|Christian with an ultra violet light used to help spot signs of stains.
TORONTO -- Just call them the crime scene cleanup guys.
Or as Christian and his father David like to insist, “biological decontamination specialists.”
When trauma and tragedy strike in Toronto, these are the people who clean up after the crime scene tape has been torn down.
David, 62, the president of Crime and Trauma Scene Cleaners Inc., and his son Christian, 38, who is also in the business, have made CSI-type environments their daily grind for the last decade.
The duo, who employ about 20 people to help them clean and decontaminate, specialize in all kinds of environment restoration.
Businesses and families across the country hire them to come in and restore some of the most traumatic environments imaginable.
Suicide, homicide, human decomposition, accidental death and hoarders - it’s all in a day’s work for these two, Christian tells me over the phone.
Then he politely excuses himself to read his daughters a bedtime Dr. Seuss book.
As a crime junkie myself, I’ve read an embarrassing number of murder mysteries. My apartment is lined with Hollywood flicks that feature the best in blood spatters and gore.
But I’m going to witness the real thing with Christian and David, as they pick me up and we go to assess a real homicide scene.
“We don’t really get affected by anything anymore. We’re desensitized to it now,” David says, as he focuses on the road.
Christian, who wanted to be a radio announcer when he was a kid, says he still remembers the first crime scene he saw that affected him.
“Someone had used a human head as a mantle piece on a fireplace. It had been there a few weeks and it wasn’t pretty. I walked in and immediately threw up in my full-face respirator mask,” he says, grinning in thought about his moment of weakness.
Since then, they say they’ve seen it all, and absolutely love what they do for a living.
“It’s a recession-proof job and you’ll never run out of work,” David says, mentioning that in fact, when the economy is especially bad, the work actually picks up for them tenfold.
“For example, every time a manufacturing plant shuts down, we always get a whole bunch of suicides. It’s sad but true,” he says.
David says it’s the most gratifying thing he has ever done for work.
“You’re getting families out of extremely awful situations and you’re helping them get through something they wouldn’t know how to do themselves. No human being should be expected to do those services on their own,” he says, adding that people often wrongly assume that it’s the police or forensics who clean up after a person is killed.
“It’s a good service you’re offering people, and nothing surprises me anymore,” David says, until Christian interrupts him.
“Well, there was that one surprise with the giant iguana,” he says.
David explains that they are often exposed to dangerous conditions, from hazardous substances to unruly animals that attack.
“We were cleaning the home of an individual who had been found dead after a while, and as we’re cleaning, this 6-foot, green iguana, who we didn’t know had been feasting on the dead person, came charging at us,” David says.
“I guess it was the pet of the guy who passed on. Police and forensics had totally missed it.”
The city begins to sprawl out and grassy hills and golden fields replace the downtown skyline. I surprise myself by feeling a bit nervous. I begin to wish I knew what I was going to be walking into.
David and Christian rarely know what the scene they’re going into is going to look like, nor do they know a lot about what happened to the victim. Unlike me, they don’t seem curious about those things and say they’re just focused on getting the job done.
When we show up at the scene they put me in a large white paper suit with a mask, and we step into the small house where someone was murdered. There is blood on the door and my heart is pounding.
The men assess the small house, which is clean except for a few blood stains, and I can’t shake the strangeness of being in someone else’s home when they’re not there. It’s so quiet except for the plodding of our feet and the crinkling of our suits.
Christian and David say that they’re going to order a small crew out tomorrow, but it won’t be much work. They were relieved there was no odour left, which makes their job difficult, they say.
“The removal of odour is an art. The blood removal and all that, it’s straightforward. It’s the odour that’s difficult,” Christian says.
He stresses that odour from human bodies is a sticky substance that’s airborne and gets absorbed in everything -- couches, speakers, hair, skin.
Christian says they have a special odour removal recipe that helps. It dates back to the First World War and it was used to remove the odour of mustard gas on the British and Canadian troops.
For the two men who said they got into the business because they wanted to do something unique, it seems like they’ve struck gold.
We get back in the car and they call their cleaning crew about the next day and head back into the city where they anticipate another day of cleanups.