Feeds

‘Sherlock Holmes’ thinks lateral for murder cops

Elementary, my dear constable

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

High performance access to file storage

"When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." Sherlock Holmes

Scottish software developers have developed a program to help police consider all the possibilities in the investigation of suspicious deaths.

'Sherlock Holmes' is designed to highlight less obvious lines of inquiry that detectives might overlook.

"It takes an overview of all the available evidence and then speculates on what might have happened," developer Jeroen Keppens, of Edinburgh's Joseph Bell Center for Forensic Statistics and Legal Reasoning, told New Scientist.

According to Keppens, the package could help prevent miscarriages of justice. It's human nature to latch onto a particular theory for a suspicious death and then attempt to confirm it, possibility neglecting other possible explanations.

A knowledge base within the program contains data of various causes of death and evidence that either supports or contradicts a particular explanation for a death. Investigators enter data into the program, which applies this database to indicate the likelihodd of each scenario. Forensic evidence, medical reports and eyewitness accounts can all be fed into the system. In this way, the program helps police consider all possibilities rather than leaping to an obvious (and perhaps false) conclusion.

For example, doctors rule that a death was caused by bleeding in the skull, the program would consider all the ways this might have occurred and calculates their relative likelihood.

Keppens said: "It could be accidental or alcohol induced. In the elderly and with infants, falling over could be the cause - or it could be caused by a blow to the head."

The system is capable of considering overlapping possibilities. For example, if the deceased was an old man and an alcoholic, homicide would still be considered as a possible cause of death.

Independent experts give the idea a cautious welcome.

David Holmes, director of Manchester Metropolitan University's Forensic Research Group, told New Scientist that the system could prove useful in police investigation. However he did express some reservations.

"What worries me is the sheer volume of information you'd be expected to put in," he said.

The software is still at the prototype stage but developers at the Joseph Bell Center could be in use in real police investigations within the next two years. ®

External Link

Model-based decision support in crime investigations, a project at the Joseph Bell Center for Forensic Statistics and Legal Reasoning

Related Stories

Techno cops needed to catch cyber criminals - Blunkett
Hi-tech crime threatens UK plc - survey

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

More from The Register

next story
This time it's 'Personal': new Office 365 sub covers just two devices
Redmond also brings Office into Google's back yard
Inside the Hekaton: SQL Server 2014's database engine deconstructed
Nadella's database sqares the circle of cheap memory vs speed
Oh no, Joe: WinPhone users already griping over 8.1 mega-update
Hang on. Which bit of Developer Preview don't you understand?
Microsoft lobs pre-release Windows Phone 8.1 at devs who dare
App makers can load it before anyone else, but if they do they're stuck with it
Half of Twitter's 'active users' are SILENT STALKERS
Nearly 50% have NEVER tweeted a word
Internet-of-stuff startup dumps NoSQL for ... SQL?
NoSQL taste great at first but lacks proper nutrients, says startup cloud whiz
IRS boss on XP migration: 'Classic fix the airplane while you're flying it attempt'
Plus: Condoleezza Rice at Dropbox 'maybe she can find ... weapons of mass destruction'
Ditch the sync, paddle in the Streem: Upstart offers syncless sharing
Upload, delete and carry on sharing afterwards?
New Facebook phone app allows you to stalk your mates
Nearby Friends feature goes live in a few weeks
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.