Paging Sherlock Holmes

October 11, 2017 Opinion , OPINION/NEWS


Hazel Speed


We all know of the techniques ascribed to the greatest sleuth, Sherlock Holmes, (and the parodies of same), such as the brilliant deduction made by him as it related to a found hat, belonging to an unknown gentleman, but:


(A) The owner, whose job enabled the person to buy a good quality monogrammed hat a few years back, but the style of the brim was an older one, thereby as the hat had not been replaced, the owner must have subsequently fallen on hard times;


(B) The unknown gentleman was obviously not married, as any loving wife would have brushed the hat and taken more care of her husband’s appearance;


(C) There was candle grease present on the hat which indicated the owner did not have modern forms of lighting in his home (electricity), thereby was still reliant on the use of candles, hence the grease stains had been transferred on to his hat after he had handled candles.


(D)  Sherlock Holmes decided upon a course of action, in that advertising this found hat would draw out its owner to reclaim the same, as such a person could not afford a replacement hat, according to the earlier deduction, and would most definitely seek to be reunited with his headwear.


All the above inevitably proved to be the ‘case’, and there may have even been more relevant elements therein, but I recall the main ones.


A similar but more succinct scenario was revisited by James Bond within a scene over a small voodoo hat which scared one of his female associates during the film ‘Live and Let Die‘.

Now, in 2017, we are on the cusp of a modern equivalent form of detection, thanks to science via Sheffield’s Hallam University research and resulting facility.


Will artificial intelligence (AI) turn up to arrest people one day in the future, like a Robocop, or perhaps Star Trek’s Holographic Doctor, and in seconds gather enough evidence to prove a suspect innocent or guilty?

OK, so any speeches to obvious suspects waiting in the drawing room, Agatha Christie style, would be lost, but Police and Court time would be less, et al.


Although the adoption of modern science and IT is truly amazing embellishing with more associated data, as it does, existing finger print detection and analysis, it all remains, nevertheless, circumstantial and that in itself worries many.

We are told that elements upon our fingerprints can detect whether a person is male or female, a smoker, drinker, drug possessor/user, if they have consumed a number of coffees, used a condom (even the brand name thereof), what make-up was worn by a person, (again naming a brand).  Even minor fibres can be found in ridges of finger prints.


Why may there be need to worry then?


First of all, in general, I dare say it is not often one learns of incidents (allowing for the fact there will be possibilities of unknown ones), where DNA and/or prints may be ‘planted’ by one party or another and some people may be, and have been in historic times (current ones?), framed.

There are also innocent possibilities or scenarios which can put a person ‘in the frame’ as a potential suspect at least, or they may be arrested for a crime.

We have all been in a supermarket queue when the person in front of us is at the point of paying for their purchases, and is using a bank or credit card, but may not have their supermarket loyalty card with them, so generously offer their earned loyalty card points on that occasion to us.

We may have accepted this kind gesture, and our own loyalty card is put into the supermarket computerised cash till system, but also at that point, it becomes associated, by default, with a payment which is not ours.

Where would we stand if a Policeman turned up at our homes if associated with a stolen bank card/credit card, bounced cheque, etc? We may not even recall the incident if the issues only come to light weeks later – albeit these days CCTV may assist our defence, then again, how long are such records kept, as that varies between venues, e.g. different supermarket chains, companies or offices.

Therefore, it may be deduced, based on use of our known supermarket loyalty card, that ‘we’ were using a fraudulent bank or credit card/bouncing cheque.

If we cannot recall the circumstances, and no CCTV exists, it would be extremely difficult to prove innocence.

(Incidentally, a number of years ago I wrote a short story entitled ‘Framed’ based on a similar scenario as above involving a supermarket loyalty card, the past very much imitating the present and future in this respect!…)


No doubt, despite these wonderful newly enhanced finger printing facilities, we can all think of similar dilemmas which may still occur, so what may be a great modern day detecting device can also put the innocent person in a different kind of jeopardy.

It would be quite easy, especially when in some environments, such as a pub, to retain a small drinking glass used by someone or lift off their fingerprints/DNA in order to place it elsewhere.

Added to all of the above, there are further modern features in respect of the times in which we live, e.g. Britain (especially London apparently), has more surveillance than any other country via CCTV, special security services and Government Agencies having access to our emails, texts, phone calls, website searches, public transport passes, GP and NHS records, motor vehicle records, Police records, bank accounts, etc, etc…


Someone gave me a copy of their Local Council magazine recently so I could see for myself the subtlety of content, like a net guiding every facet of a person’s life under the innocence of services, groups and agencies to assist people in different areas of their lives.  The point being one Big Brother world.

Yes, this new fingerprinting analysis may provide a personal resume of sorts, and it is truly astounding that even thirty year old documents can now yield new secrets in this way; cold cases can be assisted and perhaps Justice facilitated in new ways.

However, in this IT age and lack of personal space for the individual to call their own (in every sense), then one does not have to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce where it is all heading.


To paraphrase Sherlock Holmes,

It is ‘Elementary’, after all!





Hazel Speed

Photo (c) Hazel Speed – used by kind permision to Tuck Magazine

Hazel Speed is a Philosopher, Writer, and Artist with various creative projects at differing stages of development. Her flaship project is an animation which has produced a film short: She has also written an E-novel, ‘Just Suppose…!‘ which is available via the attached link.

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