Under step-by-step instruction from the police officer beside her, a member of the audience is pulling on a blue coverall. She adds plastic booties, a hairnet, a face mask, and a pair of latex gloves. 'Now imagine wearing all that in 37 degree heat in Ipswich in summer ... in a house with no airflow for up to 10 hours,' the police officer says. 'It gets even more difficult if you wear spectacles because they fog up pretty quickly in that environment.'
Sergeant Donna Stewart, of the Queensland Police Service's Forensic Services Group, has been there. Donning one of the special suits that protect crime scenes from contamination and forensic scientists from infection is all in a day's work for her.
Over the course of 90 minutes, Sergeant Stewart gives an overview of crime scene investigation in Queensland, discussing a range of specialist areas, including fingerprint, ballistics and bloodstain pattern analysis. Her presentation is peppered with photos from real crime scenes, case studies, anecdotes and demonstrations. One of the most chilling of these occurs when she turns out the lights so audience members can observe the eerie blue glow of luminol on a blood-stained carpet.
The Queensland Police Museum's Sunday Lecture Series is open to the public at no cost and is a boon for anyone who enjoys television series including Law and Order, CSI or Criminal Minds - though most presenters would be at pains to point out that real life isn't much like it's depicted on the small screen. 'We're much more good-looking and glamorous,' Sergeant Stewart jokes.
Although held on a Sunday morning (usually), these lectures attract large crowds, so you'd be wise to arrive a little early in order to get a good seat. Featured guest speakers cover a range of historical and crime-solving topics. Past lectures, for example, have explored the evolution of the Queensland Police Service's Special Branch from 1948 to 1989, the history of Boggo Road Gaol, and how police dogs are used for tracking, searching and the apprehension of offenders. Upcoming lectures will include criminal behavioural profiling, the fire and explosion unit and forensic facial identification. Full details of times, dates and topics are maintained on the organisation's website.
The lectures are a great adjunct to the vast resources available within the Queensland Police Museum which opens its doors to the public on the last Sunday of each month from 10am to 3pm (February to November) in addition to the standard Monday to Friday 9am to 4pm opening hours.