Forensics helps police solve gruesome cases

Above: Team officer-in-charge Lim Li Shi using a spray to trace laser beams that outline the trajectory of bullets. Left: A forensic light source being used to detect traces of evidence such as fingerprints.
Crime scene specialist Koo Yi Zhen (above) using a spray to trace laser beams that outline the trajectory of bullets.ST PHOTOS: ONG WEE JIN
Above: Team officer-in-charge Lim Li Shi using a spray to trace laser beams that outline the trajectory of bullets. Left: A forensic light source being used to detect traces of evidence such as fingerprints.
Above: A forensic light source being used to detect traces of evidence such as fingerprints.ST PHOTOS: ONG WEE JIN

CID unit that cracked legless body murder case marks 40th year

When a legless body wrapped in black trash bags turned up in a suitcase in Syed Alwi Road in 2014, forensic officers worked through the night to examine the evidence.

"We had to transport the bags back to our office very carefully," said senior crime scene specialist Geraldine Ng, 30.

"Any print that we found on the trash bags could give us an idea of who the person who wrapped the body possibly was," she said.

Within 24 hours, they uncovered a fingerprint lead.

Ms Ng works in the Criminal Investigation Department's (CID) forensics division, which marked its 40th anniversary yesterday with a day-long conference.

Held at the Police Cantonment Complex, the event showcased the division's transformation, and was attended by around 200 people.

At the event, Deputy Commissioner (Investigations and Intelligence) Tan Chye Hee said the police will continue to sharpen their capabilities in forensics.

Whatever the advances in technology, team officer-in-charge Denzyl Tai, 31, said it remains important for officers to be team players, and be patient and meticulous in order to crack cases.

Forensic evidence is one of three pillars - the other two being interview skills and intelligence - in solving crimes, said former police officer Lim Seng Kim, 67, now a part-time lecturer at the Police Academy. He recounted how such evidence helped in a body parts murder in 2005, when he was head of the forensics management branch.

A woman's head, hands and legs were found in plastic bags behind Orchard MRT station. Mr Lim said it was through the fingerprints that the police found her work permit and workplace and identified her as 26-year-old Filipino maid Jane Parangan La Puebla. Around 6pm the same day, a jogger found a torso with no limbs in a travelling bag at MacRitchie Reservoir.

"When we processed the scene, we found a piece of newspaper with a sticker on it," he said.

Officers realised the paper, which was published in the United Kingdom, was delivered to subscribers here with customers' addresses stuck on the product.

"We found the address, and went to visit the apartment in Serangoon," he said. The police found blood stains in a bedroom as well as scraps of a work permit belonging to the maid who had died. It was the original crime scene, said Mr Lim.

The bedroom in question belonged to another maid. Investigations later revealed that a dispute over $2,000 had led to one maid strangling the other and then disposing of her body.

Mr Lim said there was also video footage of the murdered maid going to the apartment, and of the perpetrator returning to it with a suitcase despite leaving empty-handed.


Correction note: This story has been edited for clarity. 

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2017, with the headline 'Forensics helps police solve gruesome cases'. Print Edition | Subscribe