Police dog Keela is force's top earner

Police dog Keela is force's top earner
30 December 2005
Press Association National Newswire
Wesley Johnson, PA

One of the country's top police dogs earns more in a day than her force's Chief Constable, it emerged today.

Keela, a 16-month-old springer spaniel, can sniff out the smallest samples of human blood - even after items have been cleaned or washed many times.

The South Yorkshire Police dog has already helped forces across the country, including working on the high-profile stabbing of Abigail Witchalls in Surrey, and is hired out at £530 per day, plus expenses.

If she worked every day of the year, she would earn almost £200,000 - around £70,000 more than her force's Chief Constable.

Now forces worldwide have expressed interest in her specialist training and Keela will be travelling to America in the New Year to assist the FBI with two murder inquiries.

A South Yorkshire force spokeswoman said the crime scene investigation dog has saved more then £200,000 nationally since April this year, helping with investigations in Ireland, Cornwall, Wiltshire, Surrey and the Thames Valley areas.

Her handler, Pc Martin Grime, has been responsible for training Keela, along with National Search Adviser Mark Harrison, since June last year.

Then the eight-week-old puppy, who was bred by West Midlands Police, became the centre of an experiment to see whether she could be trained to work as part of the team.

Unlike ordinary police dogs, Keela has never taken part in the usual six-week training course but has been trained, bit by bit, by Pc Grime every day.

Her programme involved training her to ignore decomposing body materials other than human blood. And instead of barking when she smells blood, she has been trained to have a 'passive'' alert - freezing with her nose as near to the subject matter as possible without touching, to enable scientists to recover the sample quickly and efficiently.

This technique has saved time and money on major investigations.

Keela was called in to help Surrey Police when Mrs Witchalls, 26, was stabbed in the neck and left paralysed as she pushed her toddler son in his buggy near their home in Little Bookham on April 20.

Pc Grime said:
'As a result of this incident 350 items of clothing had been recovered which all needed testing for evidence.
'To have the items examined at the forensic lab would have cost £200 for each item. 'Keela managed to help in just one day which resulted in eight pieces of clothing being detected with blood stains on them.''

She can search any area, including houses, cars, boats, both indoors and outdoors, and will lead her handler to spots of blood so small that humans cannot see them.

She screens textiles and can pick out traces of blood even after clothing has been washed many times or weapons cleaned.

Although she is still in the early stages of her career, Keela has been more successful than her trainers hoped.

She has had a number of operational finds recovering murder weapons, identifying the blood of a victim in a suspect's car and screening numerous amounts of clothing belonging to suspects.

South Yorkshire Chief Constable Meredydd Hughes said:

'Keela's training gives the force an edge when it comes to forensic investigation, which we should recognise and use more often.

'Martin has developed this capability through innovation and experience, and we are now considering how best to develop the training further.

'We know other forces are interested, both here and abroad, and we must see what opportunities we can develop.

'We know we have an operationally excellent dog section, and our specialist dogs are being developed in a unique way.''

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