Firearms cases can involve a wide range of material including pistols, revolvers, shotguns, rifles,
military weapons; ammunition including 'home loaded'; grenades, flares and other pyrotechnics;
tools and equipment for making guns/ammunition; ballistics; gunshot wounds; and the reconstruction of complex multi-gun shooting incidents.
How can we help?
Firearms services include the examination of firearms and
ammunition to determine their mechanical condition (including any modifications),
and to establish their classification under the law which is the much amended
Firearms Act 1968; the interpretation of gunshot residue findings; tool marks comparisons (did this gun fire that bullet?);
interpretation of post-mortem evidence and gunshot wounds; ballistics; examination of crime scenes and shooting reconstructions.
Gunshot residue analysis
When a gun is fired it discharges a
cloud of microscopic particles called gunshot residues (GSR). GSR
can be deposited on the gun, the firer, and any nearby
surface. The finding of GSR on a suspect or items connected to him
(his clothing, his car) can be used as supporting evidence of a connection with the shooting
incident. But only if it is the same Type of GSR. Therefore GSR
findings need to be interpreted within the context of the case. We can prepare detailed reports to
help you understand the significance (or perhaps insignificance c.f. Barry George) of GSR findings.
Fired bullets and cartridge cases bear microscopic 'tool marks'
from the guns that fired them. A comparison microscope is
used to compare a fired evidence bullet (or cartridge) to one deliberately test fired in a suspect gun. Through this, we can determine whether or not
the suspect gun fired the evidence bullet (cartridge) and, in cases where where there have been multiple
shooting incidents, to determine whether the same gun was used in any or all of those incidents. In some shootings,
only a single shot is fired: in others (typically military engagements) there could be 100 or more fired. With over twenty years
experience, we can undertake comparison microscopy of recovered bullets/cartridge cases to test-fired samples to determine whether the
suspect gun was involved and if so to what extent.
External ballistics is concerned with the flight of the missile whereas terminal ballistics is
concerned with events when the missile strikes the 'target'. The target could be part of a building or road surface, a car
or a person or some other object. In many cases, we use terminal ballistics to determine the distance, angle of shot and trajectory
in order to establish the position of the shooter or, sometimes more importantly, where he was not. Often, this is as part
of a broader shooting incident reconstruction. At short distances, across a room for example, the
trajectory can be considered to be a straight line. Over a greater distance
the trajectory is curved and it may be necessary to calculate it from first principles. When a shotgun is involved, determining
the distance is sometimes crucial (because the shot spreads out as distance increases) and determining the distance between the
two parties is often an issue. Sometimes, the damage to an object or person can help determine direction and distance.
For example, a bullet track through a house interior door or a car door records the direction of the bullet on impact.
Post-mortem evidence and gunshot wounds
Post-mortem evidence can include the examination and assessment of gunshot wounds/tracks through the body,
and bullets recovered at autopsy or gunshot damage to clothing. Sometimes it is possible to determine the position of
the gun at the time of the shot and this can be tested against a defendant's or injured party's account. However, due to their mobility,
a gunshot wound to the head or limbs often cannot tell us the origin of the shot.
In many cases, even a single gunshot wound is fatal and the injured party cannot provide an account - except the silent account
provided by his wounds. Gunshot wounds on the living also tell a story. In an extraordinary case, a man had been shot (i.e. hit) ten times
by bullets fired from several pistols as he ran away, and he had survived. He was examined by our expert a decade later, when a 9mm
bullet was palpable at the back of his neck and the 50cm wound track from the entry wound on his back to the bullet in the neck was
visible as a dark line. In that case, it was sufficient to simply confirm the presence of multiple healed gunshot wounds (it was an appeal against deportation).
In another case, a 17-year old girl had been struck (in the buttocks and thighs) by 170+ shotgun pellets and survived. In that case, distance from gun
to impact was the issue (i.e. determine the position of the shooter). The pattern of pellet impacts demonstrated the approximate distance: the gun was fired
from within a car on the road, not from a position on the pavement. In a peculiar case involved a
combination of wound analysis and toolmark comparison, an elderly woman was struck on the head with a decorative China cart-horse from her own house. The impact
killed the elderly lady and left 'hoof prints' on her scalp. Our expert examined and photographed the hoof marks (bruises) on the scalp
and compared them to the shape of each 'hoof' on the China horse. Our expert was able to demonstrate that two of the hooves on the China cart-horse
each matched one of the wounds on the scalp.
Examination of crime scenes
A crime scene can be anywhere humans interact. Shootings have occurred inside vehicles; at vehicles; inside houses; at houses, inside nightclubs, on city streets, and in remote rural fields and so on.
A crime scene may contain spent bullets or lead shot, spent cartridge cases, bullet impact damage, ricochet marks, blood stains and other trace evidence. Any of these items could help
reconstruct events and thus assist the Court determine what happened and what did not happen. 'Bullet wipe' will confirm the passage of a bullet and
the direction of travel may position the origin of shot and hence the gun. Photographs provide a record, as decided by the photographer, but there is no substitute for putting
your feet on the ground and getting a feel for the scene for yourself. Sometimes, a room will feel larger or smaller than a photograph suggests or the road may have a camber or
an uphill or downhill gradient not apparent in the official photographs.
Furthermore, it is never too late to examine even the 'coldest' of scenes. In one case, the fatal shooting of a driver
he alighted from his car at 2am, our expert examined the scene some 28 years later and recovered lead shot that had been fired from the shotgun. This discovery helped
the Court of Appeal re-consider (and uphold) a murder conviction.
In some cases it is possible to determine precisely what occurred, in others it is only possible to
demonstrate why a particular version of events is impossible and in some cases that is sufficient for
the Court to reach its decision.
Areas we can help you with include:
Crime scene examination
Court attendance & testimony
Shooting incident reconstruction
Court attendance & testimony
To discuss how we can help, call us now 01642 677174.
Or fill in the form on this page.
"We are particularly impressed by the clarity of Mr Spencer’s statement and for the extremely helpful closing comments."