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Forensics on TV

The June print issue of Professional Security magazine featured the exhibition at the Wellcome Collection in central London on the history of forensics. Meanwhile Catching History’s Criminals: The Forensics Story was a new BBC4 TV documentary produced with The Open University. This series, presented by surgeon and author, Gabriel Weston, investigated forensic science and the murders solved.

Thanks to developments in forensic science, the face of a suspect can be constructed from just a few cells and the scene of a crime from a tiny sample of soil. The series explored murder cases through history that have proved pivotal to the advance of forensic science, and revealed the technology that keeps detectives ahead of criminals. Gabriel Weston explored such breakthroughs as how the murder of Dr George Parkman, whose head was destroyed in a furnace to his mask identity, led to the birth of forensic dentistry in 1849. She showed how the traces left behind at the crime scene are interpreted to catch the killer – from soil and blood samples, to fibre analysis and fingerprints.

Dr Martin Bootman, Reader in Biomedicine and the OU’s academic consultant on the programme said: “Criminals have often thought that they could get away with their crimes because they could not be identified and implicated. In some cases, evidence appeared to be so lacking that it seemed almost impossible to identify the culprit. However, these are the cases where forensic science jumped ahead, and new tests and technology emerged. This new forensic science enabled clear identification of criminals, their victims and their criminal methods in situations where it seemed a conviction was unlikely.”

“If you’re a fan of Sherlock or CSI, then Catching History’s Criminals will make fascinating viewing, showing fans how such significant breakthroughs as DNA profiling and fingerprinting were used for the first time.”

To accompany the series OpenLearn – the OU’s home of free learning – put together free resources to help viewers learn more about forensic science: visit:

Broadcast clips can be found at: Also click here for clips about forensics psychology in historic murder cases.


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