Underwater CSI: I feel a spin-off coming..

By Anna Sandiford 09/03/2010


The Cayman Islands. Just the name is enough to make me want to pop on a wetsuit and hop on a plane, which is handy because the Cayman Islands is running an underwater CSI training course, for all those underwater crime scene investigations.  I have to ask the question at this point, who knows an underwater crime scene examiner?  If anyone does, it would make a great article for a Sunday supplement or a BBC documentary.
Although it sounds decadent to attend a training course in the Cayman Islands, underwater crime scene investigation is something that exists and, as with all other crime scene examinations, should adhere to certain protocols and procedures. Think of all the crimes in which evidence is dumped at sea or in other water bodies; the first case that springs to mind is the murder of Jeanette and Harvey Crewe in 1970, whose bodies were found in the Waikato River, Harvey’s body in particular having been weighted down by a vehicle axle. Or the bombing of the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior in Auckland Harbour in 1985. Or the case of Jason Dark, whose body was also found in the Waikato River and was recently the subject of a Sensing Murder episode…

The application of CSI techniques to underwater areas is being recognised by a range of specialised personnel such as marine enforcement officers, environment assessment agencies, coral reef researchers, natural resource managers as well as Police and Coastguards.  As more than 40% of coral cover on the world’s reefs has already been lost (according to the article) and two thirds of the Caribbean’s reefs remain at risk, it makes sense to prosecute the people who threaten the existence of reefs and marine ecosystems.  The specialist knowledge required for underwater crime scene investigation is as wide-ranging as it is for those on terra firma but also should include not only SCUBA knowledge but scientific understanding of the issues affecting different environments.  Without a basic scientific knowledge of the issues being investigated the correct samples of the correct size might not be collected.  As with any other crime scene examination, the scientist who reports the findings relies on the skills of the crime scene examiner to collect good samples.  Rubbish in, rubbish out.  The way to avoid this problem of course is for the reporting scientist to attend the scene and collect their own samples.  Which brings me back to the Cayman Islands.  The underwater CSI skills taught in the Cayman Islands will be directly applicable to all sorts of underwater activity, although for my money I’d rather work in the Caribbean Sea than the North Sea.

To be honest, I’m not really going off to the Cayman Islands for a training course but if CBS gets a whiff of underwater crime scene examination, there’ll be another spin-off series, CSI Cayman, faster than you can say SCUBA.  I will watch and learn, as always.