Sunday, March 6, 2011


"When Gene Morrison was jailed for posing as a forensic scientist last February, his case was reported as a brilliant con. For over 20 years, the then 48-year-old Mancunian had masqueraded as a senior forensic scientist who doubled as a glamorous CSI-style detective. He impressed clients with his fluorescent jacket marked “Forensic Investigator”, his PhD and his laboratory. Sometimes he might turn up in the company of an admiring blonde.

He claimed to be an expert in handwriting, drugs, lie-detection, toxicology, facial mapping and forensic dentistry. He gave evidence in court before judges, lawyers and other expert witnesses. Right across Britain he conned the very people who are paid to see through frauds. Documents and invoices found in his office showed he had worked on as many as 700 – maybe 1,000 – cases. The work, surely, of one of the great masterminds of criminal history."



PUBLISHER'S NOTE: Gene Morrison and Charles Smith had many things in common - but one stands out. They both managed to bamboozle people in their respective justice systems, including judges, prosecutors, police and even defence lawyers, into believing that they were genuine forensic experts. Morrison purported to be a forensic expert in the areas of handwriting, drugs, lie detection, toxicology, facial mapping and forensic dentistry, who had earned his qualifications through who a BSc in forensic psychology, an MSc in forensic investigation, and a PhD in criminology which he purchased from Rochville University, an online website offering 'life experience degrees'. Smith misrepresented himself as a qualified forensic pathologist (while staring down those who dared to disagree with him) even though he had no professional qualifications in the area, no specialized training to speak of as a forensic pathologist, and had never been trained or mentored by a genuine forensic pathologist. He would later admit to the independent Goudge inquiry into many of his cases that his knowledge of forensic pathology was "woefully inadequate," that his training was "minimal," that he was basically ''self-taught, and that he was "profoundly ignorant" of the role of expert witnesses and the way in which the criminal justice system works. (Not true. He wrote impressive articles on the role of experts, and lectured to homicide officers on issues involving the criminal justice system); In spite of his admission of being "woefully inadequate" and "self-taught," Smith's evidence from the witness box brimmed with confidence, certainty, experience, and a sense of deep knowledge of his field. One major difference: Morrison was prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to prison for five years for his fraud upon the justice system; Charles Smith remains untouched. I am publishing this series of posts on Gene Morrison without editorial comment (not an easy task) so that our readers can make up their own minds about whether Smith should be prosecuted. I will publish my personal views at the end of the series.



PREAMBLE: "Barry Power was a healthy young chemist who died mysteriously in his sleep. His family didn’t believe it was from natural causes. Forensic scientist Dr Gene Morrison took on the case and revealed 20 years of fraud and incompetence — his own. Report: Steve Bradshaw;


"When Gene Morrison was jailed for posing as a forensic scientist last February, his case was reported as a brilliant con,"
the article by Steve Bradshaw published in the Times on February 3, 2008 begins, under the heading, "How to fake a living."

"For over 20 years, the then 48-year-old Mancunian had masqueraded as a senior forensic scientist who doubled as a glamorous CSI-style detective," the article continues.

"He impressed clients with his fluorescent jacket marked “Forensic Investigator”, his PhD and his laboratory. Sometimes he might turn up in the company of an admiring blonde.

He claimed to be an expert in handwriting, drugs, lie-detection, toxicology, facial mapping and forensic dentistry. He gave evidence in court before judges, lawyers and other expert witnesses. Right across Britain he conned the very people who are paid to see through frauds. Documents and invoices found in his office showed he had worked on as many as 700 – maybe 1,000 – cases. The work, surely, of one of the great masterminds of criminal history.

But Morrison’s story is far more bizarre than was reported at the time. A trial that one detective called “something out of Monty Python” was the climax of a narrative which at times defies credibility. How did this man, who was known locally as “Rocky”, pass himself off as Dr Gene Morrison, PhD BSc, director of the “Criminal and Forensic Investigations Bureau”?

Like many unsuspecting clients of Morrison’s over the years, Barry Power was drawn into his surreal world at the most vulnerable time of his life. One day in 2003, while he was driving his wife, Audrey, to their home in Hyde, Greater Manchester, the builder took a call on his mobile. He was told that his son – also called Barry – had died mysteriously in his bedroom. Barry Jr had been a fit and healthy 29-year-old and his death was a mystery. (The coroner would later record an open verdict.) But Barry wasn’t giving up so easily. His son had worked as a quality-control officer in a chemical factory. Barry Sr wanted to hire an investigator to find out more. Had his son handled something toxic? Maybe gone into shock?

In the Thomson Local Directory he found just the man he wanted. Or so it seemed. He was Dr Gene A Morrison, director of the “Criminal and Forensic Investigations Bureau”. The bureau’s motto – in a curiously religious turn of phrase – was “Exposing Un-Righteousness for the Sake of Righteousness”. His business cards claimed he was the “Fifth Emergency Service”. If Barry had checked with the Solicitors Journal he would have seen that it ran an advertisement for Morrison’s empire.

Dr Morrison’s qualifications seemed compelling. He had a BSc in forensic psychology, an MSc in forensic investigation, and a PhD in criminology from Rochville University in the US – and he was an expert in almost all the dark forensic CSI arts. And – unique for a forensic scientist in the UK – he also ran his own detective agency. With his dark suit and black shoes (and, occasionally, sheepskin jacket, jeans and short-sleeved shirt) he seemed a British version of one of the characters from the American TV show CSI. He drove Barry past the lab where he was conducting forensic tests, and showed him his impressive suite of offices. In Hyde, Barry’s wife, Audrey Power, was a little suspicious. But Barry is a street-sharp guy and, like any builder, nobody’s fool. If he’d dug a little deeper into Morrison’s background, he would have been even more justified in his faith in Britain’s own crime scene investigator.

The truth was Dr Morrison really had been involved in forensic cases right across Britain.

He had worked over two decades for many highly reputable clients – including leading solicitors. Barry decided to trust him. He would hire Morrison to investigate his son’s death.

Maybe it was something about Hyde, however, that made Audrey naturally wary. Hyde has been one of Britain’s most infamous crime scenes. Its suburb Hattersley was the heart of the Moors Murders investigation. And down Hyde’s Market Street is the site of GP Dr Harold Shipman’s surgery. Shipman didn’t just let down clients – sometimes he murdered them. Audrey and Barry had friends who had placed themselves in his not-so-tender care. But Hyde has put its noir past behind it. The surgery has become a harmless shop.

Barry’s family were proud of their roots in the town. They lived in a tightknit community with its own local characters – buxom Sandra, who ran the bikers’ bar, the man with the best pie shop in the northwest, and Rocky, the local “man about town”, often seen with a blonde on his arm.

Although Rocky was almost the only black man in town, there is a big Bangladeshi community and no obvious racial problems. Despite its stake in Britain’s criminal history, Hyde is no Moss Side. What’s more, business was looking up – not just the old manual jobs like Barry’s Hyde Roofing, but more glamorous stuff. After all, the renowned forensic scientist Dr Gene Morrison himself lived in Hyde, travelling from here to give expert witness across the country.

But then something bizarre happened – which would have been comic if it wasn’t for the tragic circumstances. When Barry told his kids about Gene Anthony Morrison, the glamorous CSI he’d hired, they said: “Hang on. Gene Anthony Morrison? That’s Rocky!” What on earth had happened? Was Rocky passing himself off as Dr Morrison, the renowned expert witness? Had something terrible happened to the real Dr Gene Morrison? Had Rocky disposed of him in some new and frightful crime? But no, he wasn’t that kind of guy. Was it possible that Rocky and Dr Morrison could actually be the same person?

Well – to his credit, you might think – Barry decided it was indeed possible, and he had £600 he could put his hands on right away. And Dr Morrison, aka Rocky, was prepared to begin his investigation for exactly that sum. And so Barry did what many had done with the rather curious Dr Morrison over the years – he gave him the benefit of the doubt. And months later, wished he hadn’t.

It was – as so often with Morrison – the little things that seemed so odd. Morrison asked friends of Barry Jr round, kept them waiting for hours without a word, then absent-mindedly dismissed them. Women who had known Barry Jr were treated with more attention.

Some even took distinctively flirtatious calls from him late at night. Barry Sr put this down to Morrison’s crafty detection techniques. After all, Dr Morrison was a professional who was doing blood tests in an impressive lab in the centre of town. It was only later that Barry Power discovered that this was the local breast-screening clinic.

Morrison did bring in two genuine experts – a toxicologist to test Barry Jr’s clothes, and a computer expert who took away his son’s laptop. Months later, Dr Morrison handed Barry a report which consisted of 69 pages of technical notes about chemicals and three vague pages about his son’s death – which remains unresolved to this day. Barry Sr was so dissatisfied he didn’t pay Dr Morrison’s bill – for almost £14,000. If Morrison was a charlatan, he’d surely never have the nerve to take Barry to court.

But that’s exactly what he did.

In November 2004, Dr Morrison now carried on his act in Manchester County Court, even though it was an act fraying ever more at the edges. Barry recalls his barrister pointing out that Morrison had charged Vat on every individual item and on the total. Morrison, however, continued to stand by his claim, and his Rochville University degrees. He was allowed by the judge to charge a small amount for the work he had actually done. And while his credentials were questioned, if anybody called the cops, Greater Manchester Police can find no record of it.

While few in Hyde have heard of Dr Gene Morrison’s Criminal and Forensic Investigations Bureau, many know of Rocky. In the Ocean chippy one customer calls him “Black Rocky” – fondly – and another’s partner has just seen him in Risley.

Over in Risley, Rocky and Gene Morrison are now sharing a cell. To everyone’s amazement, “Dr” Gene “Rocky” Morrison won’t talk. He doesn’t respond to pleas for biographical basics. But our detective work establishes that he was born into a Jamaican family who brought him to the UK when he was five. His dad is now in America, the only genuine link with the country where he later claimed he was trained. He went to school in Manchester and didn’t distinguish himself. And then, when he was 19 – the year Elvis, one of his heroes, died – he read a detective magazine.

A Mancunian Billy Liar turned small-town gumshoe, Morrison created an air of mystery around himself. Donald Pritchard, a former Decca sound engineer, was hired by Morrison to check if a tape had been doctored. There was nothing improper about the job, but instead of asking him to mail the results, Morrison arranged to meet late at night in a Manchester car park.

It was the Muslim festival of Eid and fireworks were exploding around them in the rain. Morrison leapt from his car, a Sierra, and grabbed the envelope. Pritchard remembers a blonde girl looking on from the car. Although puzzled, he didn’t think anything more about it until the cops turned up years later wanting to know why Pritchard’s stationery had been found in Morrison’s office. Pritchard – a Methodist lay preacher – was left to wonder if Morrison had passed off his work as his own.

Morrison realised it could be profitable to outsource work, pretending it was his own, and then submit an inflated bill. Walter Baynes, a retired film-maker, was asked by Morrison to help a man accused of armed robbery in Birmingham. Morrison had been hired by a solicitor to report on police claims that the man had been spotted on CCTV. He hired the work out to Baynes but sent his report back asking him to remove his letterhead. He didn’t say why.

An amused Baynes assumed it was because the solicitor (a Mr Ahmed) might be distressed by the name of Baynes’s company – Piglet Productions. It was a classic Morrison moment, a well-meaning man offering him the benefit of the doubt. Baynes’s wife was less charitable, referring to Morrison in her diary as a “prat” who was just interested in money. And unknown to Baynes, Morrison – while knocking Piglet’s fee back from £200 to £50 – was charging Mr Ahmed £2,800 for the job. Baynes hadn’t done anything wrong, but when Morrison was later caught, he spent many hours worrying he might have done.

It was a cute way of earning a living, in an age of subcontracting, and almost legal. But it wasn’t legal. If the robbery charge had been pursued (it wasn’t, as it happens), it would have been Morrison who’d have had to defend the work in court. A man’s liberty could have rested on his deception. Morrison had crossed a threshold into criminality. But at the same time he was crossing a threshold into the high comedy which almost reduced his own trial to farce.

) ) ) ) )

Jeremy Barrett hadn’t yet begun lie-detecting for the Trisha show when Dr Gene Morrison rang him from Manchester. Barrett saw nothing unusual in his encounter with Morrison and his client – a worried husband – in the Piccadilly hotel. Barrett was amused, however, by the cheeky acronym of Morrison’s company – then known, he recalls, as the Forensic Bureau of Investigation: FBI.

But Barrett was worried when he called a would-be client a few months later. It was a woman concerned that her son was a drug dealer. Barrett had warned her to consider carefully her request to have her son lie-detected. Now he wanted her decision.

“At that time,” Barrett recalls, “I was the only person doing professional polygraphy in Britain. So I was pretty disconcerted when she said she’d found someone else to do it cheaper. And it was a lot cheaper. I said, well, who can this be? And she said a Dr Gene Morrison. Of course, I phoned Morrison up and said, ‘Hey, what are you up to?’ ”

Morrison told Barrett his “lie detector” was simply a computer. If he thought the person was lying he pressed a button and “false” flashed up. Morrison was seemingly relying on his own instincts – yet he believed he was the real thing, a genuine expert just taking a few short cuts.

What was actually happening when Dr Morrison approached his unsuspecting clients with his self-belief, computer and wires? Toni Cairns, a secretary in a Lancashire metal firm, was about to find out.

) ) ) ) )

Toni’s boss, Chris Ward, had discovered his book of formulas was missing. Worried about industrial espionage, he called on the eminent Dr Gene Morrison to conduct lie-detector tests on his staff. Apart from being told to “chill, brother” on the phone, Ward himself didn’t suspect anything at first. However, his wife was amused to see that when Morrison opened his briefcase, it seemed to contain nothing more professional than a chip butty. Some eyes at least were now trained askance on Morrison.

Morrison wired up Toni’s thumb, not to a polygraph such as Barrett used – with sweat and pulse detectors – but to a laptop loaded with voice-stress software. This is quite different – sophisticated versions are used by insurance companies to detect fraud, and its practitioners get quite annoyed when you confuse it with polygraphs. Since thumbs don’t talk, there’s no point in wiring one up to it.

And he couldn’t even get the programme running. He spent a couple of hours fiddling away, to everyone’s embarrassment. His excuse: a “colleague” had left the device with all the settings askew. He phoned the “colleague” and finally started the software by typing in the password “Scorpion”. When the lie-detection sessions finally began, Morrison asked Toni, apparently as a control question: “Will you go out with me?” Moments later he glanced away and repeated the question. It was elegantly done, and Toni wasn’t offended. But she too now knew something was wrong. So the whole office was giggling away.

After an appalled Chris Ward had hustled him away from the room, he dialled callback for the number Morrison had run. It was a Birmingham-based private eye from whom Morrison had bought a basic voice-stress analyser that experts told me was “little more than a toy”. The print-out is full of wavy lines. On one graph he’s scribbled “Truth = Analysis”, presumably for his own benefit. I’m sure it shows he was quite carried away. As Chris’s wife said, “By the time he left I think he was the only person in the office who bought his act.”

) ) ) ) )

In 2004 a condom wrapper was found at the scene of an alleged rape in Manchester. Morrison was asked by the defence solicitor to check for fingerprints. Morrison farmed the work out to a reputable firm. But in the meantime he decided to try to investigate the case himself. He rang up a prison officer at Strangeways prison to try to talk to the accused. And while he was on the line, he asked for the address of the rape victim.

This was at best an appalling lack of taste, and Strangeways did what so many had failed to do – they called the police. They made routine checks into Morrison’s credentials and decided to raid his house and his office. Strewn everywhere were papers, case notes and invoices. There was also a number of religious tracts. The living room was dominated by a huge plasma screen. (Detectives would later find a stash of CSI videos.) The next surprise was his office, five minutes away in a modern block. The reception area with its FBI-style logo looked disturbingly professional. And neatly on display in Morrison’s office were the tools of his trade – a huge magnifying glass, a few empty test tubes, a white coat. My God, one detective thought, maybe he’s for real. But hang on, he thought – they really are on display. Who on earth has a lab with a magnifying glass and empty test tubes? They’re props, Det Sgt Owen realised, and pushed open another door. Behind it were yet more piles of papers, a chaotic mound that would take an ever-growing team of detectives almost three years to disentangle. One of Owen’s colleagues would later describe their journey through his office that day as akin to a voyage through Morrison’s mind.

Detectives assumed the raids would stop Morrison in his tracks. But they hadn’t understood him. Police pulled down his website, but Morrison was still taking on new work.

His name was still on some expert-witness lists, and a solicitor in Nottingham hired him to help defend a client accused of drug dealing.

At issue was whether a set of scales had the accused’s fingerprints and also cocaine residue, as police claimed. Morrison called in a genuine fingerprint expert, but reported on the drug residue himself.

His report was quite passable – if he’d missed the “e” off cocaine that could be a typing error.

But when the distinguished forensic scientist arrived at the solicitor’s office, there was something very strange about his behaviour.

Dr Morrison had turned up in a Toyota SUV and driven all the way from Hyde. But he didn’t know the way to his four-star Nottingham hotel. And when they suggested he use his satnav, he really didn’t understand how to work it. But scientists, the cliché goes, can be deeply eccentric – and so Dr Morrison’s weird behaviour was cheerily explained away. As it was, in even more ludicrous circumstances, when he called in on the scientist who’d produced the police report.

Adam Booker, a hip, spiky-haired forensic chemist in Derby, had recently started watching CSI after his girlfriend had recommended the programme. So he was amazed when a Dr Gene Morrison turned up in his office wanting to discuss his report for the police on the drug scales. In his fluorescent “forensic investigator” jacket Morrison looked for all the world like

Dr Sheldon Hawkes in CSI: NY. Powell had never seen a jacket like it before (Morrison had had it made up by charming a Hyde clothier’s). Morrison had a blonde girl in tow, Kelly, who Booker recalls kept asking, “Can we go now, Rocky?” between texting on her mobile.

Booker had already been tipped off by a forensic colleague about Morrison’s weird behaviour, and wouldn’t leave him alone in the lab. But what the hell, he thought, I know a forensic who wears a monocle and I don’t assume he’s a shyster, and if Dr Morrison keeps asking naïve-sounding questions, maybe he’s trying to catch me off-guard. As it happened, Booker’s bedtime reading at the time was Catch Me if You Can, made into a Hollywood film with Leonardo DiCaprio – the story of a famous conman. Shortly afterwards, fortunately for Booker’s peace of mind, he – like the Nottingham solicitors – took a call from one of the 12-strong Manchester police squad now investigating Morrison, and neither spoke to him again.

The problem for the police was proving that Morrison had actually done something illegal. Neither private investigators nor forensic scientists are licensed in Britain – he wasn’t committing an offence by being a bungling amateur. So the police homed in on his qualifications – trying to prove he’d fraudulently misrepresented himself. If he’d done so in court, that would also be perjury.

At his trial Morrison tried to insist on being called “Doctor” – he was overruled by the judge – and now sported a pair of studious half-moon glasses as he pored intently over his papers, as lawyers in TV courtroom dramas do. In the dock he was immediately asked by the prosecuting barrister why he was speaking in an American accent when he’d never lived there. Unabashed, Morrison showed off his Jamaican patois, and said: “It’s just something I do.”

Asked to talk about his favourite forensic subject, Morrison assayed a rambling explanation of blood-testing, only for the judge to interrupt with a polite: “I’m afraid you’re losing me, Mr Morrison.” Morrison replied that he was losing himself. It was a disconcerting moment of self-awareness that made some in court wonder at his level of self-deception. When I heard the story, I remember asking Fiona Marsh if people were laughing at Morrison or with him. After a pause she said: “I think maybe he was laughing at us – taking the mick.”

But that may be too cynical. Experienced officers like Det Supt Martin Bottomley, who led the investigation, still believe that – while deserving his sentence – he was as much a Walter Mitty as a knowing shyster. During the trial Morrison tried to hang around with Det Sgt Owen and his colleagues rather than the defence team. “He seemed to think he was somehow one of us,” said Owen. “I explained he couldn’t sit with us, and he grinned, and asked, ‘Is it ’cos I’s black?’ in an Ali G voice. At one point he ran up to us waving a copy of the Evening News, shouting, ‘Hey guys! We’ve made the papers.’ ”

This was act five of the drama he’d been writing himself into for most of his life. Now he had the chance to pass himself off as a forensic investigator – and not in some hapless punter’s trial but in his own. Absolutely nothing – no revelation, no matter how damning – seemed to throw him off-balance. In his police interview Morrison insisted he’d been trained as a handwriting expert by two leading Czech experts, a “Professor Pavel Dedic” and a female colleague. As the trial began, the police discovered the pair in surprisingly humble circumstances three hours outside Prague. Neither had any forensic knowledge – the woman, Kveta, had been his au pair, and Pavel Dedic was her husband, a chimney sweep. Confronted by this in court, Morrison ad-libbed that the couple were a cover – he’d really been trained by a Mr X he’d met on a train. He couldn’t name Mr X because he worked for the Czech Defence Ministry. He offered to take the judge into the corridor and whisper the name in his ear. The judge explained to the self-styled “expert witness” that this isn’t how things are done in court.

One observer told me his lordship was more than once seen to vanish behind his laptop, shoulders heaving. Some members of the jury found it impossible to contain themselves, regularly clutching at the free tissues. “One started off shoving his jumper sleeve into his mouth,” says the police press officer Rachel Smyth. “By the end he gave up and was laughing out loud.” Det Sgt Owen recalls people having to rush out of the court with their hands over their mouths. An awful thought occurred to him: was it all a deliberate tactic? Would Morrison charm the jury?

If he did, it didn’t work. Morrison had pleaded guilty to two charges. The jury now convicted him of the 20 others – including perjury and perverting the course of justice. The judge deliberated carefully. Much longer than usual, one court reporter said. Then he sentenced Morrison to five years.

Of his time in prison, rumours already abound. Morrison seemed deflated but took it well. He’s doing an IT course. He had to move from Strangeways to Risley because other inmates had become convinced he was a police scientist. And police say that when he gets out, he’s going to try to set up shop again.

Crime Scene Conman will be broadcast on BBC1 at 10.35pm on Wednesday, February 6
Click here to find out more!"




PUBLISHER'S NOTE: The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be accessed at:

For a breakdown of some of the cases, issues and controversies this Blog is currently following, please turn to:

Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;;