Little Book of Forensics: 50 of the World's Most Infamous Criminal Cases Solved by Science
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Little Book of Forensics: 50 of the World's Most Infamous Criminal Cases Solved by Science

by David Owen
     
 

To take a crime from scene to court may involve several specialized branches of forensic science. Criminalistics specialists look at statistics, splash patterns, fingerprints and distribution of material at the scene; forensic chemistry deals with fires, explosives, glass, paint and soil analysis; toxicology looks at poisons and drug abuse; serology is the science

Overview

To take a crime from scene to court may involve several specialized branches of forensic science. Criminalistics specialists look at statistics, splash patterns, fingerprints and distribution of material at the scene; forensic chemistry deals with fires, explosives, glass, paint and soil analysis; toxicology looks at poisons and drug abuse; serology is the science of body fluids including blood, saliva and semen; the documents unit look at fakes and forgeries; and the computer branch investigate hacking and electronically detectable crimes.

This case-packed book shows you how each unit works through 50 carefully selected crime studies that describe how scientific methods have been used within the field of criminal investigation across the world.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal

Adult/High School- Moore answers questions about Ebola-including where it came from and what would happen if terrorists acquired the virus-and 49 other diseases. They are grouped by means of transmission and include headline grabbers such as SARS, avian flu, and anthrax, as well as conditions considered relatively mild in Western countries, such as measles and chicken pox. Basic information is provided in two to four pages and illustrated with a map of where the disease is active, a drawing of the human body showing the areas affected, and bar graphs indicating how infectious and severe the disease is, its fatality rate, and how dangerous it would be as a bioweapon. Owen's companion volume has a similar format, with brief narratives of 50 crimes, mostly murders, and an emphasis on explaining the methods by which the cases were solved by forensic science, including fingerprints, bite marks, fabric analysis, and computer records. Many of the accounts are illustrated with drawings or photographs. Teens interested in forensics and true crime will avidly devour Owen's work.-Sandy Schmitz, Berkeley Public Library, CA

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061374203
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
02/12/2008
Pages:
144
Sales rank:
1,334,919
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt

Little Book of Forensics


By David Owen
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
Copyright © 2008 David Owen
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061374203


Chapter One

Death Dealing Doctor

Where: New York, USA
When: January-March 1916
Culprit: Dr. Arthur Waite
Victims: Mr. and Mrs. John Peck
Cause of death: germs and poison
Forensic technique: toxicology

The Crime

When the body of a possible murder victim is given a post-mortem to determine the cause of death, one of the first signs examiners look for is the presence of any known poisons. But what happens when the lethal ingredients that led to the victim's demise are not chemical poisons, but germs spread by diseases, some of which can prove fatal through natural misfortune rather than murderous intent? If a murderer could harness these germs and bacteria as an effective murder weapon, how could investigators possibly determine whether a victim had died from natural causes or purposefully been exposed to the deadly germs by a human assailant?

This was the line of thought that influenced Dr. Arthur Warren Waite, a dentist in New York who shared his luxury apartment on Riverside Drive with his wife's retired parents. His father-in-law, John Peck, had built up a sizeable fortune after a career as a pharmacist in the Middle West, and Waite longed to inherit as much of themoney as possible. The problem was that neither parent seemed in poor health, but it occurred to Waite that it might be possible to give nature a helping hand, by causing Peck to ingest harmful bacteria which would trigger an entirely convincing onset of a serious disease, followed by a severe physical decline and ultimate death, without anyone being held responsible.

The Case

Waite began by setting his sights on John Peck's wife. He carefully isolated a mixture of diphtheria and influenza germs, and added these to her food. After a series of doses, the elderly woman became ill, and her condition steadily deteriorated, until she finally died in January 1916. Waite then shifted his efforts to her husband, but his method did not work so effectively on his second target. It seemed John Peck's constitution was disconcertingly immune to a whole range of nasty bugs, and every weapon in Waite's locker was proving ineffective.

First he tried the diphtheria mixture, with no results. Then he prescribed a nasal spray to aid his victim's breathing, which he had contaminated with tuberculosis germs, but even this failed to produce the planned result. He tried influenza and typhoid, but still the old man remained obstinately healthy. Finally, Waite's impatience overcame all the care and caution he had taken so far in his efforts. Determined to hasten his father-in-law's death, he added a dose of what he described to their family servant simply as 11 medicine" to tea and soup served to Peck one evening. The "medicine" did exactly what he hoped it would do. A man who appeared to the family doctor as healthy only the day before died on March 12, 1916, just two months after his late wife.

The Evidence

The medicine administered to the unfortunate John Peck was nothing less than a lethal dose of arsenic. Unluckily for the devious dentist, there was a reliable test for the presence of this poison which had been developed by James Marsh, a London chemist, in the 1820s, and this was well known to the investigators. The first step of the test is to place tissue samples from the victim, together with any stomach contents, on to a zinc plate. Then sulphuric acid is poured on to the plate, and in the ensuing reaction any arsenic present in either tissue or stomach contents absorbs the hydrogen from the acid and is given off as a gas. This is collected and passed down a heated tube and then allowed to cool, where the mixture forms white crystals of arsenious oxide. When samples were taken from John Peck's body, the crystals showed exactly what Dr. Warren Waite had turned to in his haste to be rid of his father-in-law.

The Outcome

With evidence as clear as this, the trial was something of a formality. Dr. Arthur Warren Waite was convicted of John Peck's murder, and before his execution he admitted the ingenious and successful methods he had used for poisoning his mother-in-law without incurring any suspicion at all. Had he persevered with these ideas, in time Mr.Peck may have suffered the same fate as his wife without anyone being the wiser.



Continues...

Excerpted from Little Book of Forensics by David Owen Copyright © 2008 by David Owen. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

David Owen has worked as a contributing science writer for the Observer, Sunday Times and Daily Telegraph, and is the author of numerous books on the subjects of military history, and forensic science and technology. These include Criminal Minds, an exploration of the art of crime profiling, and Hidden Evidence: Forty true crimes and how forensic science helped solve them.

David researched, wrote and jointly produced Dirty Tricks, a four-part radio series on the techniques of military deception, which was chosen by the British Imperial War Museum for its media military history archive. He has just completed a long-term research and writing project for the United States Naval institute

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