PDA

View Full Version : How did police store evidencce in the 19th century?



Catherine_Beyer
06-28-2016, 05:22 AM
I'm specifically hoping for London info, but I'll take info from anywhere. What did 19th entury police do with evidence? Was there a room for it? Did you have to check stuff out of it? Did you just walk in and out as needed?

Catherine_Beyer
06-28-2016, 08:00 PM
I'm specifically hoping for London info, but I'll take info from anywhere. What did 19th century police do with evidence? Was there a room for it? Did you have to check stuff out of it? Did you just walk in and out as needed?

Basically, a character is arrested, and she has some important items on her that get confiscated. I'm trying to figure out how difficult it would be for a detective to get them back (under the table, obviously he's not going to be able "hey, I'm taking evidence"). But can he just rummage through a box in a storage room to find it and stuff it under a coat? Is it more secure than that?

[EDIT: I've accidentally posted this question twice in the forum. I apologize. I can't figure out how to delete one.]

jclarkdawe
06-28-2016, 11:24 PM
I think this is going to be hard to answer. First problem is you're talking about a one hundred year period with a lot of changes in that period. The answer in 1810 might be very different from 1890.

Evidence was not always treated as well as it is now. Basically until chain of custody was established there wasn't a lot of requirements for storing evidence safely. And I'm not sure when chain of custody began. And originally it wasn't that good a chain.

I think you can develop this however you need. I doubt there was a clerk responsible for evidence and that most of it was stored in the most convenient place. My guess is the bigger problem was that evidence was stolen by the police and sold.

There are transcripts from Old Bailey that are online. That might give you a better feel.

Jim Clark-Dawe

Catherine_Beyer
06-29-2016, 12:07 AM
My book is late 19th century. Guess I should have specified.

I figured it would be hard to get an answer, considering how much time I've tried researching it. =) But I have already been once surprised by getting an answer to one of my oddball questions here. =)

I tried googling chain of custody since you suggested the term, and got nothing about when police started tracking it.

Thanks.

cornflake
06-29-2016, 12:53 AM
You might try delving into Ripper stuff. Some of the examination of the crimes is pretty extensive and should have some stuff about how the evidence was handled, which would give you insight into general practice?

Catherine_Beyer
06-29-2016, 02:24 AM
I actually tried that and didnt get anywhere. Most specifically, I mostly got was a story about how a few years ago a shawl supposedly belonging to one of the victims had DNA tests which matched one of the historical suspects. The shawl had (supposedly) been taken by a police officer and given to a woman, who refused to wear it on obvious grounds, who also didn't wash it, nor any of her descendants and now tada! this Ripperologist has cracked the case.

Other stories used "evidence" is a more generic content. "The evidence suggests...." without talking about specific physical evidence.

Another thing I'm having issues with is that testifying in Britain is called "giving evidence", or at least it was 100 years ago. Lots of fruitless results.

King Neptune
06-29-2016, 02:51 AM
I actually tried that and didnt get anywhere. Most specifically, I mostly got was a story about how a few years ago a shawl supposedly belonging to one of the victims had DNA tests which matched one of the historical suspects. The shawl had (supposedly) been taken by a police officer and given to a woman, who refused to wear it on obvious grounds, who also didn't wash it, nor any of her descendants and now tada! this Ripperologist has cracked the case.


You had me hoping that Jack was finally nailed, but the scientist made a mistake and didn't find anything.
https://www.rt.com/uk/197280-jack-ripper-dna-error/

jclarkdawe
06-29-2016, 03:06 AM
Actually the Jack-the-Ripper shawl is telling us a lot about how they stored evidence.

1. Was there an evidence log for what was found on the body? Now we'd have a detailed description of each and every piece of clothing and would be able to tell instantly whether it was probable that the shawl had been found with the body. From what I've seen of coroner reports in that period in the US, the clothing was often called "pants, blue shirt, underwear, socks, shoes."

2. As I thought, a lot of evidence disappeared into the hands of the police. If this was stolen from an evidence room now, you'd have an investigation. It doesn't sound like any record was made when this went missing. More importantly, it doesn't sound like anyone expected a report to be made.

The fact that they can't say whether this shawl definitively belonged to a victim is important. The only reason is poor record keeping and control.

Evidence is both physical and verbal testimony.

In that period, lots of people liked to keep clothing swatches with famous people's blood. It wasn't that unusual.

Jim Clark-Dawe

Dave Williams
06-30-2016, 05:24 AM
Scotland Yard had detectives, case files, and evidence boxes, not that different from most modern police.

Outside of London... thoughout the rest of Britain, the colonies, and the USA, there really wasn't much in the way of evidence, formal investigation, or police procedures as we know them today. Things were a *lot* different back then.

Catherine_Beyer
06-30-2016, 08:04 AM
How easy would it be for a police officer or detective to walk off with evidence (in London)?

Cath
06-30-2016, 02:26 PM
Merged threads.

Catherine_Beyer
06-30-2016, 10:08 PM
Merged threads.


Thank you

mirandashell
07-01-2016, 03:04 PM
Judging from how much went missing, fairly easily. Especially if he was already working that particular case.

waylander
07-01-2016, 04:30 PM
How easy would it be for a police officer or detective to walk off with evidence (in London)?
How senior an officer?

Catherine_Beyer
07-01-2016, 06:21 PM
detective inspector (for no other reason than I can't find out the responsibilities of a detective sergeant back then)

waylander
07-01-2016, 07:11 PM
Suspect a DI would get away this this. He's senior enough that a junior officer would think twice about crossing him.

Dave Williams
07-09-2016, 03:04 AM
How easy would it be for a police officer or detective to walk off with evidence (in London)?

Easy enough that the official case file for Jack the Ripper has shrunk to a few sheets of paper. The rest went home with souvenir collectors.