Information for Students

It was a quiet midweek morning at the Westpac Bank Armidale, when two males wearing balaclavas and brandishing pistols, thrust a note at the teller demanding cash. The terrified Julie Macdonald emptied her cash tray into a bag and handed it over. One of the thieves stepped back onto a chocolate ice cream dropped by the child of a customer, swore in a Scottish accent and retreated through the doorway. As he sprinted around the corner to the get-away car, the tall, freckled-faced thief collided with a shopper and in his haste didn’t realise that he had dropped his gun and balaclava. A stray German shepherd dog was killed instantly by the speeding get away car. Plastic fragments from the shattered headlight protector were later collected from the road by Scene of Crime Officers.

An event like this could be the starting point for you and three other able students at the Talented Students’ Forensic Science Camp. You and your three colleagues will be cast in the role of detectives. The four of you together make up a Crime Task Force which has been formed for the purpose of solving this crime. You will have no direct access to the scene of the crime or to witnesses, but by using an email link to the Crime Operations Centre you will have access to all of the resources of the national police forces.

You will be able to:
• direct Scene of Crime Officers (SOCOs) to examine the crime scene
• ask detectives or uniformed police to search premises
• ask detectives or uniformed police to interview witnesses or suspects •view Autopsy Reports from the Office of the Coroner
• apply to a magistrate for warrants to search premises or to arrest a suspect

You will have direct access to the Criminal Database and the Vehicle Records Database and you will have free use of the Forensic Laboratories where you can carry out tests on items of physical evidence (fingerprints, blood, weapons, bullets, tool marks, documents etc) that may emerge from the searches that you requested.

An essential aspect of the Camp is that at no time will you be given or receive formal instruction. Everything you need to know about cryptology, blood typing, chromatography, soil analyses, fibre analysis, ultra-violet analysis of inks and soil, ballistics, computer operation or finger print analysis is set out in a book, the Forensic Manual, that was written specifically for the Camp. The Manual will also explain aspects of Law that pertain to the rights of Police, witnesses and suspects and you will be obliged to abide by the Law throughout your investigation. Evidence gained unlawfully is not admissible in court. The work involved in setting up the camp is prodigious.

Six crime scenarios are created, for each Camp. This means that four CTFs will work in parallel (and independently) on each scenario. The creators of the crime scenarios are campers from last year’s Camp. We call them “Controllers”. A Controller may live anywhere in Australia and each scenario is developed by Controller pair. They have been working on their scenario for nine months and they have been trained by a Controller Manager who was a Controller at last year’s Camp. As well as creating the ideas that make up the scenario, the Controllers have to collect all of the items of physical evidence (photographs, fibres, blood stained clothing, shoe prints, shoes, soil samples, documents, broken headlight covers, ink samples, fountain pens, letters) that are related to the scenario.

All of these items of physical evidence are real. The fingerprints are real, the fibres, soil, footprints, blood, inks, bullets are all real. You will be wise if you rehearse laboratory skills before attempting to work on the evidence from the scene of the crime. If your laboratory technique is not up to scratch, vital evidence could be irretrievably lost. Just as in real life, there can be no replacement of damaged evidence.

Let’s return to the Westpac Bank robbery. On the first day of the Camp your CTF will receive a parcel of material from Sergeant McKidd, who responded to a phone call from the bank manager and attended the scene of the crime.
This parcel may include:
• a brief report describing the events that had occurred at the Bank, based on information provided by witnesses.
• a list of individuals who were inside and outside the Bank and their contact information.
• the note that the robbers had handed the bank teller.

What your CTF does from this point is entirely up to the four detectives in your CTF. Remember that you have all of the resources of the nation’s police forces at your disposal but your greatest asset is your collective intelligence and imagination. Not all of the Camp is hard work, however.

When the groups are not solving crimes, there are recreational activities in the morning and at lunchtimes, making use of The Armidale School’s gymnasium, as well as large sporting fields. In the evenings, activities are held varying from games and theatre sports and trivia nights.. After the crimes have wound to a close on Friday, the ‘detectives’ come together as a whole to form a legal team, which must prepare a case to be presented to a judge at a Committal Presentation. They then have Friday afternoon to prepare their case, before presenting it in the courtroom on Saturday.

Once the judge has delivered if there is sufficient evidence to proceed to trial, the Forensic Science Camp has come to an end, and the Campers are free to return to the real world…or are they?