Once upon a time difficult crimes were solved by great detectives, at least so the classical masters of crime fiction - Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, G.K. Chesterton - would have us believe. Sherlock Holmes at his most brilliant cracked a case from the manner in which a shoelace had been tied. Nowadays the transcendent single clue that solves a crime is increasingly rare.
Today's Police collaborate closely with their scientific division. Specialists liaise with detectives whilst pursuing unusual disciplines: ballistics, handwriting and typewriting analysis, and fingerprint examination. Goverment scientists provide information on skin, blood, saliva and semen. In recent years voice prints, gamma-spectra analysis of human hair and DNA, or 'genetic fingerprints' entered the court room.
Two notorious crimes in Australian history hinged on forensic evidence for their solution. In 1934, the body of a young woman dressed in yellow crepe pyjamas was found in a culvert near Albury. Badly disfigured, identity unknown, she puzzled Police for ten years, until dental records revealed her as Linda Agostini. Her husband was finally convicted as her killer. In 1960, Sydney schoolboy Graeme Thorne was kidnapped and murdered, after his parents won the much publicised Opera House lottery. Soil, shrub, mortar and hair samples found on the blanket that wrapped his body eventually led police to his murderer, Stephen Leslie Bradley. Aspects of the forensic evidence of both of these cases will be included in the new exhibition.
- Caleb Williams, from INSITES, no. 12, Winter 1994.