Friday 27 March 2020

Contingency planning for Coronavirus: article

Well, I don’t know about you, but I have never experienced this type of situation before. Government restrictions, national lock-down, police outside ready to stop you if you go is like something out of a dystopian movie. All the worry about vulnerable family members and friends, elderly neighbours, the state of the NHS, just adds to the general feeling of disquiet. 

Last year, my colleague Dr Julia Meaton and I supervised MSc research by Helen-Marie Kruger about the preparedness of local authorities for dealing with a flu pandemic. Of course, since then, the coronavirus situation has developed, and suddenly, our research takes on a new morbid significance. We modeled what would happen with a 50% clinical attack rate and a 1% and 2.5% death rate. Currently, the clinical attack rate of COVID-19 is thought to be about 60-80% and the mortality rate hovers around 1%.

We conducted interviews with employees of a Local Authority, including a senior emergency planning manager, a mortuary manager, a registrar and a bereavement services manager, and we modeled death rates using the UK Government Cabinet Office’s National Planning Assumptions Assessment Tool. In our paper, available here, we discuss how many excess deaths there would be over  15 week period, and as the pandemic reaches its peak, and the strain that would put on the funeral, crematoria and bereavement services. Our findings suggest that although business continuity plans are in place, it is highly likely that these services will be overwhelmed, even in the case of the lower mortality rate.

If you have questions about the paper or our research, please contact me or Dr Meaton.

If you can, please stay indoors to stop the spread of the virus and help our NHS save lives.
Thank you to all the fantastic NHS staff working so hard at this difficult time. 

Wednesday 22 January 2020

Copyright infringement!

It has come to my attention that a website called is using my name, credentials and images, and claiming to have been created by me. It has nothing to do with me and was not created by me. The gallery is full of pictures of me, the website is using others' images without permission, and is pretending to be associated with me. I have sent them a 'cease and desist' email, and contacted the hosting company and the domain registrar to ask them to take it down. I first noticed it in April 2019, and asked them to remove it then - it was for a short time, but it is now back up. I just wanted to make it public that this site has nothing to do with me! If you have any idea who might be involved with it, or behind the website, and know how to get in touch with them, please let me know.

Sunday 12 January 2020


Happy 2020 to all my readers! I am so sorry for the radio silence that has lasted over a year!
I have some exciting news to tell you about. I am very pleased to be involved in a artistic collaboration, funded by the British Arts Council, called Thanatos. It is a collaboration between the very talented artist Eric Fong, and innovative perfumer Euan McCall. Thanatos is a multi-sensory installation which builds on some of the research into the #scentofdeath that I have been involved in. A few years ago, my colleague Gareth Parkes and I supervised PhD research by Lorna Irish, looking into the gases (or volatile organic compounds) that are given off as a body decomposes, to see if the changes in those gases could be used to determine post-mortem interval, and/or could be used to more specifically train Victim Remains detection dogs. We published an article about our research in Science and Justice last year.

Eric Fong - Thanatos

The art installation is focused on the presentation of the perfume Thanatos, which is inspired by this research and the sights and smells of human decomposition. The exhibition is travelling around the country, and over the next few months, will be in Leicester at the Phoenix Cinema and Arts Centre, at the Old Operating Theatre in London, and at Teesside University. There will be lectures, panel discussions and workshops associated with the installation. I hope to see you there!