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Authors: Nigel McCrery

Silent Witnesses

BOOK: Silent Witnesses
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First published in Great Britain in 2013 by Random House Books
This edition published in 2014 by Chicago Review Press Incorporated
All rights reserved

Chicago Review Press Incorporated
814 North Franklin Street
Chicago, Illinois 60610
ISBN 978-1-61373-002-7

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

McCrery, Nigel, 1953–

Silent witnesses : the often gruesome but always fascinating history of forensic science / Nigel McCrery.

pages cm

“First published in Great Britain in 2013 by Random House Books.”

Includes index.

Summary: “Crime novelist and former police officer Nigel McCrery provides an account of all the major areas of forensic science from around the world over the past two centuries. The book weaves dramatic narrative and scientific principles together in a way that allows readers to figure out crimes along with the experts. Readers are introduced to such fascinating figures as Dr. Edmond Locard, the “French Sherlock Holmes;” Edward Heinrich, “Wizard of Berkeley,” who is credited with having solved more than 2,000 crimes; and Alphonse Bertillon, the French scientist whose guiding principle, “no two individuals share the same characteristics,” became the core of criminal identification. Landmark crime investigations examined in depth include a notorious murder involving blood evidence and defended by F. Lee Bailey, the seminal 1936 murder that demonstrated the usefulness of the microscope in examining trace evidence, the 1849 murder of a wealthy Boston businessman that demonstrated how difficult it is to successfully dispose of a corpse, and many others”—Provided by publisher.

Summary: “Through examinations of specific cases throughout history, crime novelist and former police officer Nigel McCrery explores the gruesome but fascinating history and progress of forensic science around the world”—Provided by publisher.

ISBN 978-1-61373-002-7 (paperback)

1. Forensic sciences—History. 2. Forensic sciences—Case studies. 3. Criminal investigation—Case studies. I. Title.

HV8073.M3323 2014



Typeset in Adobe Garamond Pro by Palimpsest Book Production Limited Falkirk, Stirlingshire

Cover design: Natalya Balnova
Cover photo: © STOCK4B GmbH / Alamy

Printed in the United States of America
5 4 3 2 1

Dedicated to Professor Helen Whitwell, my friend and the inspiration for the series
Silent Witness.
The real Sam Ryan.


Author's Note


1 Identity

2 Ballistics

3 Blood

4 Trace Evidence

5 The Body

6 Poisons



Author's Note

y interest in forensic science was first piqued after joining the Nottinghamshire, England, police force in 1978, at the age of twenty-five. Watching the scientists and quite often the pathologists do their work always fascinated me. I was greatly impressed that they could glean so much information from such a small amount of evidence. Observing a well-conducted postmortem made me feel much the same. The information that could be recovered from a dead body, even one in an advanced state of decay, could quite easily lead to the identification and arrest of a murderer. This fascination has only grown over the years and has, until now, found expression mainly in works of fiction, including several
Silent Witness
crime novels and a BBC forensics drama by the same name.

In the course of my work I have found the following books to be invaluable to my understanding and appreciation of forensics, and to these books and authors I owe acknowledgment and gratitude:
The Encyclopedia of Modern Murder
by Arthur Baker,
by Douglas G. Brown and Alan Brock,
The Age of Sex Crime
by Jane Elizabeth Caputi,
The Casebook of Forensic Detection
by Colin Evans,
Memories of Murder
by Tony
Murder Whereabouts
The Murderers' Who's Who
by J. H. H. Gaute and Robin Odell,
The Other Mr. Churchill
by Macdonald Hastings,
Before Scotland Yard
by Peter Haworth,
Francis Camps: Famous Case Histories of the Most Celebrated Pathologist of Our Time
by Robert Jackson,
The Airman and the Carpenter
by Ludovic Kennedy,
The Scientific Investigation of Crime
by Stuart Kind,
The Principles and Practice of Blood Grouping
by C. V. Mosby,
Serial Killers
by Joel Norris,
Crime and Criminals
by Harold Scott,
Crime Scientist
by John Thompson,
The Encyclopedia of American Crime
by Carl Sifakis,
Forty Years of Murder
by Keith Simpson,
Clues to Murder: Forensic Murder Investigation of Professor J. M. Cameron
by Tom Tullet,
Expert Witness: My Thirty Years in Forensic Science
by H. J. Walls,
The Blooding
by Joseph Wambaugh, and
Written in Blood
by Colin Wilson and Damon Wilson.


Murder has a magic all of its own.

William Roughhead, Scottish criminologist (1870–1952)

he morning of November 21, 1983, dawned cold. The wind was bitter, the sky dark and bleak. On her mother's advice, fifteen-year-old Lynda Mann dressed warmly before leaving for school. She wore denim jeans over a pair of tights, a thick sweater, white socks, and black tennis shoes. Before leaving the house, she also pulled on her new jacket and stuffed a warm scarf into her pocket.

Lynda lived in Narborough, England, a village about six miles from the Leicester city center. It was what Lynda's mother, Kathleen, described as “a real English village.” Kathleen, divorced, had been a city dweller for most of her life but had settled there with Lynda and her other daughter, Susan, after falling in love with the place. In 1980 she married Eddie Eastwood, a former soldier, and they became a happy family of four.

Lynda herself was an attractive, dark-haired girl with pale
skin. She was outgoing, bubbly, and enthusiastic. She was doing well at school, was studying several languages, and was determined to travel widely as soon as she was able. She seemed to love life. As so often seems to be the case in situations like this, she didn't have an enemy in the world.

After school that day, Lynda returned home for a quick meal with her stepfather before going back out into the village. She went to visit her friend Karen Blackwell for a short while, before moving on to the home of another friend to collect a record she had lent her. This girl, Caroline, lived in Enderby, a fifteen-minute walk from Karen Blackwell's, close to a secluded footpath known locally as the Black Pad. It was as Lynda made her way back from here that she noticed a figure standing by a lamppost, not far from the gate to the Carlton Hayes psychiatric hospital.

At 1:30
Lynda had still not returned home. Growing increasingly concerned, her stepfather drove around the village in search of her. He visited various local hangouts including the Black Pad. When this proved fruitless, he went to Braunstone Police Station and reported Lynda missing. The police took down her details but weren't overly concerned since she hadn't been missing for very long. Eddie Eastwood then went back home to wait. What he didn't know was that when he was searching the Black Pad, he had been only feet away from making a horrible discovery.

The following morning a hospital orderly on his way to work decided to take a shortcut across the Black Pad. As he did so, he noticed what he thought at first was a partly clothed mannequin lying on the grass near a clump of trees. The body was as white as marble and rigid. As he approached, he realized that it wasn't a dummy at all; it was a young girl. He had discovered the body of Lynda Mann.

The police were called and Detective Chief Superintendent David Baker attended. At 8:30
on November 22, 1983, the murder inquiry had officially begun.

The case would go on to become a landmark in the history of forensic science. By a strange coincidence, the technology that was to prove decisive in solving it was developed only a few miles from Narborough, at the University of Leicester, roughly a year after Lynda's tragic death.

Dr. Alec Jeffreys (now Sir Alec) was a graduate of Merton College, Oxford, where he studied biochemistry. He remained in Oxford to study for his PhD and, after receiving it, worked for a short spell as a research fellow at the University of Amsterdam, before moving to the University of Leicester in 1977.

It was on September 10, 1984, that Jeffreys made a revolutionary discovery. While examining an X-ray film image of a DNA experiment, he happened to notice that the DNA of different members of his technician's family showed both significant similarities and significant differences. Jeffreys quickly realized the importance of this: that individuals could be identified by the unique variations in their genetic code. Every person has their own genetic “fingerprint.” This meant that any genetic material—such as hair, skin cells, or bodily fluids—could now theoretically be matched with the person from whom it came.

When Lynda's body was discovered, a pathologist was called to the scene. During the course of their examination they noted “matted seminal stains on the vulva hair”—something that would later come to be highly significant. After she had been identified by her stepfather, a postmortem was carried out. It was established that intercourse had been attempted and that premature ejaculation had occurred. Penetration had also taken
place after this and prior to death. Semen was recovered from a deep vaginal swab. The official cause of death was recorded as asphyxia due to strangulation.

The semen was subjected to a phosphoglucomutase (PGM) grouping test. It was also antigen-tested and found to have come from a blood group A secretor—someone from blood group A who secretes antigens from their blood into other bodily fluids such as semen or saliva. The science here is complicated; it is enough for our purposes to know that this meant that the killer was a Group A secretor PGM1+. This was the first breakthrough, as this description would apply to only one male in ten in the United Kingdom. On its own, this information couldn't absolutely identify the killer, but it was useful as it allowed the police to eliminate suspects—Eddie Eastwood's innocence was confirmed in this way, for example. (He was never really under suspicion but in such cases the immediate family always needs to be checked out.) However, they seemed no closer to catching the culprit. Leads came and went, suspects were interviewed and allowed to go free. The investigation went on.

Lynda's body was finally released, and she was buried at All Saints Church on February 2, 1984. By April that year, the number of active officers on the case had fallen from 150 to eight. The incident room was closed and in the summer the inquiry was shut down altogether. During the inquiry, 150 blood tests had been carried out, but they had all come to nothing.

As time moved on, although the memory of Lynda Mann didn't disappear from the consciousness of the village, it did dim a little. The fact that nobody had been held accoun
table kept awareness of the murder alive, but the fact that there had been no further incidents did help the tragic occurrences of November 1983 seem more distant. In July 1986, however, all that would change in the most tragic of circumstances.

Robin and Barbara Ashworth lived with their two children, Dawn and Andrew, in the village of Enderby, near Narborough. They were a close, loving family. Dawn was fifteen years old and had bright, expressive hazel eyes. She was not particularly academic but possessed a strong artistic streak. To supplement her pocket money, Dawn had a part-time job working in a newsstand.

At 3:30
on July 31, 1986, Dawn came home after work. She changed quickly and was about to head back out to see her friends when her mother reminded her that she had to be home by 7
as they were going to the birthday party of a family friend. As a result of this, Dawn decided to go to buy some candy as a gift. When she left the house she was wearing a white polo-neck sweater covered by a loose-fitting multicolored blouse with a white flared skirt and white canvas pumps. She was also carrying a blue denim jacket.

BOOK: Silent Witnesses
4.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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