The knowledge and expertise gained by a profession in taxonomy at national museums for 14 years, focussing on flies (Diptera) and other insect orders, meant that the skills required for certain case work were well honed. Particularly, insect identification.
In a murder investigation in 2003, the Lothian and Borders Police (Scotland) made an enquiry concerning the route a vehicle had travelled, using the insects adhered to the outside of the car. The car was examined at the Forensic laboratory in Edinburgh and numerous insects were removed. Once identified, the species comprising the haul could be analysed. By focussing on habitat type, it was possible to state that the car had travelled along a particular road near coastal marshland, because several species of insect were taken from the vehicle that reside in coastal swamps.
At the time, no conviction was made, as no body could be located and, besides, the primary suspect was soon afterward committed to imprisonment on a separate charge of manslaughter.
That is not the end of the story, however. Fourteen years later in 2017, a cyclist travelling along the coastal road needed to relieve himself, hopped over a drystone wall and nearly landed on a heap of human bones. The case was quickly re-opened and the remains turned out to be the missing body from the original murder investigation in 2003.
Armed with this experience and realising the void in the market, FlyEvidence was established in 2003 with the aim of delivering expert insect identification for Forensic and scientific investigation.
The use of insects in forensic case work enables the investigator to estimate post mortem interval. This is not necessarily the same as time of death. Rather, it is the minimum time since egg laying (oviposition) took place and indicates when insects first had access to the deceased.
Forensic Entomology doesn't only focus on time of death estimations - there is so much more, such as assessing the use of drugs by the deceased prior to death, locating the growing location of a consignment of cannabis or, by extension, cases within commercial, environmental health and health & safety situations where these become legal issues.
Andrew has prior involvement in 25 legal cases, including 20 autopsies conducted in the pursuit of murder inquiries and about 20 non-suspicious deaths which provide the scope of experience that is applied to new cases. In addition, with over 30 years identification experience, he has identified in excess of 20,000 samples, 35,000 specimens and over 17,000 digital records, contributing to 20 major projects.
The service offered provides identification of insects from commercial, industrial, agricultural and household pest infestations. In most cases remedial solutions are offered and seldom do these contracts require any legal intervention. Nonetheless, in case legal intervention does become relevant, all contracts are treated with a high professional standard and complete confidence.
Part of the commercial service, this includes identification and assessment of insects impacting on public health issues, including waste processing plants, residential, restaurants and take-aways, impact on communities from farms or industry. Often resulting in court action, or at least being subject to underlying legislation these contracts may have a legal outcome and all are therefore treated with a high professional standard and complete confidence.
Identification of insects for a broad range of ecological and conservation assessment. These are most frequently bulk samples of multiple species diversity and varying abundance. Biodiversity studies and pollination studies are included here, especially those requiring identification of diptera associated with pollination in crops and flowering plants in taxonomic studies, specifically but not exclusively, Syrphidae and ‘micro-diptera’.
Identification of insects from crime scenes, most frequently to determined estimated post mortem interval. This is specifically the minimum period after death as determined by detailed examination of insect life cycles and accumulated degree hours (ADH).
Additionally, Forensic Entomology can be used to determine whether a body has been moved; season of burial (or wrapping); vehicle movements; narcotic export; narcotic abuse, etc.
FlyEvidence offers graduate level statistical analyses using standard parametric and non-parametric techniques.