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Meet Badger, Spud, Muzzy and Tito, South Wales Police's crimefighting canine quartet



Original Source: Wales on line, Sunday 18 January 2015

Jan 18, 2015 06:00 
By Ruth Mosalski


The four dogs have been involved in searches for April Jones and Madeleine McCann

From left, Pc Michael Newman and Badger, Sgt Andrew Patterson and Spud, Pc David Brake and Muzzy, and Pc Sally Richards and Tito.

Meet Badger, Spud, Muzzy and Tito - highly trained specialists and crime fighters.


The quartet have what from the outside seems like a grisly job - searching for evidence in rape and missing people investigations and for body parts.


But their handlers, PCs Michael Newman, David Brake, Sally Richards and Sgt Andrew Patterson say it is a vital job bringing closure to families in their darkest hour.


The team, from South Wales Police, has been involved in the majority of the recent murder and missing person cases in Wales but their longest operation to date has been the search for Machynlleth school girl, April Jones.


They spent six months, on and off in mid Wales, trawling woodland around Ceinws.


It was both physically and emotionally draining for the officers and the dogs.


PC Newman said: “It was long hours in arduous conditions. The dogs were given special food and drinks to increase their energy and drive. Just like us they became tired.”


“That operation, along with many others, was also hard on the officers.

Watch a police crime scene dog recover a human tooth
Clink link above to view video

“But with missing people and murder cases, we know we’re giving people closure. You know that person or body may not have been recovered if it wasn’t for the work that the team put in. With murder cases, it’s about finding evidence that could otherwise have been missed,” said Pc Newman.


Pc Williams said: “It’s a sense of determination to get justice for the family. All of us have a quiet sense of determination. Sometimes you find yourself up to your knees in mud, you have been there for hours but what keeps you going is finding or getting closure for the family.”


As well as working on cases local to their Bridgend base, they have also been asked to go abroad. They have been involved in the most recent search for missing schoolgirl Madeleine McCann.

In pictures: How Welsh sniffer dogs searched for Madeleine McCann:
To view gallery click on link above

All four of the team went to Portugal in June last year, working with the Metropolitan Police.


But what is it that makes these springer spaniels so skilled? Partly, it’s because their olfactory glands - in their noses - are 400 times more powerful than a human’s.


Pc Newman said: “The dogs are tasked with looking for evidence which can be a minuscule piece of evidence like a blood drop which is pin-prick sized.”


That could be in a search area which is small - for example a room in a house - or miles and miles of land.


When the dogs find something of interest, they are trained to freeze.


While other force dogs are tasked with smelling explosives, drugs or firearms, these dogs have a “scent spectrum” which covers the changing conditions a body can be found in over days, months or years.

PC Sally Richards and Tito searching for a human tooth. Part of Crime Scene and Victim Recovery Dog Unit, South Wales Police Dog Section, Waterton Cross, Bridgend.

These four are all rescue dogs who came from owners who couldn’t cope with their high drive and endless energy, but it is just which makes them perfect for police work. 

They initially have training which lasts up to eight weeks, but from then on it is constantly evolving.


The officers’ role is to use their own training and experience but also intelligence from other police teams to guide the dogs.


Pc Newman explains: “We try and narrow down the search area as best as we can, using intelligence and field skills. As handlers we’re looking at the circumstances and information from national databases and previous experience to help narrow that down.”


The dogs live with their handlers, only leaving their sides when the officers have holidays.


The Victim Recovery and Crime Scene Investigation Team are on call 24 hours a day.


Pc Brake explains they couldn’t do the job without their “supportive families” but all four say they are honoured to be part of an elite team.


And the dogs? “They come to work to play, they have the best job a dog could have,” says Sgt Patterson.


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