Helping trace the steps of criminals

Following footsteps Former FBI agent William J. Bodziak held his first UK training course on footwear analysis and forensic tracing at Lancashire police headquarters in Hutton this week
Following footsteps Former FBI agent William J. Bodziak held his first UK training course on footwear analysis and forensic tracing at Lancashire police headquarters in Hutton this week
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Crime dramas featuring forensic specialists remain some of the most popular programmes on television – but this week fiction became reality as a real-life expert met officers in Lancashire.

Former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent William J. Bodziak visited the North West to pass on his experience to police at the force’s headquarters in Hutton.

The week long course, attended by officers from 10 different forces across the UK, is the first time Mr Bodziak has met British police.

The 68-year-old, who has testified in the OJ Simpson and Oklahoma Bombing trials, said the course gave officers a fresh perspective on footwear analysis.

He added: “In many ways the UK is doing a lot more with this form of work than other parts of the world.

“They do a much better job here with impressions. Historically the UK has been very good at making footwear comparisons.

“By bringing someone with 40 years’ experience they are getting to hear a different view and fresh ideas.”

The course, called The Examination of Footwear Mark Evidence, focuses on information including the manufacturing of footwear, enhancement of impressions and evidence recovery methods. Evidence from crime scenes can involve taking moulds of footprints, measurements, as well as using certain tread patterns to trace unique shoe models.

Having started at the bureau in 1973, Mr Bodziak spent his first four years as a field agent, before moving to the forensic laboratory.

He has now retired and lives in Washington DC, but has spent recent years passing his advice onto officers from countries across the world, including Israel, South Africa, Turkey, Australia, Estonia and Canada.

He added cases involving former American footballer OJ Simpson as well as Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nicholls were high profile and well publicised, but said often smaller cases proved more engaging.

He said: “At the FBI we worked cases for local police departments.

“For many of those towns, a murder was the biggest case in their town.

“There has been quite a few footwear cases where it just brought the town to a standstill.

“I think many officers were surprised just how sophisticated our technology was.”

Danyela Kellett, Head of Lancashire Constabulary’s Footwear Unit, said: “This is a real coup for Lancashire Constabulary – normally Mr Bodziak runs courses in the United States and this is the first time he will be delivering a course in the UK.

“We are proud to be holding this event in Lancashire and excited to have such a world renowned expert in this field passing on his knowledge to our staff and staff from police forces across the country.”