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CSI:Craven - starring crimefighting Louise
11:31am Thursday 12th March 2009 in Dales Folk
The plots on smash hit US television series Crime Scene Investigation can be a bit far-fetched at times – and nobody knows that better than Craven’s own Louise Devereaux.
That’s because Louise, a mother- of-one, is the district’s only crime scene investigator – a civilian, not a police officer, who is responsible for using the wonders of forensic science to help solve crime.
But Louise, 34, who is based at Skipton Police Station, says her typical day is a far cry from what’s depicted on California’s mean streets in episodes of CSI. “People get the impression my job is a lot more glamorous than it really is and they sometimes have unrealistic expectations of what you can achieve,” said Louise.
“Unlike what’s shown on CSI, you won’t catch me doing my job in an expensive suit – I’m more likely to be covered in mud having just completed my investigations up a farm track.”
If you have been a crime victim, you may have met Louise. She’s likely to have been one of the first on the scene, intent on doing whatever it takes to uncover evidence. Her tools of the trade include a camera, powders to reveal fingerprints and swabs to obtain DNA from items like cigarette butts. But it’s her painstaking attention to detail that really gets results.
Fortunately, Craven is a comparatively low-crime area, with incidents like murders being rare. Louise is much more likely to be called in after assaults, criminal damage to vehicles, house burglaries and the theft of items such as quad bikes.
“I’m looking for fingerprints and tyre marks in mud, or footprints and boot marks – that type of thing,” she said. “Also, when there are a number of incidents, such as thefts from churches and cafés in the Dales, I’m looking for things that link them, pulling the whole thing together.
“The advances in DNA have really made a big difference to my job. Now you can perhaps get DNA from something someone touched, a cigarette butt or chewing gum, whereas before you needed quite a bit of blood.”
Louise began her career after answering a job advert in her local paper after graduating from university with a degree in behavioural sciences. She took a 10-week training course, completed a diploma and then was out in the field. She’s now been doing the job for more than 11 years.
“I’ll come in to work in a morning and check my e-mails, which will tell me about any crimes I need to follow up. I’ll prioritise the most serious crimes and get straight round there and see what I can find. “My office is near CID and we have a really good relationship. They feed me information and vice versa; after all, we’ve got the same aim, which is to catch criminals.”
Louise’s job is not for the faint-hearted and she could not attempt it if she was the least bit squeamish. “I’ve not had a murder, but I do get involved with post mortems involving the deaths of people who died in suspicious circumstances. I take photos of injuries at different stages of the post mortem and things like fingerprints for identification purposes.
“Until recently I also took photographs at the scenes of fatal accidents, but that’s no longer part of my job. You try not to think about things too much and just get on with the job in hand.”
It can be difficult to do that. The day the Herald spoke to Louise she had been busy trying to gain evidence concerning an attempted vehicle theft at Long Preston and she had taken photographs of an elderly man from Cross Hills who was kicked to the ground by youths after they demanded cash from him.
Louise loves her job as every day is different – but, she jokes, it could be a while yet before her crime-solving stories are featured on CSI.