Forensic work is nothing like ‘glamourous CSI’, say CID crime scene specialists

Hannah Teoh
Senior Content Producer
A crime scene specialist ‘examines’ evidence at a mock crime scene at the Singapore Police Force’s CID Forensic Conference 2017. Photo: Hannah Teoh/Yahoo News Singapore

A lifeless body was found lying on a floor with a pool of blood trickling near the head of the “victim”. Gambling paraphernalia was strewn on a table next to the body. One police investigator lifted a shoe print at the scene while another dusted a broken safe with fingerprint powder in search of evidence of a suspected crime.

These two investigators are crime scene specialists who were demonstrating a crime scene investigation at the Singapore Police Force’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Forensic Conference on Thursday (9 November).

Senior crime specialist Geraldine Ng, 30, told reporters that she has encountered people who are interested in pursuing a career in forensics. But she stressed to them that the nature of her job is nothing like the hit television show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

“CSI is all very glamorous – the people going into the crime scene, they solve the crime in an hour. They go in with high heels, nice jackets. And it’s totally not like that. It’s actually very rugged when we approach the crime scene. We work long hours and we get hot and sweaty after that,” Ng said.

Ng recalls working on the case of a legless body found in a luggage bag on Syed Alwi Road in 2014. The body was wrapped in several layers of black plastic trash bags.

The team worked through the night to find evidence and processed “many, many” trash bags, said Ng, adding that time was of the essence in this case.

“We needed to know who did it and how the body ended up in the suitcase… These trash bags would have to be transported back to our office very carefully because fingerprints are very fragile. Any movement against each other during the transport would destroy the fingerprints forever,” explained Ng.

Investigations by Ng and her colleagues eventually turned up a fingerprint that was traced to one of the suspects.

Senior crime scene specialists Denzyl Tai (left) and Geraldine Ng (right). Photo: Yahoo News Singapore

At the conference, crime scene specialists also showed how they can identify blood stain patterns to retrace an event, and how they use ultra-violet light sources to detect fingerprints and other potential evidence.

Senior crime scene specialist Denzyl Tai, 31, admitted that a crime show like CSI has caused the public to have elevated expectations about what the forensics team at CID can do.

“Forensics should be viewed in a way where we help to tighten up our investigations and eventually, even if it doesn’t lead to a breakthrough in the case, a very well-done piece of forensic work at the onset would help in court proceedings,” said Tai.

Both Tai and Ng have been with the forensics division of the CID for five years.

For Ng, who admitted that she does not enjoy desk-bound work, she derives satisfaction from being part of a team that plays a critical role in helping the police to solve crimes.

She said, “I find it very interesting to be able to piece together all the evidence to tell me the sequence of events of what could have happened here… I see the evidence as puzzles everywhere. Collecting them and enhancing them is like putting it all together like a story to tell.”

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