Lovco employees are trained not just to handle specialist chemicals but to deal with such traumatic working conditions'

SOMEONE is shot through the head in their living room, their body thrown across the floor, pools of blood sprayed across the walls and carpet. The gardaí move in and take the corpse. But who cleans up the mess?

Someone dies alone in an armchair. Nobody notices them gone and they sit there, unmissed for weeks on end. It is declared a tragic case and nobody is wanted in connection with the death.

But who walks through thousands of dead flies to remove the skeletal body and tear up the rancid carpets?

Enter Lovco crime scene cleaning specialists – the men with arguably the worst job in Ireland.

When gardaí and paramedics leave the scene, when the publicity dies down, when all that is left is the location of death, these are the men who do the dirty work, and they have seen it all.

The Dublin-based company has been clearing up the sites of murders, suicides and natural deaths since 1998.

Although both ethically and legally prevented from identifying specific cases, Lovco's 16-strong, specially trained cleaners have stepped over garda tape and into some of the country's most infamous crime scenes.

What they find on the other side of the no-entry signs is something few people could deal with.

"When you go into a crime scene, it's full of blood if someone has been shot," says owner Chris Lovett (42).

"But going into a murder scene is like walking into an apartment or someone's house and by the time we get there the body has been moved so it's just a pool of blood."

Murders, however, do not make for the most difficult post-mortem clean-ups.

"There are two different parts to this; there are crime scenes and there are suicides or people who have been left alone and who died," says Lovett.

"The body could be there for two or three months. The coroner would go in and move the body and all the fluids and scabs and smells would be left there in the carpet.

"You can't even breathe. We come in, in masks and fumigate the place so that we can come back and clean it up properly.

"There are thousands and thousands of flies [but] they would all die off in the place. We have to go in and make the place workable.

"If someone dies in a bed at home all of their fluids will come out naturally. You are talking about blood, excrement and everything that is inside a person's body.

"Then we would recommend that the whole place is repainted because no matter how clean and sanitary, you will never get the smell out.

"We have gone in and found people who have hung themselves or who have cut their wrists and sprayed the walls with blood.

"We have found letters for people asking for help who never get it and then [at other times] you can find hundreds or thousands of euro that belong to someone. I have come across three or four thousand.

"There have been other scenes where people have been very drunk and have
put their hands through windows and all that. We have come across some fierce stuff."

Outside of criminal attacks or domestic violence, suicides offer the most disturbing insight into human life, he says. While these men have become understandably desensitised to such scenes, their stories can reveal the final desperation of people whose voices are never heard.

"We came across one Polish girl in her 20s a couple of months ago and we came across 60 or 70 letters that she had written and they were sitting there and no one bothered to help," said Lovett.

Of a prominent Dublin hotel he recalled: "Three weeks ago someone had a blade and they went into a bathroom to try and kill themselves but they changed their mind in the middle of it.

"There was blood everywhere from the walls to the blankets to the carpet and we went in and cleaned it all out so the next people who came in would never know what happened.

"There was one where the girl was lying there for eight to 10 weeks and she was lying on the ground and her scalp and skin were stuck to the ground."

Entering such scenes comes with its dangers – physical and emotional. But those who work at Lovco, and the other specialist cleaning operators who enter such sites, are well trained to deal with what they encounter.

"Then we go in and there would be junkies and the place would be full of syringes.

"One place we went into in Inchicore, there must have been about 2,000 needles. They were hidden everywhere so that if you were looking around you would get stuck."

Some weeks there are no crime scenes or bodies left to decompose; some weeks they may get up to four call-outs. In a typical year, Lovco staff find themselves dealing with up to 60 varying scenes of death and despair.

Employees are trained not just to handle specialist chemicals but to deal with such traumatic working conditions. Gruesome scenes are not their only fare; they carry out other, more normal and less discussed types of cleaning.

But for these jobs they receive inoculations and wear specially designed clothing and gloves to prevent infection. They are always prepared for what they come across. "The lads that are with me are with me for years; they have all been around the block," says Lovett.

"When I first started out I was a butcher by trade and I had done slaughter house work so I was always dealing with blood.

"The likes of human blood would never bother me compared to what I would see in an abattoir."