University of Warwick technology helps solve more than 300 murders

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Image source, University of Warwick

Image caption,

The University of Warwick technology helped to solve the murder of Michael Spalding, whose body was found in a suitcase in a Birmingham canal

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  • Author, Eleanor Lawson
  • Role, BBC News, West Midlands

More than 300 murder cases have been solved over the last decade thanks to 3D imaging technology at the University of Warwick.

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The technology from the university’s Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) department can produce images with resolutions 1,000 times more detailed than a hospital CT scan.

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As a result, it has been used in murder cases by 30 police forces across the UK to view injuries in incredibly high detail.

The technology was first used in 2014 when West Midlands Police approached WMG’s Prof Mark Williams to help with their murder investigation after a body was discovered in a suitcase in a Birmingham canal.

Image source, West Midlands Police

Image caption,

The technology helped to convict Lorenzo Simon of the murder of his friend, Michael Spalding

Prof Williams said: “We were able to help the police by examining a charred piece of evidence thought to contain human bone.

“We discovered that it was a perfect jigsaw fit to another piece of bone in the suitcase, and, using the very high-resolution scanning technology, we were able to show the tool marks on both pieces in micro scale (one 50th of a millimetre).

“These matched the characteristics expected for the type of saw the offender had disposed of, alongside the victim.”

West Midlands Police has now used the WMG technology in dozens of murder cases, as part of a research partnership with the university department.

The scans helped prove the deliberate nature of their behaviour after their crime, including the direction and variation of their cuts.

Both were convicted and will serve a life sentence.

Image source, West Midlands Police

Image caption,

Nathan Maynard-Ellis and David Leesley killed Julia Rawson and hid her body parts

As well as convicting the guilty, investigators have also been able to prove innocence, WMG said.

The technology can show the difference between a wound inflicted with force, versus the typical profile of one delivered by natural causes.

Cases have included strangulation, stabbing, blunt force trauma and bone fractures.

The technology has also been used in other high-profile cases, including to rule out foul play.

In one case where a 64-year-old had fallen, a 3D model printing of the skull of the deceased showed exact matches with the geometry of the door handle, suggesting a fall.

This resulted in the cause of death being ruled as accidental.

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