Ep. 37: Professor Dame Sue Black: Forensic Anthropologist
Updated: Jan 29
Sue Black catches paedophiles, exhumes bodies and carried heads on a passenger plane. It's a true crime episode of sorts.
Today’s guest on the On the Edge with Andrew Gold podcast is quite possibly the most bad-ass, to borrow an American expression and pronunciation, person I’ve had on the podcast. Professor Sue Black is a distinguished forensic anthropologist and dame from Inverness, Scotland. She’ll explain exactly what that is, but she is the President of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, and a leading professor at Lancaster University. As an expert in human anatomy, she took two tours of Iraq, worked on the Thai Tsunami Victim Identification of bodies operation, and speaks of how she waded through piles of melted dead corpses in Kosovo. Anecdote after anecdote, she had me absolutely floored, and appreciative that there are people like her doing the work they do, because I sure as hell couldn’t, and we couldn’t function as a society with them.
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Later, she became known for her vein pattern analysis, where she found that no two hands appear to have the same pattern of veins, as well as marks, wrinkles and folds. This helped her prove the identity of a father whose hands were caught on film as he molested his daughter. The research has continued and helped to catch many other child sex offenders.
I was fascinated to get inside the mind – briefly, at least – with a person who is regularly confronted with the horrors of child sex abuse material and mutilated bodies from murders and wars. I wanted to know how such images change a person and their outlook on life and death, their relationship with their daughter, their views on humanity.