The force has also developed a hand-held version of the high-tech equipment that will soon be routinely used at crime scenes involving dark clothes or other materials, such as curtains, carpets, upholstery and potentially car interiors. Historically, forensic investigators had to use microscopes to inspect a single item of clothing for blood, but the process could take up to two days.
The camera turns dark clothing light, as it reflects the infrared, yet blood absorbs it and remains dark, so can be clearly seen through the viewer including specs as small as quarter of 1mm, and specialist software can photograph the areas of bloodstain.
The Sunday Express was given an exclusive demonstration of the equipment and new handheld version at the Met’s forensics laboratory in Lambeth, south London.
Historically forensics officers had to use a microscope to look through dark clothing for blood, a process which could take two days or sometimes longer, but the new camera can detect it within minutes.
Our reporter was shown three black T-shirts, one containing bloodstains, and was unable to see anything with the naked eye.
However, once the camera was used they could be seen instantly.
Around 100 staff have been trained in the use of the equipment which is now routinely being used in murder and violence investigations involving dark materials.
The new handheld version can be used at crime scenes to quickly examine dark materials for blood and at the homes of suspects to examine their clothing.
The National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) has been given the same demo and is looking to authorize its use across all forces in the country.
Interest has also been expressed by overseas police forces after the results of the development of the camera, which took about three years, were published in the journal Forensic Science International in 2022.
Alan Tribe, the Met’s director of forensic operations, said: “We have been telling people what we have done and inviting them to share in what we are doing.
“This is being used for investigations into stabbing, assaults, violent crime, domestic violence and public space violence and will be disseminated nationally.”
Dr Andrew Hart, Met Senior Forensic Scientist, added: “Professor Paul Taylor, the Chief Scientific Officer of the NPCC and the Forensic Capability Network have been to see it as have a number of organizations from the public and private sector, so this will be established across the country.
“I have also had queries from all over the world like Canada and Europe to talk about this and I have presented it at a Swedish conference and at the Bloodstain Pattern Analysis conferences in the US and Europe.”
The force says suspects and victims are increasingly wearing dark clothing so the equipment is vital to speed up investigation times and young people are more likely to own a lot more clothes, all of which may have to be examined.
It means people can be eliminated from inquiries more quickly and the tests for blood could be carried out while a suspect remains under arrest.
Blood shows up differently to other substances like mud, tea or coffee, and it is sent off for DNA profiling once identified.
Mr Tribe added: “Forensic science has been looking for bloodstains for over 200 years and before the Met was formed, forensic scientists in Guy’s Hospital in London were doing work searching for blood stains and even then dark clothing presented significant challenges, so it is not a new problem, but it is a growing problem with fashion changes and ever-increasing amounts of dark clothing.
“Looking for it could take days or weeks with a microscope, but now it is potentially a five-minute job working on A4 sections of a garment with instant images.
“It is also a really good way of exonerating people as an absence of any bloodstain can be one of the most compelling ways you can quickly rule someone out.”
Other breakthroughs to speed up investigations currently being worked on by the met include a new rapid testing kit for harmful substances in drink spiking cases that it has developed.
His Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary noted the Met’s forensic innovations in his latest inspection report of the force.
It said: “Evidence for these (drink spiking) is often lost quickly as samples naturally deteriorate.
“On-scene testing is improving the chances of successful prosecutions, which will help deter offenders from committing these crimes.”
The force is also piloting the use of DNA processing units in its custody suites.
The HMIC report added: “Typically when a DNA sample is obtained from a suspect it is sent to a laboratory for analysis to compare against the national DNA database.
“This process usually takes about two weeks. The force is trialling equipment called RapidHIT ID, which analyzes DNA samples in 109 minutes using equipment on-site.
“This has already led to successes where offenders have been identified through DNA analysis, leading to swift justice rather than inappropriate release on bail.
“With further investment and development, in future, it may be possible to complete DNA examinations at serious crime scenes.”