If we’re to believe the current crop of “forensic” shows on TV, science is the magic bullet, the way to solve any crime. True, forensic science has become a key method for crime investigators. Fingerprints, DNA, footprints, tyre tracks, every possible fragment of physical evidence can be examined scientifically to identify and convict the villain.
Forensic science is at the heart of modern police work. But you don’t have to go back very far to find a time when this was not the case. Police were hired for their brawn more than their brains. Witnesses and informants were the main sources of what sometimes loosely passed as “evidence”.
Forensics first came to Australian police work in the 1920s, pioneered by Detective Frederick Piggott of the Victoria Police CIB. His story is eloquently told in a new book by Melbourne author Kevin Morgan, Detective Piggott’s Casebook.
Frederick Piggott solved some major cases using the new methods. But he was also involved in the infamous Gun Alley case, in which forensic science was used to hang an innocent man.
Listen to Kevin Morgan talk about Detective Piggott’s Casebook.