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Questions of character

The troubled history of Colin Manock
by
March 2022, no. 440
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A Witness of Fact: The peculiar case of chief forensic pathologist Colin Manock by Drew Rooke

Scribe, $32.99 pb, 240 pp

Questions of character

The troubled history of Colin Manock
by
March 2022, no. 440

Drew Rooke begins A Witness of Fact in the viewing gallery of Adelaide’s Forensic Science Centre, his eyes scanning the stainless steel benchtops, scissors, ladles, a pair of ‘large, heavy-duty shears used for cutting through ribs’, and an arsenal of knives of different styles and sizes – ‘what you would see in a commercial kitchen’. The atmosphere is cool, sterile, and menacing. This is where disgraced forensic pathologist Colin Manock worked for thirty years. Given that this book is about Manock, the opening could be confused with scene-setting. But there is a deeper significance to the author’s choice of words, one that goes to the heart of his book: what transforms knives in a commercial kitchen into specialist tools of medical forensics? How is our trust in the criminal justice system dependent upon our thinking of the ladles and scissors not as ordinary objects but, when placed in the right hands, as the instruments of experts? Who has the authority to speak for the dead or to interpret the mute language of deceased flesh? And in Colin Manock’s case, what do we do about the four hundred criminal convictions secured by someone juries believed to be an expert witness but who had few formal qualifications beyond that of a general practitioner?

Alecia Simmonds reviews 'A Witness of Fact: The peculiar case of chief forensic pathologist Colin Manock' by Drew Rooke

A Witness of Fact: The peculiar case of chief forensic pathologist Colin Manock

by Drew Rooke

Scribe, $32.99 pb, 240 pp

Buy this book

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