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Catching History's Criminals: The Forensics Story

Gabriel Weston investigates the world of the forensic scientist and the murders they've helped to solve.

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Gabriel Weston holding skull of Joan Wolfe Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Tom Hayward - BBC In the act of murder there is a weapon, a crime scene and a body - all vital evidence in the hunt for the killer. In this series surgeon and writer Gabriel Weston investigates the world of the forensic scientist and the murders they’ve helped to solve. She explores the cases that proved pivotal to the advancement of forensic science and she reveals the cutting edge technology that’s keeping the detective one step ahead of the criminal. Today, from just a few cells, the face of a suspect can be constructed – a process called molecular photo fitting and we find out how a tiny sample of soil can pinpoint where a murder took place.

The first episode of Catching History's Criminals: The Forensics Story airs on BBC Four on Thursday 18th June 2015 at 9.00pm.. Full broadcast details and watch again links can be found on bbc.co.uk

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Episode guide

Traces Of Guilt

Gabriel Weston with forensic suit and goggles on, with blood spatter on her face. Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Alastair McCormick - BBC Gabriel Weston investigates blood spatter The killer will always leave something at the scene of the crime - hair, fibres or just as easily they will take something away with them such as soil on their shoes. In episode two of Catching History's Criminals: The Forensics Story we examine four cases all concerned with the interpretation of evidence. From soil analysis and the case of Margareta Filbert in 1908 to fibre analysis and the brutal murder of Nancy Titterton in 1936 to blood splatter analysis with Dr Sam Sheppard and the murder of his wife in 1954 and finally to the hanging of the Stratton brothers 1905 – the first people to be tried and convicted of murder based largely on the evidence of a new-fangled science called fingerprints.

This episode guide is for the OU/BBC series Catching History's Criminals: The Forensics Story. To find out more about the programmes and forensics go to the main series page

Academic Insight

by Martin Bootman

Evidence left at a crime scene is crucial in the identification of a murderer. This episode explores the principle that a person entering a crime scene will leave something distinguishing behind, and also take something from the location with them. Sometimes, the crucial evidence of being at a crime scene is unwittingly accumulated by the murderer. On other occasions, objects that can be matched to a person are left behind. However, evidence does not necessarily have to be material objects. Distinguishing marks such as fingerprints, or evidence of personal traits such as left- or right-handedness, might help to establish guilt or innocence. In this episode, you will see how analysis of different types of evidence has been used in forensic science. In addition, this episode illustrates that science can provide absolute conclusions, but also that science is sometimes not definitive. Indeed, there are occasions when science only offers probabilities as to how events occurred, and conclusions are reached through human interpretation of data.

A key technique explored in this Episode is fingerprint analysis. You can learn more about this technique by following this short course:

Episodes in this series

Episode Description
Instruments Of Murder The key piece of evidence that detectives are desperate to find is the murder weapon. Read more
Traces Of Guilt As Gabriel Weston discovers: every contact leaves a trace... Read more
A Question Of Identity The story of criminality is the story of identity. Read more