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Page last updated at 07:40 GMT, Monday, 16 February 2009
'CSI house' puts students to the test

By Andy Brownstone
Newsbeat reporter, Bristol


A house in Bristol has been turned into a mock crime scene

Spot the odd one out from the following: CSI, Waking The Dead, The Wire, Dexter, The University of West England...

Actually it's a trick question because you can expect to see a fairly realistic crime scene in all of them.

Students on the forensic science course at UWE in Bristol have recently started using the state-of-the-art crime scene house.

Depending on what mood their tutors are in, it might provide the setting for a break-in, rape or murder.

Today's scenario looks like it could be a combination of all three.

Dr Carolyn Morton, who runs the course, is briefing the students.

The Crime Scene House
A student takes notes by dummy on a bed covered in fake blood
She says: "What we think is that the offender has come into the study through the window.

"The murder victim is here which is a very complex scene, and we think he's washed his hands, and there's certainly evidence in the bathroom."

From her control centre, Dr Morton and technician Kevin Sudlow can watch every move the students make using dozens of CCTV cameras around the house.

An intercom system means they can ask their tutors questions, who in turn can give advice and sometimes hints about what they should be looking for.

Sudlow says: "When they're training we can give them lots of instructions, we can even give them pointers as to where the evidence is.

"When they're being assessed of course it's a very different thing. We just basically leave them to it."

Blood stained sheets

Ivan Prozesky, a student from Cape Town in South Africa, is examining the bloodied, plastic dummy laying prone on the double bed.

He says: "The first time you hit the person there is no blood splatter. So the line that is here would be from when the weapon has actually come up again.. which would indicate that there was a second blow."

Eleigh Brewer is in the study, where there are traces of blood on the floor, finger marks on the computer monitor, and a footprint on the desk.

The Crime Scene House
Student Becky takes a blood sample from a shower screen
She takes a sample of the boot mark: "It's basically just a sticky gel.

"You slide it across and then peel it off. There is shape there of a footwear pattern.

"That would be packaged in a box, the box would be tamper-proofed and it would be sent back to the laboratory."

Meanwhile Becky Thompson is in the bathroom, where it looks like the assailant has tried to clean him or herself up before leaving.

She says: "We have some blood in the basin and a broken wine bottle.

"And looking at the shower screen there are some finger marks and blood."

The crime scene house only opened recently, and as well as forensic science students, it's also being used by trainee lawyers, and police and ambulance services.

Exercises normally have a two-hour time limit, and once they've finished, the students are given a DVD with footage showing how they did.

Although nothing can fully prepare them for their first real crime scene, Dr Morton reckons the crime scene house is as good as it gets.

She said : There's a lot of mental preparation about how to go about the scene.

"But a lot of it is thinking on their feet. Seeing what they're faced with and working out what the top priorities are."

Job prospects

But it's tough to get into.

With around 50 universities offering various courses, thousands of graduates each year are applying for a very small number of jobs.

Eleigh Brewer admits her inspiration came from TV crime dramas.

She said: "It probably was watching CSI, initially anyway. But I've loved it ever since."

And although jobs won't be guaranteed, she reckons it's given her much more than a qualification.

She added: "You're walking around and you're thinking, 'there's a broken bottle there from a night out.

"'I wonder if that holds any evidence, I wonder if I could find out if that's got a finger mark on it'.

"It takes over... But I'm a bit of a geek really."

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