Crime writers back Dundee University £1m morgue fund

Million for a morgue webpage The new morgue would provide new resources for the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification

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A group of best-selling authors has teamed up to urge the public to donate money to a cutting-edge university facility - a morgue.

The Million for a Morgue campaign aims to match the £1m University of Dundee has offered for a new forensic centre.

Several crime writers, led by Val McDermid, are supporting the centre, which will be named after one of them.

Having a new morgue would allow researchers at the university to adopt the Thiel method of embalming.

This would give surgeons, dentists, students and medical researchers a more realistic method of testing techniques, practising procedures and developing new equipment and approaches.

'Grisly technical details'

The link between the morgue project and the crime writers emerged through a friendship between Val McDermid and Professor Sue Black, director of the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification (CAHID) at Dundee University.

Ms McDermid said: "I've known Sue for years and she has helped me tremendously with a lot of the sort of grisly technical detail that goes into my books.

"When she told me about the project for the new mortuary I thought this was a chance for myself and other writers to give something back to a community that is of tremendous value to us."

Val McDermid Val McDermid has had help from Prof Sue Black with her crime novels

CAHID is a world-renowned centre in the fields of human identification, forensic anthropology, cranio-facial reconstruction and the study of the human body.

Its team has developed groundbreaking techniques in areas such as hand identification, which has led to the prosecution of paedophiles identified from images of their hands found in obscene photographs and films.

It also runs Disaster Victim Identification training for police offers to help them deal with mass fatalities around the world.

Prof Black said: "The work I have done with Val has always been very interesting and I am always happy to have been able to help.

"To receive such enthusiastic support from Val and her fellow writers is tremendously gratifying and I cannot thank them enough for lending their support to this project.

"We will be the first university in the UK to exclusively use Thiel embalming and it is an area where, working together with other colleagues in the university, we can make real breakthroughs and change the face of scientific, medical and dental research and training."

'Sadly underfunded'

The international fundraising campaign has already enlisted the support of author Lee Child, Tess Gerritsen and Stuart MacBride.

Stuart MacBride, who sets his crime thrillers in Aberdeen, said: "I've been very lucky to pick the brains of some of the UK's top forensic experts - their support and advice has been invaluable in making sure that what goes on in the books is as close to what really happens as possible.

"It's not often that crime writers get to give something back to that community - other than buying them drinks, of course - so I'm delighted to be involved in helping Sue raise money for a new mortuary."

Chinese-American novelist and retired physician Tess Gerritsen added: "I write merely fiction, but these scientists work in the very real world of death investigation, a field that is sadly underfunded.

"How wonderful that that my fictional detectives can now help support the true detectives."

Prof Black and the CAHID team feature in the BBC2 series History Cold Case. The second series of the programme begins on BBC2 on 23 June with The Bodies in the Well.

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