ENTERTAINMENT

Why forensics don't eat cauliflower cheese


MEMORY

TRACES

by Patricia Wiltshire (Bonnier £ 20, 294 pages)

Top tip: If you want to bury someone you just killed, avoid the summer months – the smell will betray you.

Winter is much better when it is too cold, "so bluebottles look for places to lay their eggs" so that the smell of death is delayed. This attracts foxes and badgers that dig up and reveal the evidence that dog walkers always find.

When we are dead, our bodies are still brimming with life. The skin can twitch and react to light for at least 18 hours.

As the blood settles, the system fills with carbon dioxide and the cells release enzymes to break down the tissue. Bacteria and yeast multiply and ferment, which supports the decomposition processes.

"Your body," explains Patricia Wiltshire carefree, "is a rich and vibrant paradise for microbes." Insects, birds and worms can hardly wait to enjoy a body.

Top tip: If you want to bury someone you just killed, avoid the summer months – the smell will betray you. Still from Silent Witness

One thing can be said about Pat Wiltshire – she has a strong stomach. "I remember vividly how I had my arms full with a leg wrapped in fabric, dismembered, as I walked down the Charing Cross Hospital corridor," she says.

It never bothers her to come across blood-soaked carpets – these are meat and drinks for our patient. Sherlock Holmes would have hugged her as a soul mate.

Incidentally, the contents of the stomach are removed with a ladle in the morgue. The only food Pat can't stand is cauliflower cheese because it smells of butyric acid and hydrogen sulfide, "the same smell as a corpse".

The specialty of our author as a botany with a doctorate in botany is to examine the residues of leaves, ferns and bark at crime scenes and to locate hidden paths and the location of shallow graves.

Pat is uniquely able to analyze microscopic fungal spores, pollen grains, smears from the floor and fire ash obtained from clothes, boots, tools and pedals from cars. He is instructed by the police to discover the tell-tale signs that show you weren't where you were saying you were & # 39 ;.

Garments, garden forks and torches can carry a heavy load of pollen that is "completely invisible" to the naked eye.

MEMOIR TRACES by Patricia Wiltshire (Bonnier £ 20, 294 p.)

MEMOIR TRACES by Patricia Wiltshire (Bonnier £ 20, 294 p.)

Given Pat's undeniable evidence, murderers usually confess, and taxpayers are spared the expense of a tedious Old Bailey process. In order to identify criminal suspects, Pat must first visit the gruesome scenes in forests, cellars, ditches and "lonely motorway service areas". Back in the lab, she scrubs and washes the samples she has collected from her body or grave and sieves the muddy residues so that they can be centrifuged into concentrated pellets.

Slides are examined under powerful microscopes. It is necessary to wear protective clothing, gloves and a mask, because not only is there always a possibility of cross-contamination that defenders pounce on, but the chemicals used are also dangerous.

Many disintegrate bones if they accidentally get on the skin, and the lungs if they are inhaled.

Pat's innovation was to extract and analyze pollen from the dead man's nasal cavity. Since the spores stick to the hair roots, Pat is also a good hand when examining the scalp.

Her cases deal with harrowing details of violence and torture, so she is unwilling to give names and locations. She exposed Soham killer Ian Huntley, but I only know because I gave her a Google.

Instead, the anecdotes are more generalized: girls who disappear, murders of the Chinese triad ("his torso was found in a suitcase in a Hertfordshire stream") and gang war victims.

I had to keep reminding myself that Pat Wiltshire's sphere is not a horror movie special effects. Her stories include real events that are the consequences of human suffering, sadness, and depravity.

Traces are quite fascinating and I can categorically say that I will never eat cauliflower cheese again.

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