Lead Forensics

Futuristic 3D scanning technology helped convict brutal killer

May 25, 2015 | 3D Scanning

3D scanning technology helped secure the conviction of a man who cut up his housemate’s body, before disposing of it.

Lorenzo Simon was sentenced to life in prison for the barbaric murder of his housemate. Crucially detectives recovered part of the victim’s humerus from an oil drum in the couple’s garden − used as a furnace to destroy evidence − which experts proved was a seamless fit with a limb found in the case.

And the same 3D scanning technology − which provides image resolution 43,000 times more detailed than that a hospital CT scan − also proved laceration links between a saw recovered from the canal-bed and marks found on other bones.

Such ‘micro-CT imaging’ has been used for some time in high-tech industries like aerospace and automotive − where atomic material failures can have catastrophic consequences − but West Midlands Police is the first UK force to embrace the science to support investigations. Detectives have teamed up with University of Warwick’s research centre on four cases to date, including three murder trials.

Nine pieces of bone were repeatedly x-rayed at a range of angles with the many thousands of images collated using specialist software to produce the 3D ultra-scans. They were then displayed on a virtual reality 3D video wall, allowing detectives, police forensic experts and crown prosecutors to examine the digital images in remarkable depth.

University of Warwick Professor Mark Williams said: “A black lump resembling a large piece of coal was found in the oil drum and our scans revealed it contained the top part of the victim’s humerus fused inside a mass of molten debris.

“The bone had been sawn and snapped. After scanning body parts in the cases we found it was a perfect jigsaw fit to another piece of bone and could show in minute detail − down to 17,000th of a millimetre or half a hair’s breadth − the cuts on the bones.

“That helped officers match the serrated edge of the saw to many of the indents and showed they’d been inflicted with a blade width of 1.4mm. And we made exact 3D print replicas of the bone to demonstrate the evidence to the jury. This combination of micro computerised tomography scanning, 3D printing and 3D virtual reality truly makes the process a UK first.”

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

Detectives believe the high-resolution computer graphics could assist their investigations and make it much easier to present evidence to a jury, eliminating any confusion over witness testimonies.

Excerpt from article on Express & Star website.

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