Dundee University experts identify human remains on C4’s 24 Hours In Police Custody

A forensic expert who helps identify human remains has spoken of her work after the case of a missing woman featured on a TV show.

The forensic anthropology department at Dundee University helped to identify 50-year-old Natalia Doherty, who went missing in 2003 after visiting the Luton home of her ex-husband Gerald.

The case was featured on the latest episode of Channel 4’s 24 Hours In Police Custody.

The programme showed detectives in 2015 unearthing Natalia’s skeleton.

Police were filmed conducting the investigation into her disappearance across three years, with the programme showing the harrowing moment her bones were discovered in a shallow grave.

The programme then showed the investigating officers seeking the help of the university’s centre for anatomy and human identification, which was able to confirm that the remains were human after being sent a photograph.

The Dundee team deals with about 400 cases a year, mostly involving cases of missing people.

Lucina Hackman

Lucina Hackman, senior lecturer in human identification, said: “What we do is run a service whereby, if any bones are found by members of the public, they can send us in an image and we can tell them if they’re human.

“In this case, they sent us an image of the bones and they needed to know if they were human in real time.

“Primarily we deal with cases involving missing people and they stop what they’re doing once there’s a discovery of bones.

“If there’s an ongoing search then quite often we are on standby — that’s what happened during the disappearance of April Jones a few years ago.

“We deal with about 400 cases a year. Approximately 10% of them are human.

“We are just a part of the whole process. The most satisfying part of our job is when bones can be returned to families after they have previously not known what has happened to a loved one. We know how much that means to them.”

Forensic archaeologists excavate the area where a human bone was found

Natalia was killed by her former husband and her body left under a pile of rubble in a garden.

Gerald Doherty then travelled up to Scotland to speak to his older brother Joseph, before committing suicide in 2003.

Joseph Doherty, of Renfrewshire, was given a suspended jail term after admitting to perverting the course of justice.

Channel 4’s 24 Hours In Police Custody probes some of the most challenging cases handled by Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire police’s major crimes unit.