Have I got news for you, Ian Hislop


Revelations that there were no body parts, no credible allegations of murder and no evidence of any dead victims at a Jersey children’s home may persuade credulous police to stop using two sniffer dogs said to have extraordinary skills beyond those of usual forensic hounds…

Jersey police apparently spent £100,000 on the skills of super-spaniels Eddie and Keela to help their investigation at the Haut de la Garenne children’s home in Jersey earlier this year.

Eddie was credited with being able to sniff out fragments of old human bone, even when buried under thick concrete. Thanks to his reactions at sites around the home and in particular the ‘cellar’ (which turned out not to be a cellar) where he was said to have picked up ‘the smell of corpses’, Jersey’s former police chief Lenny Harper was able to tell an equally gullible press that up to seven bodies might be buried at Haut de la Garenne.

Keela’s speciality was said to be human blood; she apparently picked up what were said to have been two spots of blood which were in reality, er, rust. Enhanced victim recovery dogs, or “cadaver dogs” are usually used to find missing bodies in shallow graves or to find the body parts of bomb-blast victims. But when these two jetsetting wonder-dogs were called in to trace the missing Madeleine McCann, they ended up pointing their wet noses of suspicion at her hapless parents. Police said Eddie had picked up the “smell of corpse” on Mrs McCann’s Bible and in the boot of their holiday car. Keela was said to have detected blood traces on the washed walls of the family’s holiday apartment.

Just like the Jersey discoveries, these claims have not stood up to forensic scrutiny. And that seems to be the trouble with the two former South Yorkshire police dogs and their former policeman turned freelance handler. There are no fixed guidelines on how the dogs are used, no tests to indicate how reliable they can be, and, it seems, no limit to the claims that can be made to account for their canine behaviour. Thus when they appear to smell a rat, it might be just that: a bit of animal. Yet they can set investigations off on wild and costly chases that deflect valuable manpower and resources.
Source: Private Eye
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