Crime Scene Analysis

Proper crime scene procedure is arguably the most important part of any criminal investigation. If investigators and officers do not follow strict procedure they could destroy or remove vital information pertaining to the case that could be difference between apprehending the culprit or leaving the case unsolved. Any forensic procedure cannot begin without the proper collection of evidence and in order to do so, investigators need to use the proper tools and procedures. A standard field kit should be used at all times during the investigation which includes:Cime_kit.jpg
  • Disposal latex gloves
  • Evidence tape and steel ruler
  • Paper and plastic bags in assorted sizes
  • Paper envelopes
  • Small sealable metal cans and glass jars
  • An indelible marking pen
Such tools were not common procedure during the time when Jack the Ripper was active, but if such tools were it could have preserved forensic evidence that could be relevant with today’s tests.

What happens first?
The first officer on the scene of a crime is called the first responder and is required to complete a number of tasks before a senior ranking officer arrives. The first task of a first responder is to search for and apprehend any suspects still on or in the vicinity of the crime scene. If no suspects can be found or all of them have been apprehended the next task is to provide assistance to any victims and then to direct the medical personal to any deceased or victims who need medical assistance. This path should minimize the risk of contamination to the crime scene and is called the path of contamination. After this, witnesses to the crime must be removed and detained.

Once these initial tasks have been completed, it is the responsibility of the first officer to secure the crime scene. This entails defining the boundaries of the crime scene and establishing a parameter. Once the scene is secure, the first officer must locate any focal points, which are places within the crime scene where offenses have been committed and are likely to yield relevant evidence. Finally, once a senior ranking officer arrives at the scene, all information must be relayed to him/her.

In the case of Jack the Ripper many of these protocols had not yet been created or were not yet required of the first officer. In fact, at the crime scene of Catherine Eddows the first officer on scene erased the message in chalk instead of preserving evidence and preventing cross contamination.

Crime Scene Documentation:
Before evidence is collected and moved to the appropriate facility detailed cataloging of all evidence must be taken. Things that would be included in the documentation process are:
  • Presence of unusual odours
  • Presences and condition of bloodstains
  • Signs of struggle
  • Evidence of drinking/drug use
  • Light switches
This is a very small list of the plethora of items that must be documented by investigators. In order to discover this evidence a number of search patterns are used. The two that are best suited for the Jack the Ripper case are grid and spiral. Grid is the most efficient method when used in small areas, like the narrow streets of White Chapel, where the murders took place. Spiral might also be a useful search method because it would allow investigators to collect the most obvious and relevant evidence first.

Photos of the crime scene must be taken in order to document the way evidence and objects were at the time of the investigation. Four types of photographs are used to document a crime scene

General View: Identifies the location and surrounding area of the scene of the crime. General view is also helpful in orientating a jury as to the surroundings.
Medium view: Shows specific objects of importance and are generally taken between 10-20 ft. of the objects. Objects taken in medium view may be seen in the general view as well
Close-up view: This photo clearly shows an item of interest and is generally taken between 4-6 ft. away from an object. The object in this photo should include some identifiable object that is also in the general view in order to create special awareness
Extreme close-up view: this photo is taken at one ft. or less and contains rulers or scales that are placed beside the object, but not close enough or in front of as to hinder the view of the important evidence.

Proper photography documentation was not followed during the Jack the Ripper case. Many views were ignored and no extreme close-ups were taken with measuring tools in them. Most photographs are focused on the victims, with little focus being on their surroundings or any other evidence such as the broken window at Mary Jane Kelly crime scene.

Crime Scene Sketching:
At the scene of the crime, an officer will be tasked with creating a rough sketch of scene that represents all of the essential information as well as accurate measurements. At a later time, once the investigation at the crime scene has been completed, the officer will create a finished drawing that gives a precise rendering of the scene drawn to scale. This finished sketch will include the scale used, a legend indicating objects by letter or number, title block as well as the name or who prepared the sketch.
The investigators on the Jack the Ripper case drew many sketches however, due to the time period they had very different protocol than we do today. (See the page on Catherine Eddowes for examples)

A finished crime scene sketch

Note Taking:
  • Note taking must include:
  • Location of physical evidence recovered
  • The time an item of physical evidence was discovered
  • By whom it was discovered
  • How and by whom it was packaged and marked
  • The disposition of the item after it was collected

Collecting Blood Evidence:

The main goal of collecting evidence is to prevent cross contamination. If two different objects or pieces of evidence come in contact with one another it could compromise the entire investigation or make the piece of evidence inadmissible in court. Each sample collected from different victims or found at different locations must be placed in separate containers.

Bloodstained materials, such as victim`s blood drenched clothes at the Jack the Ripper crime scenes, must be air dried before packaging. The material must not be placed in an airtight container or the blood will clot preventing any information that may have been gained from conducting forensic tests from being gathered. Instead, the material should be placed in wrapping paper, paper bags or manila envelopes. When collecting wet blood samples investigators should use a clean glass vial to place it in and if the blood is congealing, a drop of saline solution should be dropped in. Dry blood samples should be scraped until as much has been gathered as possible and then placed into a dry paper bag or a druggist`s fold. A reference sample, which is physical evidence whose origin is known, such as the victims, in order to be compared to crime scene evidence in order to obtain a match, should also be taken from the crime scene.

Since no forensic tests pertaining to blood samples were available in 1888, when the Jack the Ripper case occurred, police investigators never collected any blood samples from the crime scenes.