Expert in Sams case faces loss of funding: Threat to work of forensic entomologist

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN'S only forensic entomologist, whose expertise was key to the Julie Dart murder investigation, was told on the day Michael Sams was sentenced for the killing, that the Home Office cannot fund his work.

Dr Zakaria Erzinclioglu, whose work involves examining maggots, flies and woodlice, works on an average of 12 to 15 police investigations a year. But he has grown used to the constant threat to his funding.

His work is split between Home Office support for forensic scientists in its own pathology laboratories and police funding for one-off cases. 'I used to be funded by the Home Office, but they said that at the end of 1992 they would have to review that situation.' His grant was not renewed, but Cambridge University offered him free use of his laboratory and he has survived on piecemeal work from individual police forces.

'The Home Office decided to pursue a funding mechanism by which the police forces in England and Wales would each contribute pounds 1,000. That would add up and pay my salary and research costs.'

The Home Office view is that since police forces are paying for Dr Erzinclioglu's services on a consultancy basis, they should also pay his salary. However, a meeting of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) in June rejected the plan, arguing that this was a service that should be centrally funded.

Dr Trevor Rothwell, secretary to the policy advisory board of the Home Office, told Dr Erzinclioglu on Thursday - the day Michael Sams was given four life sentences for the murder of Julie Dart - that it hoped to persuaded Acpo to put the matter back on its agenda for discussion at its next meeting.

Free use of the Cambridge laboratory runs out at the beginning of October and Dr Erzinclioglu had his hopes pinned on a pounds 35,000 salaried post to continue his work. 'It is a very small amount of money indeed, which both the Home Office and the police could afford. It is not the amount, but the principle of whether they should do it. But then that's their problem not mine.'

In the Julie Dart case, Dr Erzinclioglu established time of death by examining the stage of development of maggots. He was also able to tell police she had been incarcerated between her death and burial, again from examination of maggots.

He is not optimistic. 'This is work which by its nature needs subsidising. If they don't support me when they don't need me then I won't be able to help them when they do,' he said.