Gifted children identify 'killer'

ADAM ROBERTS
Last updated 12:30 08/12/2012

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"The crime scene is the voice of the dead," Nelson police education officer John O'Donovan told a crowd of young students, before asking them to identify a killer.

Yesterday those students from around the region strained to listen for that voice, using clues in a fake crime scene at the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology's arts building to solve a murder investigation.

The investigation was part of the all-day Inspire Conference for gifted children, which saw 250 students from schools around the region, from year 3 to year 13, as well as teachers and parents, spend a day learning from experts around the region.

The crime scene investigation portion of the day saw Mr O'Donovan recreate a scene from a real-life crime.

The students were packed into a room which included a bloodstained bed - with a bloody trail leading to a pretend-body with a knife in its back.

Lying next to the body was a pair of glasses, and in the corner, in the pretend-kitchen, was a squashed tomato - with a distinctive bootprint.

Using these clues, as well as interviewing witnesses and suspects, the students were challenged to work out who was the killer.

In the process, they learned about the various areas of science that came into play in every crime investigation, like DNA analysis, orthodontics, mass spectrometry.

They also learned about basic police crime scene practice. Nelson-based internet safety and risk assessment consultant John Parsons, who works with the police in cases involving online scams, posed as the woman's shifty next-door neighbour.

Students were able to question him, and through the use of their deduction - and a little bit of guidance from Mr O'Donovan - were able to work out that he was the murderer.

Speaking afterwards, Mr O'Donovan said he hoped to have made the case as realistic as possible, and to have inspired the students to consider careers in any of fields that worked with police.

Richmond Primary student Kameron Masoner, 10, said the investigation had been different to how he had imagined it, and had made him think about science in a different way.

Mr Parsons' acting had been so convincing to Kameron that he thought he was a "bad guy" in real life, he said.

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- The Nelson Mail

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