Forensics: The Real CSI - Paul Tebbutt Crime Scene Coordinator
“It’s about time I made way for the next generation, that’s why I’ve decided that this year is my last year as a Crime Scene Coordinator. I just hope that my legacy is that my life time of research into these horrendous crimes has helped in some way towards shaping the future of forensics."
Paul Tebbutt has worked in the Forensic Services department for 37 years and says that he intends to retire in the next 12 months.
The 61-year-old became one of the first ‘civilians’ to join the team, as up until 1985 only police officers were allowed to become scenes of crime officers.
That role has significantly moved on since then. Nowadays Crime Scene Coordinators and detectives, including Senior Investigating Officers (SIOs) work really closely together to uncover the truth behind serious crimes, such as homicide.
Paul explains: “My job is to speak for those that can’t speak for themselves and I do this by following the forensic clues and evidence that are left behind at the scene of a crime.
“I mentally reconstruct what happened to the victim. I piece together their last moments and co-ordinate the recovery of the forensic evidence that will hopefully deliver justice to the victim and all those that loved them."
But he attributes the strong relationships with other professionals that helps him successfully bring many criminals to justice.
“I couldn’t do this job without the team and with the partnership working we have with other professions, outside of the policing family. I’m immensely proud to work with Home Office pathologist Dr Sacha Kolar, and the highly skilled mortuary technicians, chemist Rob Bone, biologist Phil Field and Warwick University professor Mark Williams.
“I was part of the team who helped bring the 3D micro scanning research doctorates and techniques into our everyday working practices and I am always researching new techniques and advancements that will aid investigations into serious crimes."
Paul says that he lives and breathes his work and is currently supporting new research and techniques into shaken baby syndrome, an area where scientific understanding is still in the early stages. He is hoping that his legacy will help shape the future generation of forensics experts.
He says: “It’s now time to think about my retirement. I’m excited to see the new generation coming through. I always feel that my role is not just to help seek justice for the victims but it’s also about advancing our knowledge and techniques for the future.
Paul also delivers inputs at local hospitals, universities and training days. He gives people an insight into his world, how forensics can support investigations and what forensic rights people and victims have when dealing with the police.
“I’m really proud of the relationships we have with our healthcare professionals, I’m invited to give talks to paramedics, nurses and doctors about forensics. Explaining what our aim is, our powers, the rights of the patient, the rights and obligations of medical practitioners. I find that this really helps break down misunderstandings and barriers."
During his 37 years at West Midlands Police, Paul has investigated over 200 murders and 1500 sudden deaths. He was the forensics expert who attended the 1994 Coventry air crash, where five crew members lost their lives in a Boeing 737.
And Paul admits that there have been times when it has been difficult to deal with the job. He gives an honest account of what it’s like to see and deal with trauma on a daily basis.
“A few years ago my partner and colleague retired and for 18 months I worked my shifts completely on my own. This is the type of job you don’t want to take home with you, I didn’t want to express what I had to deal with to my family. I was on my own, dealing with murder case after murder case.
“Working in a team is critical and really helps make sense of your world, you can ask for support and we look after each other. We can see when things are beginning to get a little too much. But I didn’t have that resilience and the build-up of trauma eventually became too much.
“What people don’t tell you is that it’s not just dealing with the trauma of the victim and crime scenes that breaks you, it’s the little things. One of the things for me was having to take a photo of a teddy bear that had been left in the bed by its owner. The teddy bear belonged to a 12-year-old murder victim and it broke me.
“I soldiered on but after another 12 hour day single crewed on yet another murder, I went home and the next day I couldn’t get out of bed. In fact for the next two months I couldn’t get off the sofa. I was diagnosed with burnout and it took me six months to recover with the help of a therapist and I learned that it’s good to cry."
Paul says that his team are like a family and they help each other get through those dark times and that getting justice for victims is and always has always been his drive and passion for the job.
Paul appears in the new series of the BBC Two in February 'Forensics: The Real CSI'. A documentary company followed our Forensics Services experts for almost a year.
Missed the first two episodes? You can catch up now on BBC iPlayer.
And when asked what it was like to work with the documentary film makers he says: “The truth is, that I was apprehensive at first, I didn’t know what to expect but sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith.
“The documentary team were complete professionals, they said they wanted to showcase the work we do and I believe that this is exactly what will be shown. I will say it time and time again I don’t do this job for any glory, I do this job to ensure justice for those that can’t speak for themselves."
And asked about what he is going to do when he retires in 2022, Paul says: “My daughter has taken up scuba diving and I started taking lessons with her before the pandemic, so I would like to do a bit more of that.
“I’ve worked with so many fantastic, dedicated people and I think it’s this that I will miss more than anything else."