On Wednesday May 1st a new OU/BBC documentary series Forensics: The Real CSI begins on BBC Two at 9pm - except for viewers in Scotland.
This series is recommended viewing as it was produced with the support of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and the Faculty of Science, Technology and Mathematics and the subject areas will enrich and support your programme of study.
With exclusive access to a team of forensic specialists from Northumbria Police, the series charts the fascinating journey of individual pieces of evidence from the moment they are discovered at the crime scene, through to microscopic analysis at specialist laboratories - and shows the pivotal role their findings have on each investigation.
Serious crime investigations unfold through the prism of forensics as they work on some of the 9,000 cases they are called to investigate each year. With the time pressures of the ‘forensic window’ and the ever-evolving nature of crime working against them, the specialists are all too aware that their results can make the difference between an innocent person being locked up, or a guilty one walking free.
Episode 1: The Harvest
Shots are fired through a patio window in the dead of night in a quiet housing estate in Newcastle. One of the residents is injured but neither she nor her boyfriend saw anything. With the neighbours too scared to talk, the cameras follow Crime Scene Manager Alan Sayers as he gathers vital pieces of forensic evidence that could catch the shooter "We call it the Harvest: if you don’t get the Harvest, you don’t get the results”.
Episode 2: Mixed Profiles
In Sunderland, a young woman reports she has been raped by two men in a block of flats. A manhunt begins and the team attempt to identify the suspects and DNA-link them to the crime.
We all think we know about DNA - but what are the scientists are looking for? How is it extracted from a semen sample? And how is this analysed to provide a profile? The programme follows the process of trying to identify the suspects through the work of the forensic nurse taking the original samples, the lab scientists extracting the DNA and the analysts who make sense of the findings. It is then the role of the detectives to find and catch the men responsible and seek justice for the traumatised victim.
Episode 3: Every Contact Leaves a Trace
In central Newcastle, a seventeen-year-old girl has been raped by a stranger in a local park. Local CCTV identifies a man wearing the same distinctive jacket as the victim describes. He is arrested and brought into custody but it's his clothing that the police are desperate to find as it could be the key to forensically linking the suspect to the crime: "Every contact leaves a trace - whether we find it or not, that's the power of forensics".
The OU’s OpenLearn has extensive resources and information on topics related to this series, including a virtual crime scene where you can follow the forensic evidence to solve a crime.