April 15th, 2010

Spring has sprung

Posted in The Job - Experience by 200

I was having a conversation this week at work with someone. She is a civvy controller, I’m an ex-police civvy controller. It was during a quiet time when we weren’t particularly busy & sometimes the conversation drifts round to the old war stories.

I can’t remember how the conversation started but I found myself talking about smells, specifically about smells you come across in your role as a police officer.

Inevitably post mortems were mentioned. The unique smells, which kind of defy description, of a human body being cut up & examined. I used to take probationers to post mortems, it used to be just about mandatory to see a dead body & the process which takes place when a cause of death needs to be determined. It’s not now, too potentially upsetting for the modern recruit’s sensibilities.

Then there was the smell of death, again just about unique. You can’t always remember the smell in your mind, kind of visualising it, after a while but the moment you smell it again, you know exactly what it is. That tell tale whiff you get when you sniff through the letterbox of a neighbour who hasn’t been seen for a while, the release of bodily gases when you move a body to examine it for wounds.

Of course, the smells on some of the living customers can be pretty damned rank too. The smell of an alcoholic’s breath, so different from a person who is just pissed. The people who for reasons of lack of access or laziness haven’t seen a bath or a shower or a change of clothes for weeks.

The smells you get in a hospital A&E, both the clean, fresh, chemical smells & the bodies, alcohol & B.O. One of the worst was the smell of blood. We once babysat someone who had cut their wrists but was refusing treatment. He was violent too. We had to stand in a locked room with him but the staff couldn’t treat him. He spent over an hour bleeding everywhere. Not gushing but just enough to have a regular supply to spray up the walls, all over the floor, everywhere. After an hour in there the smell was so pervading I am surprised I didn’t faint. Once he eventually collapsed he was treated.

Of all the smells I came to the conclusion the worst one was when I was sent to get some milk for the tea club. I can’t remember how but the milk got spilled all over the back seat of the panda. I dabbed it up as best I could during the shift & left it in the parking bay.

Two or 3 days later my name was mud, it was the height of summer & the smell in the car was so overwhelming it had to be taken out of commission & professionally cleaned.


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  1. Stan Still says:

    I went to the PM of a woman who had died in a house fire.

    It was like being at a barbecue.

    Didn’t put me off my breakfast sausage sandwich though.

    Life goes on.

    April 15th, 2010 at 22:28

  2. Reactivly Proactive says:

    I can cope with the stench of death and PM’s. The absolute worst smell I have come up against was of a lad who we had chased through a stream to catch. His feet were so ripe we almost had to close the custody suite. Simply walking into the holding area when he was tucked up in his cell was enough to make the most hardened of us gip. I blieve his solicitor made him surrender his shoes and socks to be sealed up and wash his feet fully before having any contact with him. Luckily it took a while before interview and I had no part in it. we weren’t popular with the next shift either!!

    April 15th, 2010 at 22:50

  3. boy on a bike says:

    Had to dispose of lots of dead sheep during a drought when I was young. Method was burning them. Made a mistake of trying to do the old 1-2-3 with one that was a bit green and ripe. I had the back legs and the other bloke had the front legs. When we did the last back swing, we were left holding the legs whilst the body and guts sailed off in the wrong direction. Off course the stomach cavity burst as soon as it hit the ground.

    It didn’t smell any better after we scraped it all up and chucked it on the fire.

    April 16th, 2010 at 09:34

  4. shijuro says:

    A ‘sudden death’ where the old man had been left for months in his house in the summer…

    I commented on that there was a window open because I could see the curtains blowing…

    ‘Ahhh…’, said my partner… ‘It’s not curtains’.

    “eh? what is tit then?’


    not much left of him…

    April 16th, 2010 at 09:45

  5. Fee says:

    I once spent far too long sitting in A&E beside an old tramp who hadn’t used soap in a while (like maybe since WWII). It was so bad I ended up going and standing by the door, hoping for a whiff of fresh air. The smell permeated the whole waiting room, and even the staff were gagging when they went near him.

    April 16th, 2010 at 13:10

  6. md says:

    Attended a disturbance where a drunk had put his arm through a glass window. As I approached him he threw his arms up, spraying me with blood from top to bottom. As I grabbed his blood slicked arm my fingers sunk in until I was touching bone. Transported him the short distance to A&E. His blood soaked right through the back seat – a truly horrible, unique smell.

    April 16th, 2010 at 15:10

  7. Ambulance Amateur says:

    Having a relatively poor sense of smell, I’d like to attend a PM. I’d like to see where all these organs we learn about fit in the abdomen.

    April 16th, 2010 at 21:14

  8. shijuro says:

    PMs are (if you like that sort of thing) fascinating. The body is truly extraordinary.

    I saw a PM of a 7-year old girl once – that was much harder to put into the ‘fascinating’ category.

    I had nightmares for weeks.

    April 16th, 2010 at 22:47

  9. pc hawkeye says:

    Grown up smells apart, when I was about nine, I found a dead rabbit on the drive, it had been run over. Me thinks, this can feed the cats, I skin it, (disappointed there isn’t enough to make a Davey Crocket hat)
    and pop the rest in a pan, cover in water, and put the lid on, stick it on the Rayburn and go outside to play. A couple of hours later, dad comes home and calls me in, apparently you’re supposed to clean the guts out first before cooking, how was I supposed to know that, I was nine not a Chef. The house stunk for days.

    April 16th, 2010 at 22:56

  10. pc hawkeye says:

    Blood, brains and battery acid…RTA smells.

    April 16th, 2010 at 22:57

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