Long ago, I mentioned a story, published in the South Yorkshire Police site, about Eddie and Keela, the two “incredibly unreliable” sniffer dogs that were so praised by British media, before they found something that was not exactly good for Gerry and Kate Mccann.
But it seems South Yorkshire Police agrees with Gerry Mccann, as the above mentioned page vanished. Just in case, I kept a copy.
Keela could be described as ‘top dog’ in her field of expertise. The trained Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) dog has skills like no other and it has left forces worldwide hankering after an insight into her special training.
At the tender age of 16 months, the spaniel has already travelled to
Keela’s trusty handler Martin Grime is responsible for all training that she has received, together with the National Search Adviser, Mark Harrison.
At present the Force has two victim recovery dogs, Frankie and Eddie. Martin also handles Eddie and has been working with him since he joined up around four years ago.
Keela is trained to locate minute samples of blood and can assist not only in murder investigation but also with scenes of crime teams to identify and recover evidence more efficiently.
Martin explained the reasons for training a CSI dog: “Although South Yorkshire Police have two victim recovery dogs that can detect blood and human remains we felt the need to separate the two
search areas. We wanted to create a more specific working dog that could accurately detect very small samples of human blood.
“We had to change the way the dog is trained to alert its handler about a ‘find’. Normal recovery dogs will bark to signal this. In this case it is not appropriate, as the dog would be trained to sniff out blood that is often too small for the human eye to see. Instead, the dog will locate the contaminated area by pointing its nose at the spot where the blood is situated. This is much more accurate.”
This idea has been put forward to senior crime managers and forensic scientists and the response has been very enthusiastic.
In June 2004 Keela was assigned to Martin. The eight-week-old puppy, bred by West Midlands Police, then became the centre of an experiment evaluated by Mark to see whether a dog could be trained to work as part of the team.
Unlike other dogs in the department Keela never participated in the usual six-week course. Martin trained her bit by bit everyday.
Keela followed a programme training her to ignore decomposing body materials other than human blood. She is also trained to have a ‘passive’ alert- where she freezes with her nose as near to the subject matter as possible without touching, to enable scientists to recover the sample quickly and efficiently.
The springer spaniel has now been fully trained and licensed. She works nationally and is deployed by the National Crime and Operations Faculty (NCOF) to high profile murders, missing persons and abductions. She is deployed within
endent Kevin Morton to murders and serious assaults etc.
Keela can search any area including houses, cars, boats, both indoors and outdoors. On duty she will lead Martin to spots of blood so small that humans can’t see them.
She screens textiles and can pick out clothing with blood on even after it has been washed many times in biological washing powder. Offenders can’t even trick her by trying to clean their weapons, as Keela would still smell blood after attempts have been made to wash away the evidence.
Meredydd Hughes, Chief Constable said: ” Keela’s training gives the force an edge when it comes to forensic investigation, which we should recognise and use more often. Martin has developed this capability through innovation and experience, and we are now considering how best to develop the training further. We know other forces are interested, both here and abroad, and we must see what opportunities we can develop. We know we have an operationally excellent dog section, and our specialist dogs are being developed in a unique way.”
Even in the early stages of her career Keela has been more successful than her trainers hoped. She has had a number of operational finds recovering murder weapons, identifying the blood of a victim in a suspect’s car and screening numerous amounts of clothing belonging to suspects.
Keela has made huge efficiency savings for the force in just eight months of work. Nationally since 1 April 2005 she has made savings of approximately £200,000.
A particular example where Keela has proven her efficiency was during a job in Wiltshire. Martin explained: “As a result of this incident 350 items of clothing had been recovered which all needed testing for evidence. To have the items examined at the forensic lab would have cost £200 for each item.
Keela managed to help in just one day which resulted in eight pieces of clothing being detected with blood stains on them.”
The future definitely looks bright for the fun-loving dog wanted to work with the FBI in