IN YOUR MIDWEEK EXPRESS: Forensic scientists flock to pioneering Burnley centre

A cadaver dog at the TRACES site in Burnley (s)
A cadaver dog at the TRACES site in Burnley (s)

In your midweek Express, we take a look at a forensic science centre of excellence in Burnley, internationally recognised and the only one of its kind in the UK, which is blazing a trail for its pioneering research into the decomposition of bodies.

The TRACES Centre, run by the University of Central Lancashire, welcomes postgraduate students from all over the world as well as academics and representatives from the police and crime scene investigators.

The centre mainly uses pigs to carry out its research, but sometimes uses wild rabbits. Mr Peter Cross, forensic anthropologist and centre manager of the centre, said: “Pigs are the best animals to use. Many of their internal organs are similar and they are relatively hairless so you can see post-mortem changes to the skin.”

TRACES has worked with Greater Manchester Police on a project to train cadaver dogs – used to search for dead bodies – and staff are setting up a similar partnership with Merseyside Police.

Staff looked at potential sites around the North-West before settling on Burnley. The university currently leases two small buildings nearby, for a lecture room and utility room, but the plan is to eventually build a similar facility on the TRACES site.

As well as catering for MSc and Ph.D. students, UCLan also runs courses for police and crime scene investigators in forensic photography, post-mortem interval – time since death – estimation, mass grave investigation and the determination of animal and human bone, all of which use the TRACES centre.

It has hosted students from the USA, Canada, Europe and South America and was recently visited by a delegation of Turkish anthropologists.

“We get a lot of international interest. It’s the first facility in the UK that’s dedicated to this kind of work,” said Mr Cross.