'We have a responsible job to do, so we go in and concentrate on getting the pictures in focus rather than dwelling on the awfulness of what has occurred,' says DC Yeoman, who admits to carrying some terrible images in his mind's eye. 'A few years ago, we filmed some really awful scenes at Burgate House, in Hampshire, after five bodies were found. Petrol had been poured over several of the victims, and by the time we got there they were still bubbling and steaming. Every so often one would burst into flames. It was the worst murder case I've ever seen, and I can remember feeling so angry at the callousness of it all.'
Between them, the two detectives, who are part of a six-man technical services team in the Hampshire police force, have recorded the scenes of 40 murders. Although the material is rarely used in court as admissible evidence, it plays a vital part as a visual briefing for police officers assigned to a murder hunt. The footage is also used to instruct recruits in the finer points of establishing clues at the scene of a serious crime.
Like their forensic science colleagues, the two Detective Constables wear white overalls as they work to prevent contamination of evidence. However, the clothing does little to protect them from the smells of decomposition they can encounter. DC Hillary remembers being called to a house in which a hefty man was found dead in the lavatory. .
'The room was south facing, and over the six weeks since his death the heat had melted the top of his bald head. Forensic always carry a spray to get rid of smells, which they hardly ever use, but on this occasion it was going
DC Hillary puts the emotional impact of a scene on temporary hold as much as possible, but the discovery of two small children who were stabbed to death with scissors was a difficult and painful
'I'd never attended the murder of little ones before. It's especially tough when you're a family man with kids of your own.'
He also retains the vivid image of a woman's eyes staring from the remains of her 'puppet-like' head after her husband had fired a shotgun beneath her chin and then turned the gun on himself. DC Yeoman adds: 'When you see a woman lying murdered on her kitchen floor, with her eyes still open, it makes you feel as if you're intruding; as if any minute she'll come to life and ask you what the hell you think you're doing there. Filming these scenes can be very eerie. It's as if time has been frozen and everything around this person suddenly stopped.'
Both men agree, however, that their job is not nearly as difficult as breaking tragic news to members of a victim's family. 'We always think about what those left behind are going to have to face,' says DC Hillary, remembering two teenagers trapped for more than an hour in the back of a crashed family car. 'As I was filming the vehicles involved in the accident, I could see that the heads of the parents had been badly crushed. So could the two youngsters, and I thought what a terrible final picture to carry of your mum and dad.'
DC Hillary lost colleagues in a flying accident a few years ago and was the duty cameraman called to the field where the observational flight had ended. 'We're normally helped by the fact that we don't know the dead, but on this occasion I remember feeling really choked. The pictures I was taking of one officer showed no face. It was just black. I had to stand back for a few minutes before I could start.'
Humour is ever-present, but never irreverent, say the two detectives, describing it as a form of self-protection.
Both men admit that they are unlikely to forget the experience of recording the devastation in Burgate House. A family dinner party was interrupted by three men who burst in to the house and brutally murdered four people. They sexually assaulted a fifth victim, finally strangling her to death in another room.
DC Hillary recalls: 'This was a family having a meal together. I shall never forget the sight of that empty dining room. There were half-eaten crusty roles on the side plates and a few peas scattered on the table alongside the silver cutlery. There was also silence. For these five people, the world had suddenly been brought to a standstill, as if captured on the freeze frame of a film. I hope I never have to record anything like it ever again.'
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