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How Advanced Laser Imaging uses 3D scanning to reconstruct crime scenes

Challenge: To quickly, accurately, and easily document evidence in color at forensic scenes to supplement and enhance overall data acquired from LiDAR scanning and photogrammetry, filling in any critical gaps found during the documentation process.

Solution: Artec Eva, Artec Leo, Artec Studio, LiDAR scanners, photogrammetry

Outcome: Using Artec 3D scanners, Advanced Laser Imaging has seen great success in scene documentation. In the highlighted case involving a woman’s fatal fall down the stairs, the Artec Eva was instrumental in enabling a forensically significant examination of the injuries and objects at the scene, altering the course of the investigation as well as the subsequent courtroom sentencing.

Why Artec: Dependable accuracy, ease of use, portability, and speed – these features have proven essential in allowing the capture of all necessary data at a forensics scene, thereby transforming the ability of the ALI crew to reconstruct events and help solve even the most challenging of cases.

Advanced Laser Imaging

By the time the ambulance showed up on the scene at a home in London, the woman who had fallen from the top of the stairs had succumbed to her injuries. Her partner had found her there minutes earlier, unresponsive.

Despite the police documenting the scene and making their best effort to understand what had actually happened, the sequence of events that led to her death wasn’t entirely clear.

Her partner’s statement to the police was not considered feasible due to the numerous cuts and bruises found on the victim: the police report included an expert statement on the victim’s eye injury, asserting that it was likely caused by a kick to the face.

Reconstructing the incident, moment by moment

The defense team needed a lucid understanding of the evidence before the case went to court. So, they turned to the forensic crime reconstruction specialists at Advanced Laser Imaging (ALI) in London, UK.

Advanced Laser Imaging

Combined-scanner 3D model of stairs and surroundings at crime scene. Image courtesy of Advanced Laser Imaging

With nearly a decade of proven experience working within the London Metropolitan Police Service, the founders of Advanced Laser Imaging have been trailblazers in the use of 3D documentation and reconstruction of crime scenes using a variety of technologies: photogrammetry, LiDAR scanners, and handheld 3D scanners, including the Artec Eva, a lightweight professional 3D scanner with submillimeter accuracy, widely used in forensics and other spheres for more than a decade.

Advanced Laser Imaging was introduced to the Artec 3D scanner line by the dedicated 3D scanning specialists at Artec Gold-certified Partner Europac3D, based in Cheshire, UK. During the first demonstration, the Advanced Laser Imaging team recognized that the Artec Eva could fulfill their stringent requirements for a forensically accurate 3D scanner.

They noted its ease of use, portability, and ability to integrate seamlessly into their existing scene and evidence documentation workflow, thereby further cementing its potential role in enhancing their forensic investigation capabilities.

Advanced Laser Imaging

ALI Technical director Mark DeGiovanni, MSc (Eng), scanning a radiator with Artec Eva at a scene. Image courtesy of Advanced Laser Imaging

The Eva is the predecessor of the Artec Leo, a fully wireless, high-performance handheld 3D scanner used by thousands of clients around the world, including the Ukrainian Police & Forensics teams, where it’s relied upon daily for documenting war crimes committed by the Russian military.

In a class entirely its own, the Leo excels at capturing crime, death, and crash scenes and all the evidence within, in vividly realistic color at up to 35 million high-resolution 3D data points per second.

Having established 3D scanning as the heart of his team’s workflow more than two decades, Advanced Laser Imaging’s technical director, Mark DeGiovanni, MSc (Eng) said, “Imagine being able to take a step back in time and witness the series of events that took place at a crime scene.”

He continued, “Not so long ago, this would’ve sounded like the plot of a sci-fi film. But today we’re doing this, as we have for years, providing a critical service to law enforcement agencies and other investigative organizations in the UK and abroad.”

How Artec Eva helped document the scene

The Artec Eva was used to capture a series of objects on and around the stairway, to understand whether they may have somehow contributed to the victim’s fatal injuries. These objects included points on the radiator, the banister, the door, and a doorstop.

Advanced Laser Imaging

Visualization of forensic injury analysis of the victim’s facial wounds to explore possible causal relationships with 3D scanned objects at the scene. Image courtesy of Advanced Laser Imaging

These scans were processed in Artec Studio software and then brought into play, to take a forensically significant look at whether there were any pattern markings between the cuts around her eye socket and the objects in the scene.

Because they didn’t have access to the victim’s body, they used photogrammetric techniques to reconstruct the wounds around the eye while maintaining the correct scale for the injury. In short order, they presented their conclusions to the defense team.

Advanced Laser Imaging

Forensic injury analysis exploring possible causal relationship between victim’s facial wounds and 3D model of staircase newel post. Image courtesy of Advanced Laser Imaging

Despite the initial expert statement introduced by the police, this new evidence placed doubt on the prosecution’s narrative, showing that other objects at the scene may well have brought about the victim’s injuries and contributed to her death.

The report that DeGiovanni and his team produced helped the defense team establish a stronger case, which resulted in a reduced sentence for the defendant.

Finding the signal amidst the noise

Artec Eva and Artec Leo are vital tools for DeGiovanni and his team. An example of this is when scanning the interior of a vehicle is called for. This could be to understand bullet trajectories or to test a witness statement for feasibility.

With such a comprehensive, submillimeter-accurate 3D model of the scene and all the evidence within, the ALI team can confidently reconstruct sequences of an event, combining witness statements and physical evidence into a single model.

This also includes feasibility and line-of-sight analyses, to confirm whether specific witnesses were physically able to see, from their locations, certain events they testified to.

Advanced Laser Imaging

Street-level restaurant windows with bullet impact holes and forensics stickers, ready for 3D scanning with Artec Eva for bullet trajectory analysis

With more than a decade of experience working on some of the UK’s most challenging cases, Advanced Laser Imaging has the breadth of knowledge to safely and reliably document all the pertinent evidence at a crime scene, perform a range of analyses and reconstructions, and then produce reports suitable for court.

3D scanning that leaves nothing to chance

“For years now, we’ve relied upon Artec 3D scanners for documenting critical crime scene evidence quickly and easily,” said DeGiovanni.

He explained further, “For us, it’s vastly important to know that when we finally depart from a scene, we have all the data we need, with all the high-quality accuracy and textures that our multi-technology workflow demands. And Artec 3D has never let us down in this regard.”

Additionally, 3D forensic scene documentation is playing a greater role in the reconstruction of crime, crash, and death scenes, bringing a transformative impact on investigations of all kinds.

The precise, detailed, and accessible nature of 3D scanning offers investigators a powerful tool to unlock complex narratives embedded in such scenes, thereby strengthening the pursuit of truth.

Advanced Laser Imaging

Artec Studio screenshot showing the high-resolution Eva scans (texture removed) of the radiator. Image courtesy of Advanced Laser Imaging

By providing a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the event and the actions of all individuals present, 3D technology empowers the justice system to deliver fairer outcomes.

This highlighted case of Advanced Laser Imaging is an indicator of a broad shift in the world of forensics, a shift that society stands to benefit greatly from as we move towards an increasingly digital future.

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