of the Putteridge Bury Estate. He thought he heard two people – a male and female – shouting, and shortly after witnessed a man running quickly from the meadow area towards the house. The walker continued his route and came across the deceased body of a female, lying on the ground at the back of the wild meadow. Police have now been called to the scene!”

During the exercise, Policing students were first to be called to the scene out in the meadow and briefed on the case circumstances that were known at that point in the evening.  

These students were then responsible for assessing and controlling the scene, as well as liaising with any witnesses, before the ‘Crime Scene Investigation team’ – made up of the students studying Forensics and Photography– joined the search to comb through the meadow where ‘evidence’ had been placed for them to uncover and record.

Dr Slava Klibanecz – Lecturer in Forensic Science – explained why taking part in the mock crime scene is so important for students to gain experience, commenting: “This gives students an idea of what it’s like to work a genuine crime scene – the cold, the wet, the ungodly hours – and it allows them the opportunity to work with other strands of an investigation, such as police work and photography.”

The collaborative, night-time event has proved year-on-year to be a positive activity for all students, providing them an opportunity to learn what it is like to work with other agencies, combing through evidence and collaboratively processing the scene of a crime while battling conditions – including darkness and unpredictable weather environments.

Speaking about what makes this event such a success, Dr Klibanecz added: “The fact that it’s not assessed is a big positive so students can come out here and enjoy themselves, and when they’re enjoying themselves it’s surprising how much information actually creeps in – possibly more than in an assessed type of environment.”

In order to promote peer-to-peer teaching and learning, the more experienced second and third year students were paired up with first years. Second year Forensic Science & Criminology student, Harvey Badoe – who hopes to enter a career as a Crime Scene Investigator after graduation – said:

“Being out here gives me a different perspective as to how Crime Scene Investigators actually go out and it helps me put myself in their shoes to see what it’s like to go outdoors and look for evidence.”

The event was also covered by ITV Anglia News, who hosted a live report from the mock crime scene as part of their evening news programme and spoke to students and staff about their involvement in and experience of the event.

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