South Cumbria's furry forensic experts become the first of their kind

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11 August 2017 11:48AM

TWO furry forensic investigators from south Cumbria have become some of the most specialist of their kind, after completing training which will help them search for victims of drowning.

Harley and Sansa, Cumbria Constabulary's 16-month-old fox red labradors, have become the force’s first forensic evidence search dogs and the north west’s only drowned victim recovery dogs. It comes after they completed eight weeks of specialist training during which they have developed vital skills which could speed up future investigations.

Harley and Sansa joined the police a year ago and have spent the past 12 months working alongside their handlers to form a bond, familiarise themselves with different environments, and meet a range of people. In June, the pair began their six-week specialised forensic evidence search training, where they learned to sniff out human blood, flesh, semen and bones.

Unfortunately, with the many lakes, rivers, and rural areas that we have in Cumbria, there are people that need to be recovered

Barrow police dog handler, PC Glenn Myerscough, is partnered with Sansa.

He said: “The dogs could cut down the time it takes to search, and therefore reduce the resources needed for this stage of an investigation. We were so pleased with how they both did – they took to it really quickly and the progress was fantastic. They are a huge asset to the skillset of our unit.”

Following a short break to join their furry colleagues at Kendal Calling music festival, Harley and Sansa embarked on the final part of their training to become Drowned Victim Recovery dogs. Taking place over the past two weeks and concluding today (11) at Ferry Nab, Windermere, the pups were taught to sniff out flesh and bones as part of their training to aid in recovering bodies from under water.

Harley’s handler, PC Barrie Cox, said the pair had done everything they had been asked and more.

He added: “In just two weeks it’s amazing what both Harley and Sansa have achieved.

“We’ve used pig’s flesh in training as studies have shown it to mimic human flesh as close as is possible, and we became the first force to import human bones to train with for this purpose. It’s important that we get it right, so that the dogs can be used to their full potential.

“Unfortunately, with the many lakes, rivers, and rural areas that we have in Cumbria, there are people that need to be recovered from the water, and it makes absolute sense that we are able to search for them in this way to bring closure to the impacted families."

Sergeant Stuart Woodward said: “I am proud to have handlers that show a real determination in bringing such a specialist skill to not only our force but also to the north west region. The dogs have shown amazing progress with their training and this is yet another example of how as a department we constantly evolve to meet the needs of the public."

Harley and Sansa will now take some annual leave before returning to start their new roles.

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