The Forensic Science Service is turning to insect experts at the Natural History Museum to help them to solve murders and other crimes.
Insects present on the bodies of murder victims can help to establish times of death, sometimes more accurately than standard pathology. But scientists say that squeamishness and a false perception that it is a crude technique have led to forensic entomology being undervalued.
Now the Forensic Science Service has enlisted a roster of experts, including scientists at the Natural History Museum in London, who will be available to assess criminal evidence.
Martin Hall, an entomologist at the Natural History Museum, is working with the FSS on the new service.
In court lawyers tend to label it as an inexact science, he says, “but it’s as precise as any other biological evidence.”
Hall draws comparisons with the use of maggots in medicine, which sounds “a bit Victorian," but is now recognised as a highly effective tool.
Previously, insect evidence was admitted in court. But to obtain an expert opinion police had to approach individual academics directly or employ private companies, which the FSS claims are subject to little regulation.
“People can call themselves a forensic entomology service, but there could be quality issues,” said Andy Hart, an FSS scientist.