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Amy Tsang, Forensic Laboratories

The high-tech equipment that helped catch a killer:

A single photograph of a fingerprint taken from a mobile phone helped to catch a killer - thanks to a high-tech super camera built specifically for the police Forensic Services.

The state of the art piece of equipment, known as the DCS5, is a bespoke, vertically mounted camera and software programme designed to take high definition photographs.

The DCS5 works on the same principal as a scientist who places a slide under a microscope for analysis. It uses lenses and coloured filters in order to magnify objects that can be seen through the naked eye by using light sources.

The system helps the forensic technician detect and capture fingerprints and footwear markings from items that have been chemically treated such as paper, glass and plastics. 

However, in what is thought to be a national first, in one case just an image of a thumb was enough to help convict a killer.

Hours after murdering a teenager in a Wolverhampton park the killer filmed himself scrolling through the Notes app on his iPhone as he prepared to delete evidence.

fingerprint used in murder investigationHis thumb was captured on the film and was then analysed using the DCS5 before a high definition photograph of it was taken.  

Experts at the fingerprint bureau compared the suspect’s fingerprint to the photo and found it to be a perfect match - and this ground-breaking evidence was ultimately used as part of the package that helped to bring him to justice.

DCS5Amy Tsang, a forensic apprentice who works in the forensic laboratories, explained: “There are a number of solutions and powders used to treat items recovered from scenes to expose identifying markers like fingerprints and footwear. 

“It takes about six months to be trained on the DCS5 and I’ve seen how effective the system can be.

“This case needed a fully trained expert to complete this huge task. It’s unique in that a photo of a fingerprint was used to help identify the suspect and no chemical treatments.

“This shows how technology and scientific advancements can be used in our processes to help us gather and identify crucial evidence from crime scenes.”

It takes around six months to be fully trained on the DCS5 camera and up to five years training to become a fingerprint bureau expert.

Amy Tsang joined WMP Forensic Services as an apprentice in 2017 after fighting off tough competition from over 2,000 applicants who applied for three apprenticeship vacancies.

Amy Tsang, Forensic LaboratoriesThe 21-year-old has been working in the laboratories and throughout her 23 month apprenticeship she will gain a level three BTEC qualification in applied science and will be trained to level three laboratory technician standard.

And Amy is hoping that her career will continue with WMP after her apprenticeship as she is already applying for jobs in the forensic unit.

She said: “I really think being an apprentice has helped me gain experience and qualifications that will help my career. I would really like to stay working for WMP and will continue to apply for vacancies.

“This has been a great experience - I’ve learned so much and would recommend it to anyone. I’m the proof you don’t have to have a forensic science degree to work in this field.”

The apprenticeship scheme for forensics will be opening soon. Why not test your forensic skills and help us Crack the Crime in our new interactive game which can be found on West Midlands Police Facebook.

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