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Database search

Conduct a database search with Senior Lecturer, Dr Leon Barron to find out more about the nature of the pills.
[KNOCK] Come in. Hi, Leon. Hi, Alan. Hi. Can I introduce Natsumi? Hi, Natsumi. Hello, nice to meet you. Nice to meet you. We’re hoping you could help us out with some sort of database setting, if that’s OK. No problem. OK, excellent. Thank you very much. I’ll leave you two together. OK. Thank you. Come in. Please take a seat. Thank you. OK, so let’s have a look. What have we got here? I have no idea what it is, so we have to figure out– How to test it. OK, no problem. All right.
So, one of the very first things that we would do in a forensic analysis of a suspected illicit drug material is to try and get some indication what we’re dealing with. And the easiest way to do that, much like you would do with a word, you look it up in the dictionary. So here, we’re going to look up these drugs in a database that we have of as many as possible illicit drugs that we have on sale here in the UK– I see. –illegally and also all of the medications that are available. It’s very, very important not to confuse an illicit drug with a medication and vice versa.
So the easiest thing we do is take a look at this and see, does it match anything on our database? So, let’s take out our sample. OK, so we’ve got some blue tablets with the label ‘3A’ on it. So the very first thing I’d like to do now, in order to be able to search for that, is to make some measurements. Simple. So for that, I’m going to need some tools.
OK. So I’ve put some gloves on so that we can handle the drug. So the first thing we do is we can tip it out here into our weighing boat.
So what have we got? This is a human face. Yes it is. It looks like a man with a hat or something, doesn’t it? Yes. OK. So these were the drugs that were taken. What we would do now, as a starting point, is to make sure that this is actually an illicit drug. Before we do any chemical analysis on it, we need to refer to our library database to see if this is on it. In order to do that, we take some measurements first. So I’ve taken a callipers here, which will measure some dimensions. So, if I take one of these tablets - thank you - and if I just measure the length, which is about 11 millimetres.
The width is - Oh, so you take the widest - - the widest point, yeah, is about 10. And the thickness at the widest point is 4, approximately. After that we would go and weigh it.
OK. So here’s our commercial database. This is our commercial software that we would use just to check, to see if this could be an illicit drug. Does - anybody can look at this? No, this is licensed software, and it’s used a lot by police. It’s used in prisons, in ports and customs to check for - So you need to have a licence. You need to have a licence, yeah. Anybody can buy a licence. Oh, really? Yeah, but it’s quite expensive. Let’s have a look. So we look at the data here. So what we have here– as you said, it’s a blue tablet with a sort of a man. A man’s face, yeah.
So, let’s type in our description– we’ve got a logo. So let’s say, it’s a man. Let’s see what we get. OK, so we have quite a lot of potential logos. Wow, they have designs. Yeah, so let’s have a look through and see if we can find our– I think that was the very beginning one. OK, let’s have a look. The hat and glasses. This one? Yes, I think so. OK, let’s have a look.
All right. So here we can see a number of descriptors for what that is. So it says ‘Mr White’, ‘Walter White’, ‘Heisenberg’ and Breaking Bad’, so it’s from the popular TV show. But it’s also got our search in there, ‘man in hat’, ‘man with sunglasses’ and ‘head shape.’ So that sounds fairly consistent with what we have. So now we can start to look up all the different products that could have that shape. Oh, so there are many similar ones. There could be more than one, yeah. So you often find that the same type of tablet, the same shape, but it could have different colours, it could have different thicknesses, it could have different weights.
And this is white, so different– This one’s white, but it could indicate a different manufacturer, for example. I see. So here, you can see– here is the white one. Obviously, ours is not white. But what we can see here is we can see our dimensions here on the left, 11x10x5, which is not terribly different, and 420 milligrammes as our weight. A bit heavier than ours. Let me just get our measurements. So our measurements are around 300 milligrammes. So that’s probably a little too heavy. So there are nine possible matches to this. So we’ve got a red one. Here is our first blue one. That looks very similar to ours, perhaps a little bit light in colour.
But the dimensions match pretty well, 11x10x4.5, so it’s a little bit thicker than ours, and 350 milligrammes means it’s slightly heavier.
Oh, another blue one. Another blue one. So this one here looks a little bit more similar to what we had. So these colours match quite well, and this one is 11x10x4 and 320 milligrammes, so that’s closer to what we would expect. What this tells us is that this is methylenedioxymethamphetamine, MDMA, which is commonly known as Ecstasy. I see. And as we scroll through all of these different– you can see the shapes are all very, very similar. Oh, yes. So they’re all a very similar shape. This one tends to match ours most. But the ingredients are always the same, so the likelihood that we’re dealing with an illicit substance is quite high here. Illegal? Yes.
In fact, it says here it’s a controlled drug Schedule 1, which means it’s illegal here in the UK. I see. So from that, then, we can carry out our chemical analysis on that tablet and confirm that that is MDMA. So now we need to go to the laboratory.
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The Science Behind Forensic Science

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