One of the early pioneers in the field of criminal investigation, Henry Fielding (1707-54), is credited with developing the Bow Street Runners in England, forerunners of modern detectives. Fielding is also well known as a novelist and playwright. One of the last of the Bow Street Runners, Henry Goddard (1800-83), is recognized as one of the first individuals to recognize the potential of firearms evidence as an aid in identifying the criminals involved.
In 1835 Goddard successfully identified a murderer by using a bullet recovered from the body of the victim at autopsy. In those days bullets were produced by melting lead and pouring it into two-piece molds. Most individuals used their own lead and bullet molds to produce bullets for their guns.
In 1835 the level of investigative sophistication was often relatively primitive, as one might expect. But one still wonders how Goddard failed to recognize, through basic reasoning, that a very large question remained as to the validity of his process of "individualization." Noticing a defect in the bullet that probably resulted from manufacture, Goddard concluded that the suspect's bullet mold was the only mold that could have been used. Can you foresee the potential problem with Goddard's conclusion? If you are asking yourself about other similar molds, you are on the right track.
Of course, Goddard got a confession from the suspect, but what if he had not? Furthermore, people sometimes confess to crimes they did not commit. What if the suspect, despite his confession, was not the murderer? A firearms examiner of today would certainly investigate how the molds were produced and find out whether other molds bearing similar defects could reasonably be expected to exist.
Food for Thought: Individualization
Goddard examined the bullet recovered from the victim and noticed that there was a defect in the surface of the bullet that appeared to be the result of manufacture and not from the gun barrel or the impact of the bullet with the victim. Since it was anticipated that the shooter would have made his own bullet, Goddard predicted that a bullet mold might provide the necessary evidence as to who was responsible.
When a suspect was finally identified, Goddard went to his residence and quickly located a bullet mold with a corresponding defect. By casting several bullets using the seized mold and comparing them with the bullet from the victim, Goddard was able to show that that particular mold had made the fatal bullet. Ultimately, when confronted with the evidence, the suspect confessed to the murder.
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