Although many individuals have privacy concerns when it comes to technology and its far-reaching capabilities, there is one thing for sure; it’s much more difficult to commit a crime and get away with it than it was just 20 or even 10 years ago. From cell phone and credit card records to the exponentially growing number of cameras all around us, you better bet that if you break the law, the law and technology will swiftly find you.
As we have seen before, it’s not only prior to the crime being committed that technology is hindering a criminal’s plans. In fact, it’s in the court of law in which these technologies are playing an even more important role in locking up the bad guys. This is particularly true for one gruesome murder case in Birmingham, England, where 34-year-old Lorenzo Simon murdered his housemate, Michael Spalding. Once the murder was committed, he then proceeded to chop up Spalding’s body, stuff the pieces into two large suitcases and dump the suitcases in a local canal. Some of the bones he also burnt in a large oil drum behind the home.
Prosecutors had the task of linking the body parts and bones found in one of the suitcases with a charred bone discovered within the oil drum. In doing so, they turned to experts at the University of Warwick, where detectives have been linked up to for help in several other cases.
WMG, the manufacturing department of the University of Warwick, is a leader when it comes to 3D scanning and printing technologies, and had worked with the West Midlands Police on three previous cases. They were able to thoroughly scan 9 different bones, including the piece found within the drum. Once scanned, detectives were able to bring the bones up on a sort of virtual reality wall where they could zoom in, move them around, and examine them in incredible depth.
“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,” explained Professor Mark Williams, Head of Product Evaluation Technologies at WMG. “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 one 17,000th of a millimeter 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.”
That’s not all though. Once confirmed, prosecutors had to present this information to the court in an easy to grasp format. To do this, they turned to highly detailed 3D printers. They were able to print out the piece of bone found in the suitcase along with the piece found in the oil drum and then demonstrate that the bones were a perfect fit with one another.
“We made exact 3D print replicas of the bone to demonstrate the evidence to the jury,” Williams stated. “This combination of micro computerized tomography scanning, 3D printing and 3D virtual reality truly makes the process a UK first.”
Thanks to these incredible technologies, Lorenzo Simon will now be spending the rest of his life in prison. His sentence was handed down just two weeks ago.
Let’s hear your thoughts on how 3D printing and scanning is changing the way we prosecute dangerous criminals like Simon. Discuss in the 3D Print Murder Case forum thread on 3DPB.com.