Taseer’s abduction case: ‘Frisky policemen damaged forensic evidence’

Expert says evidence gathered from Taseer’s abduction site may not assist investigators.

Express August 28, 2011

LAHORE: Forensic evidence collected from Shahbaz Taseer’s abduction site may not help investigators, courtesy frisky police officers who rushed to the crime scene and mishandled the evidence, a forensic expert said on Saturday.

The police arrived at the scene first, cordoned off the site and then manually searched Taseer’s abandoned vehicle, including its door handles, dashboard, steering, seats and Taseer’s belongings.

Law enforcement personnel prefer collecting tangible evidence that can be seen with the naked eye, the officer said.

Usually the clues are hidden in the forensic evidence that cannot be seen with the naked eye, he added.

But in collecting their evidence, the law-enforcement personnel unintentionally leave behind their fingerprints, making it extremely difficult for forensic experts to gather necessary and relevant evidence.

Similarly, all forensic evidence in Taseer’s case had been damaged by the time the forensic team reached the site, four hours later, he said, adding that they were informed about the incident quite late.

The forensic van, therefore, was unable to collect ‘true’ fingerprints since all potential spots were touched repeatedly by other law enforcement officials.

The evidence gathered is insufficient to assist the investigators in tracing the abductors, he said.

(Read: Shahbaz Taseer and today's Pakistan)

Legislate to preserve evidence

This isn’t the first time though that the police have been a hindrance in its own investigation. Forensic evidence was also lost in the case of American aid expert Warren Weinstein who was abducted on August 13 and has yet to be recovered.

The forensic team had to return unsuccessfully because police personnel, including senior officials, had rummaged through Weinstein’s belongings, damaging all forensic evidence, the official said.

If evidence can be preserved for the forensic team to gather properly, the experts can aid the investigators, especially in cases of abduction, he added.

The government should authorise only forensic experts to collect evidence from the crime scene, while the police should be directed to only cordon off the site, said the official suggesting legislative measures.

No one should be allowed access to a crime scene until trained forensic experts have collected the evidence, he added. This year the Punjab government established a state-of-the-art forensic science agency with 14 disciplines. The government has hired 30 forensic experts who are trained in the United States.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 28th, 2011.