We’ve seen 3D printing used to create weapons. We’ve also seen 3D printing used to create bottles. But we had not yet seen 3D printing used in a court of law to replicate a bottle used as a murder weapon. While the actual influence of the 3D printed prop on the final conviction was altogether limited, it proved, nevertheless, a great additional tool for prosecutors in securing the conviction of the accused murderer.
In case at hand, a senior detective of the Devon & Cornwall Police involved with the murder trial contacted the City College Plymouth engineering department. The college staff then used a CubeX 3D printer – a desktop-class model which can offer high level performance in fused filament fabrication – to replicate the beer bottle reportedly used by defendant Lee Dent to strike and kill Alex Peguero Sosa, after an altercation.
This marked the first time that Devon & Cornwall Police used this technological process in a court case. “We are very thankful to the team at City College Plymouth. Thanks to the replica of the murder weapon they produced, the prosecution was able to safely ask the defendant to demonstrate how he had held the bottle when he struck the victim and allowed the Barrister, Simon Laws QC, to closely cross examine him on this aspect of his evidence,” said Detective Inspector Ian Ringrose of Plymouth’s Major Crime Team. “This was the first time we had used this technological approach, and the use of it in court helped to fully explain the facts and the prosecution was greatly assisted by the use of the replica bottle created by the College team.”
While 3D scanning is already being used for murder scene analyses, 3D printing is likely to carve itself an ever growing role for replicating evidence and crime situations in a court. These possibilities will be explored by Plymouth College’s forensics and engineering courses. If you live in the area and you want to find out if this is the kind of 3D printing that is right for you, the College is running a free course information drop-in event on Wednesday 29 April, 4.00pm to 6.00pm, at Kings Road.
The City College Plymouth’s 3D printer was purchased as part of the refurbishment of the College’s state-of-the-art Engineering Centre. It is already commonly used by engineering students to support their project work and had previously been used to create prototypes and parts to repair equipment. This first “trial evidence support” project required 28 hours for designing and 3D printing the murderous bottle.