THE MOST troubling scene most of us face when we go to work is a bleary-eyed colleague forcing a late breakfast into their mouth.

Or a clutch of incomprehensible emails.

But how about having to look at a human head that’s been smashed to small pieces by a machete?

Or perhaps contend with the realisation the small, entirely helpless baby in the cot has been killed by one of its parents?

This is Nikki Wake’s reality. As a Police Scotland Crime Scene Manager, the Detective Sergeant’s life is literally murder.

Thankfully, Wake, who was born in the north of Scotland, has the stomach for the task at hand.

“I’ve never been sick at a crime scene,” she says with a wry smile.

“You have to be a certain type of person to be able to deal with what you see as a Crime Scene Manager.”

Nikki Wake features on our television screens next week in the latest episode of BBC Scotland’s Murder Case.

Glasgow Times:

The series, a BBC iPlayer success story with over 800,000 downloads for the first two episodes alone, examines the case of 46-year-old Stephen Wallace, above.

Stephen Wallace who was killed in his home last year, 12 floors up in a Paisley tower block.

Glasgow Times:

Adrian Atkinson has been jailed for 16 years after admitting murdering his friend Stephen Wallace

From the outset, it looked to be an immensely challenging case for 35 year-old Wake and her Major Investigations Team (MITs) colleagues.

The face on the murdered body was unrecognisable. There were body fragments and blood all over the walls of the flat.

Gradually however, the police officers were able to pull together the clues which revealed the victim’s identity, and also the identity of the attacker.

Nikki Wake admits murder investigation is a hugely demanding job which requires a special type of person.

But who would want to contend with blood and gore on a daily basis?

“I watched Silent Witness years ago on television and always found this sort of work fascinating,” she recalls, smiling.

“So I studied Forensic Science at university and then joined the police.”

Nikki Wake has been working in Glasgow for 14 years. How did she react when she first came across a ‘head caved in?’

“It was quite shocking, but even harder to deal with is realising that someone could stab another person multiple times. That really takes you aback.”

Glasgow Times:

Evil Alexander Pacteau (left) and his victim Karen Buckley (right)

Wake, who works on an average of eight murders a year, adds; “I’ve actually worked on a murder which was like an episode of Breaking Bad. Except it was real.

“It was the Karen Buckley case (the Irish student killed by Alexander Pactea in 2016) whose body was discovered in a barrel of acid.” She adds; “It’s incredible what someone will do to another human being.”

Remarkably, Wake is able to leave the crime scene each day and resume normal life at home.

“It is hard to switch off sometimes. One minute you’ve been up in a crime scene suit covered in blood and then the next minute you’re going through your home door.

“But it’s made easier because my husband also works for Police Scotland. We don’t talk detail at home. But it’s great he understands what I work at .

“And we know what not to talk about. The coping mechanism at work however involves the use of a lot of black humour. Given what we see we need to use that.”

The hardest cases to cope with emotionally are not the violent murders, such as the case of Stephen Wallace.

Glasgow Times:

“It’s the baby and children’s deaths,” she admits in soft voice. “You’d have to be made of steel not to be affected by the death of a child.”

But what of working in that milieu? Does she fear retribution from someone she has arrested?

“Well, you get threatened all the time,” she says with a wry smile.

“You get told ‘I’m going to kill you. I’m going to stab you!’ In fact, I can remember when I was assaulted on my birthday, and I had a year’s service in at the time. I got kicked in the face and my dad was really upset by this. That’s the job however. It can be mental at times but you have to brush it off.”

She adds; “Thankfully, the Police is like a big family and we know how to help each other cope.. We go out and have a blow-out at the weekend.

“And after 14 years I still really love my job. I love the challenge. I love my work because every day is a learning curve.”

What of sexism? Policing was traditionally a man’s world. “That’s old school,” she shrugs. “I’ve never experienced sexism or been treated differently because I’m a female.”

Wake is pleased to be a role model, an encourager for young women into crime. Solving crime, of course.

She’s a little less sure however about the profile that comes with television exposure. Wake knows it’s important to keep a distance from the criminal world.

But given her experience and knowledge of the criminal mind, when she retires will she become a crime writer?

“No,” she laughs. “But I do regret not making notes on some of the murders I worked on. Sometimes you forget just how incredible the stories are.”

She adds, smiling; “Silent Witness is fascinating. I still watch the re-runs. But when you actually do this job you realise it takes longer than an hour to solve murder cases.

“This documentary (made by Firecrest Films) shows it as it really is.”

To find out how the murder of Stephen Wallace was solved tune into; Murder Case, Tuesday, BBC Scotland, 9pm.