The excitement began the day before the event when I received an email thanking me for answering the call to help solve the case of Flora Yarrow. Attached were related newspaper articles, Flora's obituary and a doctor's report, along with a list of suspects (members of the household). With this information, and the suggestion that I take with me a camera to photograph evidence, and a torch to navigate around the darkness of the grounds, I have to admit I was pretty intrigued to find out what lay in store the following evening. And, in all honesty, had already decided what had happened to poor Flora.
Arriving slightly early to our allotted time of 8pm, my partner and I were warmly welcomed to the Cogges cafe and each handed a pack containing the same newspaper articles, along with a booklet detailing the types of forensic evidence that may be found at a crime scene and how to decipher what happened by investigating them. There was also a more detailed look at the suspects (along with their fingerprints), some rubber gloves, pipettes and sample tubes for collecting evidence and the most important item in all investigations - a pen.
After scrutinising the pack over a glass of wine, we followed numerous 'investigators' before us and headed out towards the scene of the crime (or was it an accident?). Science Oxford, who had organised the event, had done a magnificent job of laying out a crime scene that was neither too obvious and simple to solve, nor too complicated that one would have been put off by the magnitude of it. With ribbons of police tape marking out seemingly random points across the Manor House grounds, there were huddles of amateur sleuths photographing and sampling everything, inside the house and out. The background information given in the pack helped provide a sequence of events, giving us an idea of where the household were throughout the day, which provided a starting point. With a bloodied handkerchief strategically placed on a staircase and pools of vomit taped off in the garden, we made use of our pipettes and collected samples. There was a lab set up in one of the rooms, where we could test the samples and find out blood types, magnify fibres and do some scientific stuff that, although I did it, I still don't fully understand.
The tickets gave us a rough idea of how long the event would last, which was 1-1.5 hours. We were still deliberating and changing our minds even as the bar staff were leaving at around 11pm. And we weren't the only ones left. Eventually, we talked ourselves out of our original thoughts on what had happened and submitted the results of our investigation. Suffice it to say, I would not make a great Crime Scene Investigator, as the lady who welcomed us put us out of our misery and showed us how it had actually happened. Maybe that glass of wine before and during the investigation wasn't very helpful!
Despite the outcome and our distinct lack of investigative skills, we both had such a fun evening trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together, and have spent the weekend raving about the event to anyone who would listen.