Forget what you see on telly, where glamorous officers solve cryptic crimes in under an hour. Sadly, real life isn’t that simple. But, over the decades, we've honed lots of techniques, making it harder to get away with murder...


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Since 1995, the UK DNA database has grown to around 5.7 million profiles. And, from 2001 to 2014, it produced 471,000 matches between suspects and crimes. In one three-month period in 2014, there were 37 matches to murders and 127 to rape offences.

Follow this forensic timeline to find out how to catch a killer…

44 BC

Death of an emperor
Following Julius Caesar’s assassination, an autopsy determined only one of the 23 wounds was fatal.



First use of fingerprints
Arabic merchants took a debtor’s fingerprint and attached them to the bill to determine identity.


Physical evidence used in criminal case

A torn edge of newspaper in a pistol matched newspaper in John Tom’s pocket, and the Brit was convicted of murder.


Fingerprint ID used in crime
12 years earlier, fingerprints were found to be unique. An Argentinean police officer was the first to use them as evidence in a murder.

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Blood markers
Human blood types were discovered and adapted for use on bloodstains.

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Follicles used in forensics
Following a study on hair, the first legal case ever involving hair took place.

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Guns are unique
It was discovered gun barrels leave identifying grooves on bullets fired, helping solve crimes by matching the two up.

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Lie detection
The prototype polygraph – invented by John Larson in 1921 – was developed for police use.

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Voice recordings as evidence

Voiceprints started to be used in investigations and as court evidence from answering machines to tape recorders.

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First national crime system
FBI established the National Crime Information Center, a computerised national filing system on wanted people, stolen vehicles, weapons, etc.


DNA technique for unique ID
DNA fingerprinting techniques were developed by Sir Alec Jeffreys. Three years later, he developed the first DNA profile.

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DNA Database created

The UK National Criminal Intelligence DNA Database was established to store profiles of men and women convicted of crimes in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.


Footwear detection system
Britain develops online footwear coding and detection system to identify shoe marks quickly.

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Facial sketches matched to photos
Michigan State University develops software that automatically matches hand-drawn facial sketches to mug shots in databases.

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Check out these crazy crime facts…

Flipping crazy!

Though men lash out in rage more than women, neurobiologist Douglas Fields says there are triggers that can flip a switch in ‘normal’ people.

Here’s three of the triggers…

L: Life or Limb: This is directly tied to defensive aggression – if attacked, you’ll defend yourself. ‘

I: Insult

T: Tribe: Humans are tribal, and will defend their own. Stress can make people more vulnerable, so they react defensively and aggressively.

What a mug!

‘Mug’ is English slang for ‘face’, and ‘shot’ slang for ‘photograph’. Hence, mugshot! Before them, criminals were described by attributes such as age, weight, height, appearance and habits.

On the loose!

The US has the highest number of serial killers, with 76 per cent of the world’s total. However, England has produced 28 per cent of Europe’s serial killers

Guilty as charged!

Up to 55 per cent of suspects ‘fess up during interrogation, partly due to the Reid Technique, where the interrogator begins by telling the suspect there’s no doubt about their guilt.