Are cadaver dogs really realible or a hindrance in police work??
Recently I’ve been approached by an important agency (that shall remain nameless for the moment) to undertake some research into the work of “Cadaver Dogs”. My apologies I am guessing some of you may not know what a cadaver dog is, so the brief description is. . .Specialist trained dogs that are able to recognise the telltale odour of decomposing human flesh. These dogs recognise ‘skin rafts’ (scent carrying skin cells that drop off living humans at a rate of approximately 40,000 cells per minute), ‘decomposition gases’ (released by bacterial action on human tissue), ‘evaporated perspiration’ and ‘respiratory gases’.
So; my first question is this. . .surely dead flesh from a human and that from an animal such as a dog must be very similar surely?? Isn’t it possible that a dog that is looking for the scent of death / a corpse could easily be confused if an animal had died in the same place recently??
Cadaver dogs really popped into the news in a big way when they were used in the search for missing child ‘Madeleine McCann’ in Praia Da Luz, Portugal in 2007 but have been used by police forces for some time. They have recently been shown to be unreliable in their work, let’s look at some facts. . .
Dogs from four different police forces were used during searches for school girl ‘Shannon Mathews’ in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire in 2008. The dogs found “evidence” of dead bodies (Cadavers) but officers later discovered NO RELATION to Shannon’s disappearance, in fact she was found safe and well having been hidden by her mother. The explanation given by the forensic team was that the furniture sniffed by the dogs had been second hand and may have been owned by someone that had passed away, hmmmm I don’t quite buy it surely the dog would be given the scent of the person that they were seeking??
South Yorkshire police used a spaniel called “Eddie” in an investigation at “Haut De La Garenne” home in Jersey and at Praia Da Luz, Portugal. On both occasions the dog indicated evidence of a cadaver. On the first occasion the floor was lifted and the item indicated turned out to be “A coconut shell” and in the case of Madeleine McCann the said Cadaver (Corpse) has never been found. In the latter case surely if the Portugese police really thought the dog had found genuine evidence that a child had recently died they would have arrested her parents on suspicion of murder.
Interesting forensic anthropologist ‘Arpad Vass’ at The Oak Ridge National Laboratory and his team have reproduced the same odours chemically that the dogs seek out in the field, so this goes to show that someone with relevant knowledge could easily mislead the dogs in their work!!
Finally I would like to draw your attention to a report by retired police officer / dog handler “Martin Grimes” in respect of the cadaver dogs used in the search for Madeleine McCann he CLEARLY states that there was “No proof of death or any certainty of cadaver scent having been detected by the dogs ‘Eddie and Keela’. He is a highly qualified and experienced police officer and his knowledge must in my professional opinion be taken seriously.
The following points are taken from the statement:
The first alert was given with the dogs head in the air without a positive area being identified. This is the alert given by him when there is no tangible evidence to be located only the remaining scent. The second alert was one where a definitive area was evident. The CSI dog was therefore deployed who gave specific alert indications to specific areas on the tiled floor area behind the sofa and on the curtain in the area that was in contact with the floor behind the sofa. This would indicate to the likely presence of human blood.
The only alert indication given was when the dog located a pink cuddly toy in the villas lounge. The CSI dog did not alert to the toy when screened separately. It is my view that it is possible that the EVRD is alerting to cadaver scent contamination. No evidential or intelligence reliability can be made from this alert unless it can be confirmed with corroborating evidence.
The only alert indication was by the EVRD on clothing from one of the boxes. I am not in possession of the details as these were recorded by the PJ officers present.
This vehicle was then subjected to a full physical examination by the PJ and no human remains were found. The CSI dog was then tasked to screen the vehicle. An alert indication was forthcoming from the rear driver’s side of the boot area. Forensic samples were taken by the PJ and forwarded to a forensic laboratory in the U.K. It is my view that it is possible that the EVRD is alerting to ‘cadaver scent’ contaminant or human blood scent. No evidential or intelligence reliability can be made from this alert unless it can be confirmed with corroborating evidence.
The dog alert indications MUST be corroborated if to establish their findings as evidence.
That some people (and I would include the initial PJ reaction in this) take this report as definitive proof that a child died in that apartment indicates to me that those people have either not read the report carefully enough or have not done so with a genuinely open mind as to what conclusions can be drawn from the report.
There is a possibility that the dogs alerted to “cadaver scent” and there is an equal possibility according to Martin Grime that they did not. In no location was there any actual evidence found.
Again we get a lecture assuming that reports haven`t been read carefully enough and wrong conclusions are being drawn………What conclusions?
Martin Grime, Handler of Cadaver Dog
I think I’ve said enough for this blog friends, I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog and will “follow” and comment below. If you’d like to discuss any of my work or even assist with my research feel free to email me: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Until next time, don’t have nightmares, sleep well