Geo Week News

May 23, 2012

SPARVlog: How the murder of an MI6 agent brought laser scanning to the masses

I’ve been working for the past two weeks on an extensive report on the purchase by UK police forces of some 37 laser scanners thanks to a government grant. A common theme when talking to the actual officers using the equipment has emerged: They can’t think of a reason not to use them in accident scene investigation. Or, really, in the investigation of any substantial crime where it’s important to preserve the scene for posterity. 

While talking with one officer in particular, who predicted the use of laser scanning would soon be “quite common,” he drew my attention to the Gareth Williams murder case, which has transfixed the UK for much of the last two years. Essentially, it’s unclear how the MI6 agent died. But what they do know is that he was found locked into a duffle bag in his own bathroom, with no other signs of a struggle. Is he a contortionist who committed suicide in a spectacularly imaginative way? It seems impossible, says a medical examiner, but the evidence as to who else might have been involved amounts to a tiny bit of unidentified DNA. 

So, what’s that got to do with laser scanning? Well, to satiate the masses, the police investigators released an “animation,” most often referred to as a “video” by news outlets, showing the status of the crime scene when the duffle bag was found. Except that it isn’t a video. It’s a fly through of a point cloud. And that’s the basis for this week’s SPARVlog. 

Take a look:


Supporting information for this week’s SPARVlog: 

Police release animation of Gareth Williams bathroom.

Press release announcing the purchase of 37 laser scanners by UK police departments.

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