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Nicola Bulley: Preservation of Forensic Evidence – Not a New Problem

Written by: Alan Baker 10th February, 2023

There has been much speculation about what might have happened to Nicola Bulley on the 27th January 2023.

The investigation represents a mix of traditional forensic science with more modern areas involving mobile phone evidence.

However, a factor which will have caused problems for Lancashire Police is an outdoor crime scene, if that’s what the now infamous bench areas and riverbanks were.

On notification of the incident and the recovery of the phone, you would expect the area to be cordoned off and if it was raining (or bad weather predicted) you would expect a tent or some sort of cover to be erected to preserve any possible evidence.

The question, of course, is what evidence there may have been?

An instant consideration would have been any footwear mark evidence in mud or soil, in the immediate (or indeed broader) vicinity. I would expect all such marks to have been photographed and where possible, plaster cases taken of them.

Ideally the police would have been able to track any impressions or at least be able to attempt to see the extent of Ms Bulley’s movements.

All of this does, of course, rely on mud or soil forming part of her route and that Ms Bulley’s footwear was of an unusual underside configuration.

The reality may be that preservation of the “scene” should have been much more extensive and prolonged.

The fact that 100’s of people have now walked alongside the river may mean that all such evidence has been destroyed.

The forensic investigation of this aspect of the case could have of been vital information and, of course, it may be that the police have already undertaken this aspect of the case.

The lessons of crime scene preservation and determining the extent of a crime scene in an outdoor situation will always present problems to an investigating force and often vital evidence can be irrevocobly lost.

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