FIRE INVESTIGATION

Not enough to be subjected to noxious fumes, dust and debris, plus long periods of arduous muck-racking, we now have to contend with the hostile climate of winter and a shortened working day.

Vehicle fire investigation in winter is the worst possible assignment.

A valued client needs a fire damaged vehicle inspected as a matter of urgency.

Out around the M25 and across the A13 to Basildon, a trip of 50 rain-lashed miles, lies a post-nuclear salvage yard. Lurching through the mud towards the Portakabin office, the prospect of having to work outside in the cold and rain for the next four hours does nothing for one's sense of well-being.

The vehicle which needs checking is in a nearby field. This particular car is third one up on a four-high pile of scrap vehicles and the forklift truck cannot get to this field when it's wet.

So, in contrast to the summer attire of light trousers and short sleeved polo shirt beneath light and airy overalls, it is now into lumberjack shirt, heavy trousers and fisherman's sweater, all shoe horned into a large pair of size 44 overalls.

It is strange how much worse the wind is 10 feet off the ground. The rain has already soaked through my overalls and is dripping down the back of my neck. My fingers are numb, despite the use of gloves – which have already become coated with black grease.

All this I can suffer, but the last straw comes when I am suddenly aware of a presence. Looking down and around in the half light I can see the outlines of three salvage yard operatives. At this point their sniggering stops until one, encouraged by the others, shouts out to me in best Essex accent that wearing my woolly hat, I bear an uncanny resemblance to “Benny” from Crossroads. His cohorts stagger away in uncontrolled mirth.

Roll on summer.

Stephen Magnus-Hannaford is managing director of Hannaford Forensic Services.