“Sterilise the room, set up the crime, bring the students in”


With police forces struggling for time and money, the training given to forensic science students at the University of Greenwich is vital.

Anything from murder to stolen paperwork can be set up in the university's new crime room, where the next generation of Crime Scene Investigators hone their skills.

As budget cuts hit hard, several police forces, including Surrey and Sussex, use the same facilities to test their own techniques, and Kent Fire Brigade will soon be on site for their own forensic awareness training.

Setting up the room, which is made out like a normal flat, takes between half and a full day, depending on the crime. If blood is needed, it is usually horse blood, and a little goes a long way. There are also two cars for auto crime.

Linda Brownlow, a former head of crime scene training at the Metropolitan Police, leads the forensic science department at Greenwich.

Students are trained in all aspects of the job by Linda, as well as lecturer Charlotte Pilbeam-Bailey and forensic lab technician Sammi Taylor.

"Communication is one of the most important skills for a good investigator," says Linda. "You need to ask what's happened while dealing with distressed people on a daily basis.

"A good science background is also needed as you have to be able to explain the science in court as well as to the public, not just other scientists.

"You need to be good at problem solving, stay adaptable and keep an open mind.

"Over half the students' work is practical. If they learn something on Monday, they're trying it out on Tuesday. We sterilise the room, set up the crime and bring the students in.

"There are 65 students in our first year. Some of our graduates go on to managerial roles as the programme teaches them a lot of the skills needed – crime scenes need a lot of managing."

Natasha Parker works as a Crime Scene Investigator for Kent Police covering Medway. She graduated from the university in 2016.

She says: "The training at Greenwich was really helpful. It was very practical, working with evidence and crime scenes. We learned essential skills, so when I came to do the job I had a good start. Fingerprint work is a big part of my job and we learned how to work with different surfaces. I work on everything from burglary, car theft and murder to suicide.

"Watching Abbey from NCIS was what got me interested in the job. I liked the idea of finding the things that others can't see."

For more on the university's Forensic Science programmes:

For more on the next Open Day (2 March), which is a great opportunity to tour the campuses, speak to experts and see the facilities: