Film ID:
YFA 4622

SILENT WITNESS

1946

Visitor Tabs

Description

This film demonstrates the ability of police specialists to identify criminals from fingerprints found at crime scenes. The film opens with a burglary taking place and chronicles the investigation as it progresses through to evidence analysis, where specialist find a match for the print.

Title – When a ‘breaking’ offence has been committed, there are several routine lines of enquiry for the police to follow, in the hope the one of the will lead to the thief.

Title – For example, search at the scene of crime may reveal these.

The opening shots of this film show footprints in the snow.

Title – Or these:

Title – The thief may be seen,

A man walks downs a path carrying a briefcase, while another man walks along an adjacent path.

Title – or disposal of stolen property may provide a clue.

Title – You are invited to follow another such approach, in a typical case, while

Title – The W.R.C. film unit presents.

Title – Silent Witness. “Meet the expert” series No. 1.

Title – A W.R.C instructional film.

Title – Produced at Wakefield, 1946.

Title – Script…A.L. Jenkins. Photography…J.P. Little, A.R.P.S.

Title – cast – The players are members of the C.I.D. of the West Riding Constabulary.

Title – Produced by Chief Supt. Blackburn.

Title – Directed by Det. Insp. Jenkins.

The sequence begins with shots of a man breaking into a house by smashing a window. The burglar then climbs inside.

Title – Housebreakers often make sure of a way of escape.

The burglar unlocks the back door, before searching the house and drinking some of liquor from a bottle found in a draw. He then rifles though a purse, steels a watch and continues to ransack the house. The burglar leaves via the back door and heads down a path.

A close up of a sign reads ‘Borough police office’. There is then shot of the building directory sign, which gives directions to officers such as ‘Coroner’s officer’, ‘Warrant officer’ ‘Patrol sergeants’ and ‘Mobile section’. The filmmaker then shows a close up of the plaque which indicates the direction of the ‘Detective office’. A detective sits writing notes at his desk and a close up of the paper shows a heading the reads, ‘Crime complaint’. More close ups show the different sections of the form filled out.

A detective knocks on the door of the house that was robbed, and a woman lets him in, showing him the aftermath of burglars visit.

Title – The officer makes a thorough examination.

The officer looks at the damaged windows.

Title – and inside,

Again he examines the window.

Title – For fingerprints.

Title – Reflected daylight is often an aid.

The inspector uses a mirror to shine more light on the window.

Title – By gently breathing, latent marks may be momentarily thrown into view,

The inspector breathes onto the wood of a chest of drawers that the burglar went through.

Title – but such a surface should not be powdered until all trace of moisture has gone.

The detective places the draw back.

Title – Everything touched by the thief…

The investigator inspects the bottle and various cabinets and draws.

Title - …is carefully and methodically examined.

The inspector moves through the house carefully checking objects on a desk top and on other surfaces.

Title - …and lastly, the point of exit.

The investigator checks the back door for any evidence, using a small magnifying glass against the doors varnish. He then takes a statement from the female occupant, jotting down notes in his pad.

Title – Elimination prints are taken.

Finger printing equipment is then laid out on a table and the investigator places a metal plate near a fire.

Title – Ink spreads more easily if the slab is warmed slightly.

The investigator places the plate back on the table and dots it with blots of ink, which he then rubs across using a roller until the plate’s top surface is evenly covered.

Title – take a test “print”.

The investigator takes his own finger print, before he does the house owner’s, and a close up shows the resulting print.

Title – A complete roll of the finger is essential, or this pattern

Close ups of finger prints.

Title – May appear like this.

Another close up, this time a section of finger print is missing.

Title – If you use too much ink, or pressure, you will get this,

A smudged finger print is shown.

Title – When you should get this.

A perfect finger print is shown.

Title – Plain impression.

The woman’s fingers are all pressed against the ink-soaked plate and the pressed together on the paper. The thumbs are done next. The bottle is then laid on the investigators desk and the contents are poured into another smaller bottle. A wooden box is then tightened together and the bottle is put inside it.

Title – Don’t run the risk of liquid running down the outside of the bottle and spoiling the marks.

The bottle is then corked and placed carefully inside the box, where a nail is inserted into the top to keep the bottle firmly in place. The box is then nailed shut and close ups shows screws in the box and writing next to them that reads, ‘unscrew here’. A close up shows a report for the evidence that reads, ‘Housebreaking 44 Clarendon Road’. Several incisions are then made in two pieces of cork, which are then screwed on to a small piece of wood. A pane of broken glass from the houses window is then inserted into the glass.  Glass, now securely in place, is packed away in another wooden box, and a card for the evidence is again shown that reads, ‘House breaking piece of glass - 44 Clarendon Road.’

Title – Brief particulars of crime are sent; also elimination prints.

A shot shows the evidence packed and ready to go.

Title – Securely packaged and labelled.

A train is then captured steaming down a length of track, and a following close up shows the parcels delivery address on the packet: ‘The chief constable, Fingerprint department, West riding Constabulary, Wakefield.’ The package is then shows at the chief constables desk, where he is examining a pane of glass with a magnifying glass, taking notes while he does so. He then unwraps the package and a close up shows the enclosed letter, detailing the contents.

Title – The use of powder in the development of latent impressions is best left to an experienced officer.

The officer dabs a brush in some powder, brushing it lightly across the pane of glass and revealing a fingerprint.  The specialist then removes the liquor bottle from its wooden box.

Title – If the marks are wet, or greasy, the expert will not use powder.

The expert brushes away at the bottles surface, using a magnifying glass to take a look at the finger impressions. He then labels the bottle with a number and sets it aside.

Title – The articles are taken to the studio for the marks to be photographed.

The specialist looks at the photograph of the enlarged finger prints.

Title – Occupants’ prints are first eliminated.

The man cross references the prints with the sheet of prints the investigator took from the home owner.

Title – Then comparison made with fingerprints of persons suggested,

The expert cross references the prints with other documents.

Title … …the prints of local thieves…

Title – Also those of recorded criminals who use a similar M.O.

Title … …and of persons ‘wanted’ for breaking offences…

The expert flicks through pages of different prints.

Title - …are compared without success.

He files the documents away.

Title – The single finger print file, also, …

Again the expert takes notes on the fingerprints found, and there are shots of filing cabinets that are all labelled with different finger types, such as ‘L ring’ or ‘R middle’. The expert tries to match the print with some of these prints.

Title – Draws a blank.

Experts file the prints away.

Title – In this case, several marks which do not belong to any member of the household, have been found…

A shot shows the enlarged prints.

Title - …and a search can be made in the main collection.

Several shots show suited men taking files from cabinets. Shots then show men at desks rifling through the documents, checking the prints for a match. After a lengthy search, a close up reveals a finger print.

Title –Identified!

Title – The identification is now checked by the officer in charge of the bureau,

Shots show the finger print being matched up against the suspected match, with the curves being carefully analysed.

Title – and the force concerned is notified,

An officer picks up a telephone before there are close ups of a letter that informs the concerned force that there has been a match, significant enough ‘to use in court as evidence, if required’.

Title – If, later, fingerprint evidence is required, an exhibit for court will be prepared, showing at least 16 pointes of identity.

A close up shows the print, and there are animated lines leading from numbers, which show the points of identity. A finger then runs down the page of an open book.

Title – Job. Ch. 37, Verse 7.