True Stories from the Life of a Forensic Investigator

‘Day after day my life was consumed by killings, distress and gruesome sights, each one adding another piece to an ever-growing mosaic that seemed to be made up of bloodied disposable gloves, plastic bags and human waste. My mind was becoming filled with these remnants, storing them for later …’

When Esther McKay, an idealistic young constable with the NSW police, entered the tough, male-dominated world of forensic investigation, she was determined to hold her own. She soon found herself at deeply confronting crime scenes, often working alone and without supervision. Her cases ranged from a beautiful young girl macheted to death by her jealous boyfriend to the electrocution of a small child, from the Newcastle earthquake victims to the suicide whose body had liquified in his poisoned car.

Eventually it became too much to bear. After years of long, lonely, exhausting days and nights, and the following a particularly harrowing high-profile case involving the disappearance of two young boys, Esther had a breakdown and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. She was discharged from the police force hurt in the line of duty, and ultimately began a remarkable journey to recovery.

The book is Esther's story. Powerful, moving and unforgettable. CRIME SCENE takes us inside the life of a forensic investigator, and reveals as never before the extraordinary demands and dangers of forensic work.

An excerpt of the Afterword by Dr Selwyn Smith
Consultant Psychiatrist, St John of God Hospital

Esther McKay has written a remarkable book. She describes in riveting detail the work of a police officer in general and a crime scene investigator in particular. Her descriptions are both crushing and heartrending. Crime Scene is also a significant contribution to the literature of police work because it outlines the insidious nature of the traumatic effects of crime-scene work. Over the course of many years this work has taken a tremendous toll on Esther, and she describes her emotional responses with rare and moving frankness. The chapters devoted to her work at Pheasants Nest leave an indelible imprint on the reader.

Esther McKay has been bold and imaginative in seeking ways to improve the working conditions of those dealing daily with extreme trauma. Her dedication and contributions in the face of adversities are worthy of acclaim. I am sure this book will provide inspiration to others in seeking to prevent the onset of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, not only in police settings but also in other hazardous working environments.

An excerpt of the Foreword by Gabrielle Lord
Award-winning 'Crime Fiction' Author

This book will remind you that behind every crime scene or accident reported in the daily news, people like Esther McKay are there before you read the summary of the tragedy, dealing with the bloody aftermaths, securing the scene, doing what they can to comfort the survivors and relatives, going into people's homes to tell them the worst news they can hear. These aren't skilled grief counsellors with long years of dealing with human suffering; more often than not these are young officers, scarcely out of their teens. They are expected to do this work as part of a job and they do it, unquestioningly. But the demands made on them take their toll. Without wise supervision and understanding support, as Esther reveals in her book, years of trying to suppress strong, natural emotions results in a huge build-up of unexpressed feelings. One day the inevitable happens. It happens to any human being who is forced to practice an inhuman way of living.


"Extremely well-written, with great immediacy and courage, Crime Scene is an unforgettable story that examines how we deal with death, from a woman who has led an incredible life."

Viking Publishing

"Esther McKay has written a remarkable book. She describes in riveting detail the work of a police officer in general and a crime scene investigator in particular. Her descriptions are both crushing and heartrending."

Dr Selwyn Smith

"Esther Mckay is a real and dramatic case study for police organisations across the country. Crime Scene is arguably the biggest and best brief of evidence that Esther Mckay has ever compiled in her career.  The startling reality of this book is that it may be the catharsis resulting in the necessary discharge of pain, anger and frustration embedded in her psyche after fifteen years of long shifts, early morning callouts, gruelling episodes in the witness box and unabated anxiety."

Ted Bassingthwaighte