Crime Scene Asia : when forensic evidence becomes the silent witness, Liz Porter

Review Written By
Karen Chisholm

There's a quote on the back of this book from Stephen Cordner, Professor of Forensic Pathology, Monash Universay Australia:

"The forensic science and medical evidence in Crime Scene Asia is fascinating in itself, as are the accounts of the police investigations. But what sets it apart is seeing how that evidence is used in court by the prosecution and then challenged, or alternative forensic evidence is introduced by the defence. The reader hears from the experts, but also experiences the lawyers facing each other on a tightrope trading blows... Compelling reading."

From the Bali bombing's, a deadly fire, to a number of murders in Singapore, Malaysia and other locations throughout Asia (and in Australia where the victims and perpetrators where Asian nationals), Liz Porter has assembled a series of analysis pieces about individual cases where forensic investigations played a major part in the resolution, court cases, and ultimate results of a series of violent murders, attacks and crimes. The central premise of the book "when forensic evidence becomes the silent witness" is the entire point, although whether or not readers will consider that relevant in all cases will be up to them. It felt to this reader that there was a hell of a lot of hard slog police work involved in a lot of the cases as well which went somewhat under-commented on, with the Forensic aspects held up almost as the more "sexy" part of investigative efforts.

Because this is a series of individual analysis of cases within similar locations there is also a bit of repetition here with the background of various individuals and forensic methods reiterated in close proximity - probably made more obvious when reading the book from start to finish in one go. 

The comment made by Cordner about the forensic battles between prosecutors and defence is spot on however. There was some interesting aspects of interpretation and experts facing off against each other that was quite compelling, and the way the legal system is responding to the increasing use of forensics, analysis, laboratory reports, theories and evidence interpretation is an evolving world all of its own. 

Year of Publication

Crime Scene Asia : when forensic evidence becomes the silent witness contains 16 cases from Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and Hong Kong , and one from Sydney, in which a Singaporean spent eight years in jail for a murder before being acquitted and freed because of forensic evidence - and some terrific work by Sydney barrister David Dalton SC. The book’s cases include: A Malaysian murder that police were certain that the victim’s married boyfriend had committed. But the DNA found at the scene appeared to tell a different story  A tragic fire in a Manila orphanage, after which its child victims had initially been buried without being identified. A team of scientists then used a whole palette of forensic techniques to identify the children. A Singapore case in which police had only one clue to the identity of a woman found dead in a park: the serial numbers of the implants in her teeth.

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