Initial Police Responders
- attending the scene at an early stage
- taking control of the situation
- co-ordinating tasks
Identification of homicide cases
Whilst most offences of homicide are identified as a result of a body being found or by a person responsible for the offence making admissions, some incidents notified to the police are not initially identifiable as a homicide.
Such instances may include:
- report of a missing person
- report of an abduction
- report of violence where no fatalities are anticipated
- sudden unexplained death of an infant
- unexplained death
- drug related deaths
- hit and run vehicle collision
- fatal fire
- crime scene without a body present
Victim - Identify and locate victim
Appreciation - Make an initial appreciation of the incident. Assess personal risk and then preserve the lives of others
Witnesses - Locate and contain witnesses
Scene - Preserve the scene (e.g. set boundaries)
Exhibits - Note evidence and preserve any that would otherwise be lost or destroyed
Ingredients - Consider whether the ingredients of the alleged offence have been established
Powers - Identify what powers are available and consider whether to execute them
Offenders - Identify and apprehend suspect(s)
An appreciation is a proven method of problem solving. The process follows a series of set steps to ensure the optimum course of action is decided upon.
It considers all appropriate factors and weighs the benefits and risks of all alternative solutions, allowing sound decisions to be taken.
An appreciation is an ongoing process which involves continually thinking through each new piece of information as it is uncovered.
- Establishes a sequence of activities to be carried out
- Eliminates duplication
- Ensures nothing is overlooked
- Effective use of resources
- Informs all Police what they are expected to achieve
- Increases the chances of success, i.e. the investigative aims/objectives being met
- Manages risk
- Reduces uncertainty
Steps of an Appreciation
Aim - a short (one line) statement which succinctly demonstrates a single objective
Factors - any circumstance or fact that could possibly have an effect on the manner in which you will achieve your desired outcome
Courses Open - a list of all the possible ways the aim could be achieved, bearing in mind the factors and the deductions made from those factors
Plan - a proposed course of action designed to put the selected course into action in order to achieve the desired aim
Adopting an investigative mentality
Police’s purpose at a death
To always investigate thoroughly and gather sufficient evidence to satisfactorily explain the circumstances of the death
What information to obtain from the informant/complainant
Who they are • identity and location of the suspect • identity of the victim • relationship to the victim or suspect • full contact details • demeanour
What they know • a first hand account of what they know • circumstances leading to the discovery • location of the scene • details of anyone else at the scene
What they did
• action they have taken and where they have been
• any hazards or safety issues that may affect Police approaching the
Victim’s medical status
- Alive and uninjured
- Alive but injured
- Shows no signs of life
Alive but injured
What to do on arrival at hospital
- Obtain a medical opinion as to the victim’s current medical condition.
- Establish the victim’s identity.
- Note and photograph any injuries.
- Seize the victims clothing and other possessions as evidence.
- Seize any discarded bandages used to cover gunshot wounds, and record the position on the victim where each bandage had been applied.
- Arrange firearms residue samples in cases where firearm use is suspected, including from the victim of any apparent suicide involving a firearm.
- Arrange DNA swabs to be taken from the victim’s skin, where they would be relevant to the particular circumstances of the case.
- Obtain a pre-transfusion blood sample using Police Toxicology Kit containers
- Obtain details of any and all persons who visit or contact the victim.
- Conduct a scoping interview with the victim where this would not adversely affect the medical welfare of the victim. Consider recording immediate statement if they may die
- Conduct a preliminary interview with ambulance and emergency staff who treated the victim
Shows no signs of life
What to do when you discover a body
- Consider calling an ambulance and resuscitation, if appropriate. If the victim has to be moved for this purpose, note the original body position and record any previous movements.
- Arrange a doctor to pronounce life extinct, unless death is obvious i.e. a decapitated or badly decomposed body.
- Remain with the body until relieved by CIB or a supervisor
- Treat the ‘victim’ as a scene (do not move the body unnecessarily).
- Instruct medical staff to leave clothes on the body
- Request that connecting medical items including tubes, needles, bandages are left ‘in situ’
- If possible, conduct scoping interviews with medical staff who treated the victim and establish their actions, apparent cause of death and injury type(s).
- Ascertain if the victim spoke to anyone before death and record what was said.
- Sketch a plan including the position of the body and position of exhibits.
- Record body position, lividity (gravitational settling of the blood), obvious injuries and clothing.
- Record all exhibits.
- Objectively record everything observed using all senses, including sight, sound and smell
- Provide full information to the OC Investigation, at an early stage.
Initial action to preserve scene
- Identify - scene, common approach path, other scenes
- Secure - cordon, remove persons, guard
- Preserve - leave in situ, take immediate action where necessary, common approach path, record movements
- Consider - if photos are necessary
- Record - scene log, sketch scene, photos, anything that has been moved
A scene guard and the log maintained by that person, is employed in order to ensure:
- there is no unauthorised entry into the scene
- integrity of evidence or potential evidence is secured
- contamination issues are managed
- intelligence opportunities are maximised
Scene guard duties
- Secure, control and protect scene
- Record details, movements
- Respect security and show courtesy
- Brief and inform others, brief replacement
Obtaining forensic evidence from a witness at a scene
The plan to preserve and recover evidence from a forensically important witness should consider the following:
- Immediate DNA swabs of any areas of the witness that the suspect may have touched.
- Immediate DNA swabs of any blood present on the witness.
- Immediate swabs of any other relevant stains present on the witness.
- Forensic medical examination, i.e. fingernail scrapings, hair combing etc.
- Seizure of clothing and footwear.
- Seizure of any items of property touched by the suspect.
Before the witness being interviewed, a plan must be prepared to preserve and recover all available physical evidence from the witness, such as fibres, body fluids, glass or other material.
Obtaining key material from witnesses
Steps to follow
- Obtain full details of all persons present at the scene.
- Assemble people in a clear area, ensuring a police officer remains with them.
- If possible, isolate witnesses from one another to reduce the likelihood of contamination and/or collusion. Explain this rationale to the witnesses.
- Identify witnesses and conduct a brief scoping interview, using open TEDS questioning. Include descriptions of other persons mentioned.
- Establish whether any persons have left the area.
- If the witness has made telephone calls from the scene, establish the numbers such calls were made from and to, and who answered. This may verify accounts and times.
- Record registration numbers of nearby vehicles to establish which drivers/passengers may have been in the area.
- Seize any CCTV relevant to the vicinity/routes to establish who may have been in the area at the relevant time.
Procedures for suspects at the scene
Steps to follow
- Separate suspects from other persons at the scene.
- Consider the condition of the suspect, whether they are injured, under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or suffer from a medical or mental impairment or other special consideration.
- Ask them to remain at the scene and to co-operate with police. As soon as possible, remove the suspect from the scene by consent or with lawful justification.
- If the suspect refuses to co-operate, consider whether grounds exist to arrest them and what the most appropriate offence will be.
Caution and Search
- Use appropriate caution where required
- Consider searching the suspect and the suspect’s vehicle and belongings to prevent the disposal of evidence and for the searcher’s safety, pursuant to the Search and Surveillance Act 2012.
- Consider searching the vicinity of the suspect and the area or route they are thought to have taken, in order to recover discarded or secreted evidence.
- Note the suspect’s appearance and behaviour.
- Record everything the suspect says and if appropriate, consider conducting a preliminary interview
- Whenever possible, interviewing of suspects should be recorded on video
- To prevent cross contamination issues, consider using officers who have not entered the scene to manage the suspect, if available.
- Brief the OC Investigation on their arrival, highlighting any significant risks surrounding cross-contamination or movement within or near the scene.
Briefing the OC Investigation
The OC Investigation will expect a briefing from the officer in initial charge of the incident, as to:
- What has occurred?
- What action has been taken?
- What has not been done?
- What needs to be done?
Of note only
Initial action at the scene is crucial but may also present physical risks as well as a risk of contamination to the scene. Before initial actions can be safely undertaken, those in charge at the scene must conduct an appreciation on the known information, to dictate how, why and what form initial action should take.
Subject to the appreciation of risks, a reconnaissance should be conducted to establish who is present at the scene. This may include other injured people, or a hidden offender.
The first priority will always be to ensure the safety of the attending Police members.
Initial action to preserve scene
Steps in Preserve
- Preserve what is there and leave it ‘in situ’. Ensure nothing is touched or moved. The scene must be kept in its original state.
- Be prepared to take immediate action to preserve and/or record evidence that may change if nothing is done. For example, rain may damage a footprint or bloodstain.
- Consider the best path into the scene.
- If no immediate life is at risk, consider using stepping plates.
• Record any movements/action taken in the scene
Of note only
If members of the media are present at the scene, keep them away from the immediate crime scene cordon and make no comment about the incident.
Consult with the OC Investigation on arrival and explain what has happened, identify media members and where they are located.
In some circumstances a delay may occur between the initial report and Police arriving at the scene. During this time, evidence may be lost or contaminated.
In order to reduce this risk, the complainant/informant may be asked:
- to return to the proximity of the scene, and guard it, if it is considered safe for them to do so
- not to enter the obvious boundaries of the scene
- not to touch or move anything
- to prevent others from entering or touching the scene
- to await Police arrival and identify themselves to the first Police at the scene.