Wednesday 22 October 2014

The Scene of Crime House - Kingston

The Scene of the crime
Between sketching musicians in late night haunts I enjoy stepping into the daylight occasionally. Earlier this month (13/10/2014) I was invited into a Scene of Crime House in Kingston to see what goes on in a property with such a macabre title. Despite looking like any other semi-detached house this one contains various types of mock crime scenes, including burglary, arson, assault and sexual crime. Students have to pick up evidence carefully and transport it back to the labs for preservation and analysis. After only 2 weeks of lectures in this academic year , it was time for the Kingston University MSc Forensic Analysis students to put some of their theories into practice.

Dr. Baljit Ghatora
I was going in blind to this situation. My imagination was a fertile ground for all kinds of brutal scenarios. The students beside me transformed themselves into white clad investigators. All personal fashion hidden under these clinical bodysuits. As a group they looked like a group of snowmen who had just completed a particularly successful slimming regime.

After a pep talk from tutor, Dr. Baljit Ghatora, the group leader Mitchell opens the door of the kitchen and enters alone. The rest of us stand outside. What will he find inside? We shift nervously from foot to foot, although it might be the chill in the house that keeps us moving.

All is quiet. We stare at the white kitchen door. Everything is a blank except our minds.

Documentation and Communication are the key to gathering all the information at this crime scene. Hopefully we'll avoid any unexpected surprises too. As Mitchell walks out he tells us, "There are signs of a struggle".

As we enter together, the scene before us is surprisingly underwhelming. Yet in the hands of the four members of this Forensic team a story unfolds that is anything but tiresome reading. Small relationships between items and location suggest twists in the narrative. Denise spots fingerprints on the window pane. Someone didn't use the door (which is locked) to get in or out, or both.

There are a number of things that look out of place, a chair knocked to the floor, a length of orange rope that is too small to be of any practical use. Then there are objects that shriek of burgeoning meaning and potential, like a set of knifes. Even more telling is that there is one missing.

As the scene is explored the team analyse what they find and what they think has happened. What appeared at first a largely benign room is now full of possible plots and sub-plots. Analysis though plays a minor role for the next 30 minutes as Denise photographs the room from every angle while Merve and Regina gather evidence.

The crime scene team
Tension though hasn't been suppressed totally with all the measuring, bagging and boxing. Another sweep of this crime scene reveals that a door, presumed padlocked, is in fact open. The lock has been tampered with or recently prised apart. We all draw in our breaths as the door is slowly pulled ajar. Fortunately (or possibly unfortunately) a dead body doesn't jump out. There is no ghost train jack-in-the-box to scare us. It must be very rare to find a metaphorical or even literal 'smoking gun' and it was time to return to the documenting of evidence rather than detective work.

The relationship between the four students came under pressure in this highly technical situation. It was clear that a working and personal relationship would need to develop if this was going to me a successful team in the future.

I'm hoping to return to the scene of the crime to see if this is the case when the delights of 'assault' and 'murder' scenes await me next year. Who knows I might even have a still life to draw. A very still life.


On November 5th from 5-7pm I will be exhibiting a series of paintings, drawings, sound recordings and films that have been inspired by the Simulated mental health ward at Kingston University and St Georges, University of London.
The 'What's Real is home' exhibition will be at the Scene of Crime House, 14 Fassett Road, Kingston Upon Thames, KT1 2TF




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