Foren­sics ex­pert proved ‘mur­der’ was an ac­ci­dent

The Timaru Herald - - Obituaries - Michael Tay­lor

Dr Michael Tay­lor was a man who stud­ied the bad but al­ways did the good, us­ing his skills to help solve mys­ter­ies and in­spire the many stu­dents who sought his guid­ance.

Tay­lor, who has died aged 66, was a man of faith who spent 41 years as a foren­sic sci­en­tist at the In­sti­tute of En­vi­ron­men­tal Sci­ence and Re­search (ESR). In that time, he made a name for him­self as a pi­o­neer­ing fig­ure in the world of blood­stain pat­tern anal­y­sis.

In 2015, he be­came just the 14th dis­tin­guished mem­ber of the In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Blood­stain Pat­tern An­a­lysts (IABPA).

‘‘His rep­u­ta­tion as a dis­tin­guished sci­en­tist, a re­spected re­searcher, and a great men­tor will en­dure,’’ long-time friend Lyn­ton Brock­le­hurst said in a eu­logy read at Tay­lor’s fu­neral.

Tay­lor once used his skills to prove the sus­pected homicide of a New Zealand diplo­mat in the Solomon Is­lands was ac­tu­ally an ac­ci­dent.

‘‘Michael was adept at in­spir­ing oth­ers to not give up, even in the face of ad­ver­sity,’’ Brock­le­hurst said. ‘‘His legacy will live on thanks to his rev­o­lu­tion­ary work that has ad­vanced foren­sic sci­ence.’’

Tay­lor held faith at the cen­tre of his life.

A joint state­ment from some of his col­leagues at the IABPA said that, in his fi­nal days, he spoke deeply of his love for God, his pro­found trust in Je­sus, and the greater plans he knew God had for him.

’’How blessed we are to have had a man of great faith in our midst,’’ it said.

Tay­lor was born in 1953 to John and Mar­garet Tay­lor. He was an older brother to Peter and Sharon.

He at­tended Burn­side High School, where he was named dux and head pre­fect. He then stud­ied at the Univer­sity of Can­ter­bury, where he earned a bach­e­lor of sci­ence with honours and a PhD.

With his deep con­nec­tion to Christchur­ch, it was no sur­prise that he was a Cru­saders fan, and rugby was one of many sports he fol­lowed. He played field hockey and golf, and man­aged and worked as a statis­ti­cian for var­i­ous bas­ket­ball teams.

In 1979, Tay­lor joined the Depart­ment of Sci­en­tific and In­dus­trial Re­search, the pre­de­ces­sor to ESR, where he quickly

rose to promi­nence in the field of crime scene anal­y­sis.

He be­came known on the in­ter­na­tional stage for his re­search into blood­stain pat­tern anal­y­sis (BPA).

Brock­le­hurst said Tay­lor’s ‘‘in­no­va­tive re­search tech­niques’’

strength­ened the sci­en­tific foun­da­tions be­hind the foren­sics. Tay­lor also pioneered the devel­op­ment of a high­speed video li­brary, which could show the dy­nam­ics of dif­fer­ent types of static blood­stain pat­terns at crime scenes.

For his work in the field, the IABPA named its dis­tin­guished mem­ber award af­ter Tay­lor. Brock­le­hurst said it was ‘‘a fit­ting trib­ute for a dis­tin­guished sci­en­tist driven to fos­ter the tal­ents of oth­ers’’.

The IABPA said Tay­lor’s main quest was to un­der­stand the un­der­ly­ing fluid dy­nam­ics of BPA.

’’Over the years, many stu­dents helped Michael to cre­ate skulls, brains, skin, arms, legs and all man­ner of weird and won­der­ful gad­gets to kick, stomp, stab, shoot and spat­ter blood,’’ the IABPA’s state­ment said.

‘‘All of this to ad­vance our un­der­stand­ing of blood­stain pat­tern anal­y­sis.’’

Tay­lor’s knowl­edge proved es­pe­cially handy in 2002, when the New Zealand high com­mis­sioner to the Solomon Is­lands, Brid­get Ni­chols, was found dead in her home. It was ini­tially re­ported that she had been stabbed by bur­glars.

Tay­lor trav­elled with New Zealand po­lice to the Solomon Is­lands to help in­ves­ti­gate the death.

Ac­cord­ing to Brock­le­hurst, he ‘‘utilised his mas­tery of an­gles and tra­jec­to­ries’’ to prove Ni­chols was not a homicide vic­tim, but ac­tu­ally died in an ac­ci­dent – she had tripped and fallen on a knife she was car­ry­ing in a bag.

Tay­lor’s find­ings were ac­cepted by Ni­chols’ fam­ily.

The Solomon Is­lands trip was the first over­seas ex­pe­ri­ence for Dr Ros­alyn Rough, a long­time friend and ESR col­league of Tay­lor’s.

‘‘It was a re­ally in­ter­est­ing and kind of cool ex­pe­ri­ence early on in your ca­reer,’’ she said.

She worked with Tay­lor for 20 years at ESR in Christchur­ch and said she would long re­mem­ber his men­tor­ing and guid­ance.

‘‘He was a bit like a work dad in a way to a lot of peo­ple. He was just very good at hav­ing ad­vice and be­ing there to lis­ten when you needed help and look­ing out for ev­ery­body.’’

The IABPA recog­nised how Tay­lor had be­come a re­spected men­tor.

‘‘Many sci­en­tific ca­reers have flour­ished be­cause of his be­lief in peo­ple,’’ its state­ment said.

He was re­mem­bered for in­still­ing bold­ness in his stu­dents, mak­ing them stand up for what they be­lieved in.

‘‘Let the data speak’’ was a com­mon phrase of his, and he was ‘‘never afraid to ruf­fle feathers in the pur­suit of good sci­ence’’.

‘‘For all his stu­dents, it has been an ex­tra­or­di­nary priv­i­lege and good for­tune to have the great­est men­tor, MSc/PhD su­per­vi­sor, and friend that any­one could ever ask for.’’ – By Steven Wal­ton

Michael Tay­lor was a pi­o­neer­ing fig­ure in blood­stain pat­tern anal­y­sis, and once used his ex­per­tise to prove that a New Zealand high com­mis­sioner to the Solomon Is­lands had not been mur­dered.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.