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You Can’t keep a Good Man/Woman Down - Pedigree of an Established Forensic Provider

Forensics

FTS Was founded in 2000 and continues to be overseen byCEO: Jonathan Clark MBE FRSA.

 

The company was formed in response to a growing need within Law Enforcement and Government Agencies to access potential digital evidence from all telecommunication devices [Mobile Phone Forensics] and to analyse network records for criminal investigations [Cell Site Analysis]. FTS is a primary contracted provider to the Metropolitan Police Service and also provides its services to Law Enforcement Agencies, Legal Services and other Government Agencies nationally and internationally.

Throughout its fourteen year pedigree FTS has maintained a high degree of impartial expertise to enable the delivery of Best Evidence as a standard. Building on this solid foundation, the business is managed and staffed by highly qualified individuals from the telecommunications industry, forensic science and technical graduates and by experienced former police investigators.

An ISO 9001:2008 certified company, FTS is committed to achieving and maintaining the internationally recognised ISO standards relevant to the delivery of forensic services and consultation, including ISO 27001 and after a planned company restructure and resource shift we are to re-implement our prior ISO 17025:2005 accreditation - FTS being the first UK digital forensic company to achieve the world renowned ISO 17025 for their forensic scope. A strong emphasis is placed on best practice and audited forensic processes to ensure the constant fidelity, integrity and credibility of all FTS data output and products.

FTS prides itself on the fact that many of its family have gone onto establish their own Forensic Companies or developed and achieved enhanced careers with other Commercial and Government Agencies.

This is testimony indeed to their FTS training, character, and expertise, also the endurance and fortitude of all its employees in these testing financial times.

But as we say ‘Actions speak louder than words’ and in the wake of an unparalleled history of overall involvement in many national and Internationally based very high profile criminal and terrorist investigations; from the reviews of the Stephen Lawrence and Jill Dando murders, the murder of West Yorkshire Police Officer Sharon Beshenivsky, the Reece Jones murder, the Tunbridge Wells Bullion Robbery, the 7/7 London Bombings and the FTS original and continued
involvement with the Special Tribunal for Lebanon [ the attack of 14 February 2005 which killed 22 people, including the former prime minister of Lebanon, Rafiq Hariri]. The FTS Pedigree speaks for itself.

With an extreme emphasis on the definitive utilisation of fully qualified expert engineers (in all its forensic divisions), FTS do not utilise lesser qualified personnel to conduct any of its forensic services. This has been most recently born out in the Chief Constables Commendation of FTS Cell Site Analysis Engineer, John Tarpey BSc BA CEng MIET for his outstanding assistance provided in the Durham Constabularies investigation of the murder of Ms Pamela Jackson, 55, who vanished from her home in Chester-le-Street, County Durham, in March 2013.

Operation Sorrento was an enquiry into the murder of Pamela Jackson in Chester le Street which demonstrated many of the ways in which an expert Cell Site Analysis Engineer can assist the investigating authorities. In this case FTS Engineer John Tarpey was able to provide guidance to the search teams in finding the body, track the movement of the suspect as he moved long distances across the country and short distances around both the scene of the incident and the body
deposition scene. He was able to provide advice on the interpretation of geographic data from the suspect’s smart phone and to provide evidential reports that helped to secure a conviction.

Durham Police contacted FTS early in their investigation. They knew that a woman from the Chester-le Street area had disappeared and they had a suspect, but they didn’t yet know that she was dead or what had been done with the body.

John Tarpey visited Durham Police to discuss the data available and what it appeared to show. He was able to confirm that the suspect had moved from the Chester le Street area to the Halifax area around the time the victim was last seen and that he had been moving between the two locations in the days after her disappearance. He was able to suggest possible locations where the suspects mobile appeared to go off the beaten track and hence possible deposition locations.

Further desk top work identified locations on the moors above Halifax where it appeared that the suspect had been overnight after the disappearance of the victim. John was able to visit the area to discuss possible locations with the search teams and suggest avenues of investigation. Surveys in the area allowed him to narrow down the possibilities and identify an area high on the moors where the phone was used at what was believed to be a critical time.

Surveys at the suspects home address allowed investigators to discount parts of the account the suspect had given.

Durham Police carried out a download of the suspects smart phone and their analysts identified what appeared to be geographic data – latitude and longitude coordinates and date/time stamps. John Tarpey was able to map these and show, by correlation with the cell site data, that they did show the movement of the mobile. Further analysis of this data showed that the user of the mobile had returned to the scene on the moors identified as a prime candidate for the deposition of the body. This was confirmed by reference to the cell site data.

John was able to assist the Police by ruling out some area which appeared promising from intelligence sources but did not fit the cell site evidence.

After a prolonged search the Police located a body carefully buried just off the road, in the location identified by FTS. It appeared that the person who buried the body had returned several times, possibly to camouflage the grave.

The work done was then consolidated into an evidential report which was presented in court and the investigation terminated with the suspect being found guilty of Manslaughter and receiving a long custodial sentence.

How to find a body?
It is a commonplace of cell site analysis that it does not allow you to say exactly where a person was when using a mobile. This is almost always true and the accuracy of cell site analysis is usually of the order of half a mile. This case was unusual in that it allowed John Tarpey to identify the possible deposition scene with greater accuracy. Two factors combined to allow this. One was close co-operation with the search and investigation teams. Their input that the deposition scene would almost certainly be within easy walking distance of a road helped to discount large areas of open moorland. The second factor was that the mobile was using several different cells located many miles apart. Using a distant cell almost always means that there is line of sight to the cell site. Using two cells in close succession means that the location of the mobile must have line of sight to both of them. Map based investigations identified that there were few areas
where these conditions were likely to be met in this case. This allowed John to discount certain areas and concentrate on others when carrying out surveys.

How does cell site work in the hills?
The area of interest is a very hilly one. Several valleys cut through the Pennine hills and there are few flat areas. This means that simplistic methods involving assumptions about coverage based on standardised areas of coverage were not helpful. Some cells covered many miles in one direction but did not cover a few hundred yards away. At one period of interest the suspect seemed to go to the Rochdale area, over the border in Greater Manchester. His mobile used a number of cells on that side of the hills. This did not seem to fit in with his movements as described by other sources. John Tarpey was able to show that the cells used were actually consistent with being high in the hills looking down towards Greater Manchester and probably did not imply any movement down into that area.

How surveys help
Surveys proved very important in the analysis, both in confirming the map based analysis in the hill top areas and in establishing when the mobiles could have been at key locations such as the home addresses of the suspect and victim. Use was made of both area surveys and key location surveys. The surveys were carried out by John Tarpey himself and this was invaluable in carrying out the surveys and interpreting the results. Visiting the locations, while aware of the cells of interest allowed him to fine tune the surveys as they progressed – this involved making decisions about where to drive on the area surveys and where to carry out the location surveys. Being on the scene allows the engineer to see for himself why a cell may or may not provide best server coverage at a location.

GPRS records and how they provide useful information. Another factor of interest in this case was the provision of GPRS data for the suspects mobile. Much of the key location data was from this source. GPRS data can be tricky, but in this case the nature of the network coverage in the area meant that it was extremely useful.

GPRS records are generally only produced when the mobile switches LAC (local area code) and so can often be quite a long time apart. The timings of these records can also be difficult to interpret. However, where the mobile is going into and out of coverage, or flicking between GSM and UMTS (2G and 3G) then a record will be produced each time this happens. These records are produced without the knowledge or any action on the part of the user of the mobile. In this case, while he was on the high moors disposing of the body his phone was moving quickly between 2G and 3G and generating the records that were to pinpoint his location. Because the records were in quick succession timing was not an issue.

The GPRS records were also used to track the mobile as it moved between Halifax and Chester Le Street.

Additional interpretation of geographic data Durham Police’s analysis of the downloaded data from the suspects smart phone identified what appeared to be geographic data. This was in the form of latitude and longitude values with an associated time stamp. They appeared to be associated with an “Sat Nav” app called WAVE. It was not clear exactly what this data represented and how it could be used. Of particular interest was the fact that each record had two sets of
co-ordinates. Was either the location of the mobile, and if so which? And what was the other set?

Analysis of the data, in combination with the cell site data allowed John Tarpey to come to the conclusion that these records almost certainly related to times when the app had re planned a journey after the mobile had gone off course.

One of the sets of coordinates corresponded to the area where the cell site put the mobile and the other to a location to which it moved soon after. For example there were a series of records which had one set of coordinates at Wetherby Services and another at the victim’s home address in Chester le Street. Comparison with the cell site showed the mobile travelling up the A1(m) around this time between Halifax and Chester le Street. Applying this logic to the rest of the records showed that the suspect had visited a lay by in the body deposition area at significant times. This encouraged the search teams to continue their work in that area.

Presentation in evidential format
Eventually the body was found and the suspect charged and brought to trial. The work carried out by John Tarpey was all put into an evidential format with maps and tables providing clear illustrations of the information that could be put before a jury. John was able to combine information from a variety of sources into the mapping as requested by the investigation team.

John presented his evidence at Newcastle Crown Court as part of a successful prosecution that led to Adrian Muir being found guilty of manslaughter and jailed for 18 years.

Summary
Operation Sorrento highlighted the way in which early consultation with an experienced Cell Site Engineer can help to move an investigation along. This case showed some unusual features which required a depth of analysis which perhaps cannot be expected from Police Analysts whose training and experience may lie in different areas. It was a case in which the excellent work of the police telecoms team in Durham Constabulary enabled John Tarpey to make substantial and significant contribution to the enquiry and which led to a formal Commendation from the Chief Constable.

Quality Digital Forensics
It does not stop at Cell Site Analysis, with many tens of thousands of Mobile Phones and other HI-Tech Digital Devices under its belt, the FTS E-Digital Forensic Division are well schooled in the acquisition of data. Commissioned on a daily basis by many Solicitors/Chambers, Corporate and Government agencies nationally, FTS have the ability to meet with the majority of Instructions.

Although contracted and commissioned by Law Enforcement / Government Agencies internationally, it is a fact that in order to maintain its impartiality and expertise, FTS continues to assess and review the forensic product achieved by many of the so called ‘in-house’ forensic units now fielded by Police and Government Agencies. It is also a significant fact that on occasion, FTS engineers will find the methodologies and conclusions of certain ‘in-house’ capabilities sadly lacking and in some cases wholly incorrect.

Recently commissioned by a well known Cheltenham based Solicitors acting under the advice of Defence Counsel, from an equally distinguished Cardiff based Chambers; FTS in the guise of Senior Mobile Forensics Engineer, Mr Trevor Wooding BSc (Hons) CFSS was at very short notice to an ongoing trial within the
Gloucester Crown Court, able to conduct a fully independent forensic examination of a particularly salient mobile phone. The Crown sought to place great store in their ‘In-House’ findings relying on subsequent Police assertions the nature of may have proved quite damning in terms of certain charges faced by the Defendant. Trevor was able to show that the Police ‘In-House’ automated download was seriously flawed. Certain forensic data retrieval was poorly acquired; it was partial and resulted in wrong assumptions being made. Trevor was able to directly contradict the Crown evidence and provenance the same. This part of the Crown evidence was subsequently rendered unreliable and dismissed. Trevor was complimented by Defence Counsel for his tenacity and expeditious attention
to the matter. The details of this particular defence forensic analysis (which can be provided on request) fully enforce the necessity to seek secondary independent and dare we say it ‘impartial’ expert opinion. Although no doubt a subject for another day, FTS have found in recent times that with the financial austerity generated in the forensic divisions of the public sector does come with the ‘potential’ for utilisation of lesser quality digital forensic product (both intelligence and evidential), the use of which raises the obvious ‘potential’ for miscarriages of justice. FTS will at all times look to utilise its full forensic capability and expertise across the Hi-Tech and Mobile Phone divisions.

FTS stand by their pedigree that they will always continue to: provide impartial expertise to enable the delivery of Best Evidence as a standard.

Forensic Telecommunications Services Ltd
Contact: Mr. Ray Chappell
PO Box 242, Sevenoaks, Kent TN15 6ZT
Tel: 01732 459 811 Mobile: 07876591823
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Or via the FTS Website www.ForensicTS.co.uk;
Website: www.forensicts.co.uk/