London, July 2 (Reuters): Scientists in Scotland have developed new software which could soon be helping police investigate suspicious deaths.
The programme examines evidence and suggests less obvious lines of inquiry that detectives might have overlooked, New Scientist magazine said today. “It takes an overview of all the available evidence and then speculates on what might have happened,” said one of its developers, Jeroen Keppens, at Edinburgh's Joseph Bell Centre for Forensic Statistics and Legal Reasoning.
Keppens said detectives tended to formulate one hypothesis and tried to confirm it. This encouraged them to ask witnesses leading questions rather than ones that examined all possibilities.
The software uses a large database of different causes of death and the evidence that points to them. Investigators enter the evidence they have and the software says how it might be linked. It suggests what might have happened and calculates how likely each scenario is.
The system considers all possibilities rather than reaching its own conclusion. If, for example, the victim was an old man and an alcoholic, it will still consider murder as a cause of death.
David Holmes, director of Manchester University’s Forensic Research Group, said police should probably be using a system like the prototype.