College’s 3D Print Team Helps Secure Murder Conviction

Staff at City College Plymouth found themselves in the middle of a high-profile murder trial when they were asked by the police to assist the prosecution’s case against the killer of a promising young man.

Lee Dent received a 22 year life sentence at Plymouth Crown Court last month for murdering Alex Peguero Sosa in a violent attack in July 2014. The Plymouth Argyle youth football player was killed while on a night out in Kingsbridge, Devon, when Dent stabbed him in the neck after an altercation at a taxi rank.

The College team helped secure Dent’s conviction by using innovative 3D rapid prototyping technology to create a replica of the murder weapon: a broken beer bottle. The use of 3D rapid prototyping in this instance was ground-breaking for the region, as it was the first time that Devon and Cornwall Police had used this technological process in a court case.

A spokesperson for City College Plymouth said: “When we were approached by a senior detective who was involved with the murder trial, our highly trained staff at the College were able to design and produce the weapon using the latest software. We worked into the evening and over the weekend to make sure the replica weapon was ready for the court demonstration on the Monday morning.”

Detective Inspector Ian Ringrose of Plymouth’s Major Crime Team said: “We are very thankful to the team at City College Plymouth. Thanks to the replica of the murder weapon they produced, the prosecution was able to safely ask the defendant to demonstrate how he had held the bottle when he struck the victim and allowed the Barrister, Simon Laws QC, to closely cross examine him on this aspect of his evidence. This was the first time we had used this technological approach, and the use of it in court helped to fully explain the facts and the prosecution was greatly assisted by the use of the replica bottle created by the College team.”

The process of creating the reproduction murder weapon took over 28 hours, building the bottle slowly, layer by layer, with the College’s state-of-the-art Cubex 3D printer.

The specialist machine, which was purchased as part of the refurbishment of the College’s state-of-the-art Engineering Centre, is normally used by engineering students to support their project work. The equipment has previously been used to create prototypes and parts to repair equipment, but this was the first time it had been applied to forensic crime solving.

3D printing is an emerging worldwide growth sector, with the potential for the technology still to be fully realised. Currently estimated to be worth £6billion globally, the industry is set to grow to £600billion in the next ten years. The College has been working with local entrepreneurs and businesses to create prototype models which have helped to secure investment or tested out new products; however, this latest move marks a new step in utilising rapid prototyping to support criminal convictions in the region.

City College Plymouth is training the next generation of investigators with forensic science courses, specialist laboratories and their state-of-the-art mock crime scene house. If you are interested in joining the College’s forensics or engineering courses, the College is running a free course information drop-in event on Wednesday 29 April, 4.00pm to 6.00pm, at Kings Road.