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Every Contact Leaves a Trace

A teenage girl is raped in a park by a total stranger - can digital and traditional forensics work together to bring the prime suspect to justice?

In central Newcastle, a teenage girl has been raped by a stranger in a local park. It is the job of Northumbria Police's head of forensics Kirsty Potter and senior investigating officer Shelley Hudson to find the unknown suspect and put him behind bars as quickly as possible. With every hour that passes the chances of obtaining forensic evidence reduce and intimate forensic samples from the teenager who has been raped are fast-tracked to a specialist lab in order to try and identify the suspect. If he has offended before, his DNA profile may be on the DNA database and could give them a name. Absence of semen on the samples forces the investigation to find a name through other means and the sex-offenders register alerts them to someone in the area. A scour of local CCTV identifies a man wearing the same distinctive jacket as the teenager described.

The suspect is arrested but there is no sign of the distinctive jacket and other clothing, which could provide the key forensic link and the suspect to the crime. With their suspect seemingly working hard to cover his tracks, the race is on to find the missing clothing before any evidence from the teenager who has been raped is lost from it.

Alongside the traditional forensic search for body fluids, DNA and fibres, the police also deploy the rapidly evolving skills of their digital forensic team. Criminals may think they can withhold passwords and delete incriminating search histories from their computers, tablets and smart phones, but it won’t give head of digital media Jerry Hewitt and his team too much difficulty - "there are currently 9,000 phones on the market. We can get into most of them. When someone tells me they can't remember a four-digit password, I find that hard to believe. He may not have left a real fingerprint, but what you leave behind on your phone is a digital fingerprint”. When the suspect’s phone is finally conquered, it reveals disturbing new evidence that proves vital to the case.

59 minutes

Last on

Sat 25 May 2019 03:40

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Role Contributor
Executive Producer David Hodgkinson
Series Editor Vari Innes
Director James Incledon
Production Manager Paul Evans
Narrator Siobhan Finneran
Production Company Blast! Films
Director Jack Warrender
Composer Alexander Parsons
Director Chloe Campbell
Editor Tom Dixon-Spain


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Explore the real world of forensic science with The Open University

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