Here are some of the questions I'm often asked
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I was working on a Unit which did marine operations and underwater search and recovery and I was (and continue to be) a police search advisor. During my work as a practitioner I realised that there were patterns to how a body might move in water and that there didn’t seem to be much research relating to this. I knew that if I was seeing patterns of body movement in water in my work then other search colleagues may be having similar experiences so I set about gathering data relating to this. My motivation was that analysis of this gathered data can be shared with those that have an interest in missing person search and body recovery from water.
In the eight years that I worked as a police diver only a few of our underwater searches were at sea, nearly all of them were inland. Also, the coastguard and other agencies have sophisticated mapping data which can predict movement of casualties at sea. I include data from bodies found in harbours and marinas and some in close proximity to the land in a coastal area but if the body is away from land at sea I do not include these cases.
Yes, although a majority of the field data is from inland water, estuaries or coastal cases in proximity to land the findings of the research can be applied to a marine environment, an example of this is the examination of the factors that affect buoyancy of a body and predictive analysis of buoyancy of a body, an important assessment for marine based cases.
You click 'Questionnaire' in the above menu for the secure online version, this works on desktops, tablets and mobile phone platforms and the data is securely sent via this method.
You can also download a pdf version here questionnaire . Alternatively you can contact me via the Contact page and I can send you a Word version of the questionnaire via email.
The database is on an Excel spreadsheet at has 44 columns and a row per case. Many of the fields correspond to the same fields on the questionnaire and the text from each is entered verbatim onto the spreadsheet. At intervals there are separate columns categorising the fields – for example categorisation of environment, direction of recovery point from submersion point, summary of distance travelled and summary of location of body. The categorisation columns assist with the data analysis.
The Study is overseen by the ethics of my organisation (Sussex Police) and because I have collected some of the data in my capacity as a police officer I have ensured the data is protected by ‘the Crown’ – this is an excellent safety umbrella because it means the data can’t be used for commercial gain and is only used to progress the aims of the Study and for the greater good. Although there is no formal requirement for the University to review ethics of this research, as I’m not using human (living) participants, I nevertheless submitted the relevant documentation to the University Ethics Committee which confirmed that the Study was ethically robust.
I use statistical analysis software to test the data for relationships between identified variables. For example I looked at age and body buoyancy really early on which revealed that with the data I tested, body buoyancy increased with age. I was then able to do further tests to establish the strength and magnitude of the association and also predict the percentage probability of buoyancy depending on age or other factors. As the number of cases on the dataset has grown I am able to do more sophisticated analysis, the options and accuracy of the output grown with every case that is added which is really exciting.
In the very early days I started gathering data and doing basic analysis but I was restrained from detailed examination because there wasn’t enough data. I also gathered papers and previous research on this area and made lots of contacts with people interested in the same subject.
When I started my PhD it was amazing to have the support of the university and my really great supervisors. Having access to the university library, software and guidance on how to progress has been just brilliant. I have also been able to use the laboratory to do experimentation and explore this subject in much more detail. Because I did my PhD part time alongside my police job it’s taken a good few years but in January 2021 I was proud to be awarded my PhD by University of Dundee.
However, the PhD is only a part of my research journey. I am doing post-doctoral research now, which will continue for as long as I am able to do it.
Definitely not! I’ve been researching this topic for many years and it gets more interesting as time goes on and the dataset grows. Even after all this time I am still really enthusiastic about what I am doing and feel that the work isn’t done yet. I see the study as ongoing – the more data I can collect there more accurate the results of analysis will be. I have already seen the analysis of hypotheses changing as more data is collected and there are still questions I can’t answer because the sample size is too small.
I love communicating with the like-minded people I am in contact with as a result of this project and learning from others. I feel such admiration for the search operatives out there when I find out how they have worked to find bodies and return them to their families and am able to raise awareness of this great work in my research activites.