18 Jun 2015

OU/BBC series reveals forensic science behind the capture of history’s criminals

Catching History's Criminals

Catching History's Criminals

Catching History’s Criminals: The Forensics Story is a fascinating new BBC programme produced in partnership with The Open University. This series, presented by leading surgeon and author, Gabriel Weston, investigates the world of the forensic scientist and the murders they’ve helped to solve through history.

Today, thanks to developments in forensic science, the face of a suspect can be constructed from just a few cells and the scene of a crime from a tiny sample of soil. The series explores murder cases through history that have proved pivotal to the advancement of forensic science, and reveals the cutting-edge technology that keeps detectives one step ahead of criminals.

Across three episodes Gabriel Weston will explores such game-changing scientific breakthroughs as how the murder of Dr George Parkman, whose head was destroyed in a furnace to his mask identity, led to the birth of forensic dentistry in 1849. She reveals how the traces left behind at the crime scene are interpreted to catch the killer – from soil and blood samples, to fibre analysis and fingerprints.

Dr Martin Bootman, Reader in Biomedicine and the OU’s academic consultant on the programme said: “Criminals have often thought that they could get away with their crimes because they could not be identified and implicated. In some cases, evidence appeared to be so lacking that it seemed almost impossible to identify the culprit. However, these are the cases where forensic science jumped ahead, and new tests and technology emerged. This new forensic science enabled clear identification of criminals, their victims and their criminal methods in situations where it seemed a conviction was unlikely.”

“If you’re a fan of Sherlock or CSI, then Catching History’s Criminals will make fascinating viewing, showing fans how such significant breakthroughs as DNA profiling and fingerprinting were used for the first time.”

To accompany the series OpenLearn - the OU’s home of free learning has put together a collection of free resources to help viewers learn more about forensic science. To find out more please visit:

The first episode of ‘Catching History’s Criminals: The Forensics Story’ is on BBC Four at 21:00 on Thursday 18 June 2015. Full broadcast details, and watch again links, can be found at : www.bbc.co.uk/forensics

Commissioning Executive for the BBC – Lucinda Axelsson
Executive Producer for the BBC – Jacqueline Smith
Broadcast Commissioner for The Open University – Dr Caroline Ogilvie
Academic Consultants for The Open University – Dr Martin Bootman and Professor David Male

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