Photo: John Garghan / Flickr

WMG helps West Midlands Police convict killer

Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) has collaborated with the West Midlands Police force to convict a killer using three-dimensional scanning techniques.

The WMG Research Centre has already worked on cases with the West Midlands Police on three previous cases, two of which were murder trials.

However, last month cutting-edge 3D technology developed by the Centre was used as evidence in the prosecution of Lorenzo Simon.

Simon was sentenced to life in prison for murdering his housemate, Michael Spalding. He had disposed of the victim’s body by dissecting it and stuffing it into suitcases, which he deposited in the Birmingham canal with the help of his girlfriend, Michelle Bird.

The suitcase was found by a Canal Trust contractor on May 12 2014, after it floated to the surface due to decomposition gases. The rest of the evidence had been burned in an oil drum located in the couple’s garden.

The scanning technique provides an image resolution 43,000 times more detailed than a CT scan. It found that a humerus discovered in the oil drum fit with body parts found in the disposed suitcase down to one 17,000th of a millimetre.

Nine pieces of bone were scanned repeatedly and displayed in 3D videos, allowing detectives, forensic experts and prosecutors to examine them in detail.

The same technique was also used to match lacerations on other bones with a saw found at the bottom of the same canal.

Professor Mark Williams, head of product evaluation technologies at WMG, said: “this combination of micro computerised tomography scanning, 3D printing and 3D virtual reality truly makes the process a UK first.”

The multi-million pound software and scanning technique is too expensive for police forces, but the collaboration has given the West Midlands Police force the opportunity to access both the technology and leading experts in digital forensics.

The force funds a three-year Forensic PHD placement at WMG with hopes to develop the technology further and increase its capabilities.

Discussing the work WMG has helped produce, West Midlands Police Detective Superintendent Mark Payne, who is leading the collaboration, said: “It’s a fantastic development in the field of forensics and, as we have proved in the few cases to date, can be crucial in helping us uncover the truth behind some of our most serious crimes”.


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