Would you be a reliable eyewitness?

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1. What can jog or confuse our memory?

Stressful situations can confuse our memory and leave us with false perceptions of events.

One attack victim mistakenly gave a description of a man who was on her television during her assault, rather than that of the actual perpetrator.

Thankfully, police and psychologists have by now developed some astounding methods to jog accurate witness memories and to hone in on the smallest of details.

2. Put your eyewitness skills to the test

This film includes the portrayal of a fictional crime, originally produced as part of an experiment about eyewitnesses. Watch the film, and then assess your own observation and memory skills with the tests throughout the remainder of this guide.

Eyewitness is a three-part series made by the BBC in collaboration with the Open University and Greater Manchester Police. Through the staging of crimes and investigations, eyewitnesses' experiences and memories are documented and tested. In the above clip members of the public are wearing spectacles fitted with cameras so that we can see what they see as a fictional crime takes place in front of them. This series explores how the memory of an eyewitness can prove crucial to finding and convicting a criminal, while also recognising the risks an inaccurate memory can bring, possibly leading to the conviction of an innocent party.

3. What do you recall?

What can you remember from the film in step 2? Read the questions below and decide on each answer before selecting 'Choose' to reveal if you're correct.

The getaway car

What colour and make was the getaway car?

The getaway car was

A silver Audi

Well done if you got both details.


What type of hat did the kidnapped woman wear on her head?

She was wearing a

neutral coloured woollen hat

Perhaps this is more difficult than you expected.


How many times was the gun shot into the air?

The gun was shot

into the air once

If you fully answered all three questions correctly, then you're doing very well.

4. Good stress and bad stress

Infographic showing how stress can affect people in different ways.

A little stress can help our minds to remember an incident. However, when levels of stress are very high, the effect on how our memory stores and recalls information is a negative one.

Read on to find out about techniques used to jog our memories.

5. A memory breakthrough

If you are in a situation of high stress and later need to recall vital information, what can be done to help?

Police have developed questioning methods that have proven very helpful in assisting witnesses with their memory.

Cognitive interviews encourage witnesses to focus on the smallest of details and to recall all of their senses at certain points of an experience.

Witnesses are also often asked to recall details from the present moment and then to work their way backwards through an incident.

Landmark case

Cognitive interview methods were successfully used in the case of estate agent Stephanie Slater.

Kidnapped Stephanie was blindfolded for the majority of her captivity. However, through cognitive interview, the police were still able to retrieve vital evidence.

Vital recall

Stephanie recalled that she heard trains going by, the ring of an old fashioned style telephone, the smell on the kidnapper's clothes, the feel of walking on cobbled stones and thick rope being used to tie her up.

All of this evidence played a vital role in tracing and confirming the location where Stephanie had been kept captive.

6. Which actor had his balaclava pulled off?

Can you identify which of the actors below appeared in the clip?

Person 1

No, he's innocent!

This is actor Jimi Mistry

Maybe all of the action confused your memory.

Person 2


This is actor Haider Javed

Great memory! You've done really well.

Person 3


This is Robert Downey Jr

Maybe you should do some work on your memory.

Person 4

Oh dear. Incorrect

This is actor Shahrukh Khan

Zero points for your accuracy!