A FREE online course launched which allows participants to take the role of a forensic investigator at the heart of a mystery created by crime writer Val McDermid has already had 10,000 people sign up.

`Identifying The Dead: forensic science and human identification’ was launched last month by the by the University of Dundee and its world-renowned Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification.

The writer penned a story for the course, which begins with a body found on a hill in the centre of Dundee, and participants pick their way through the plot, which unfolds over six weeks through pieces of evidence and video footage.

The project's director, Dr Helen Meadows, said: “We are delighted to have 10,000 people already signed up to the course just weeks after launching it.

“At CAHID we work on this kind of investigation all the time, helping police in criminal investigations and identifying individuals in all manner of different circumstances.

“We know from the queries we get from the public, and also from the huge audiences for programmes like `CSI’ and the sales of crime writers like Val, that there is a huge interest in how this works. What we are doing with this course is giving everyone a chance to find out for themselves how we do it.

Filming for the course has already sparked an alert after locals who spotted people in uniform and police tape thought there had been an actual incident.

Registration for the course, which is free, is open now at www.futurelearn.com.

The course will start in September and will be accessed entirely online, with an optional exam. The story by Val McDermid will also be available to download, but only when the course is completed.