BETWEEN them they have devised countless gruesome killings - now a group of leading crime writers is being asked to discern whodunit in an online murder trial devised by forensic experts at a Scottish university.

Novelists Val McDermid, Oyinkan Braithwaite and Craig Robertson will be among the jurors in “The Evidence Chamber”, co-developed at the University of Dundee’s Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science (LRCFS).

The interactive theatre production, which will debut online next week, was designed to raise questions about how we respond to the communication of different types of evidence and how our preconceptions can affect decisions, by allowing members of the public to play the role of juror in a murder trial.

A live version of the show, which saw participants gather in a real jury deliberation room, premiered at the University’s Festival of the Future last year. Experience design studio Fast Familiar has now reimagined it as an interactive courtroom drama for remote audiences.

Crime Queen McDermid, along with fellow novelists Braithwaite and Robertson, will be among the jurors when the show premieres on Thursday [JULY 23]. Members of the public will be able to take their place in the virtual jury box from the following day.

The world-leading expertise of the LRCFS team helped the show’s producers to provide insights into how forensic evidence is presented in court.

Live performances have proved particularly popular with crime fiction and true crime fans, and the online version is also expected to be a hit with aficionados of these genres. It is also helping to further LRCFS research into the use of digital technology in the courtroom.

Professor Niamh Nic Daéid, Director of LRCFS, said: “Discovering innovating new ways of communicating forensic science is vital to our mission to ensure that the evidence presented in court is as scientifically robust as possible.

“When juries are making decisions about a person’s guilt or innocence, it is vital that they have confidence in their understanding of the scientific robustness of the evidence presented to them. That is why we work creatively and collaboratively to make science accessible to the public within the criminal justice context.”

The Evidence Chamber is also an exploration of how people make decisions, what they find persuasive and how being part of a group can affect decisions. Part interactive theatre, part social experiment, it asks a group of strangers sitting in their own homes to reach a verdict on a difficult fictional case.

The fictional crime scene sees Reeta Banerjee, a celebrated human rights activist, found dead at her home. Electrical goods are missing from her office, so is this a burglary gone wrong? The suspect, Andrew Davidson, swears he wasn’t there, but can he really be trusted? The evidence doesn’t paint a clear picture. In an online jury deliberation room, participants will watch the testimonies and scrutinise the evidence before debating them with fellow jurors before they reach their verdict.

McDermid, an Honorary Graduate of the University of Dundee, said: “What goes on behind the closed doors of a jury room is constantly intriguing. We’ve all been astonished by verdicts. For me, having the inside track on weighing the evidence will be a real treat.”