WITH just months left to go in his role before retirement, West Midlands Police homicide detective sergeant Al Darby has become a national TV star along with some of his colleagues whose work is being featured on reality show Forensics: The Real CSI.

DS Darby, who features on the new BBC2 documentary about the force's forensic department, has investigated more than 100 murders in his role on the homicide team which he describes as "frightening, challenging and rewarding".

The job can be emotionally and physically draining, especially when investigating a new case when teams can often work 20-plus hours a day during the initial stages to secure evidence, speak to witnesses, support families and deal with prisoners.

He said: "We’re all human and have our own lives outside of work, but when someone is murdered we instinctively are more than happy to give up family time and other commitments to make sure we get the ‘baddies’.

“When we are able to find the person responsible and get them to court, so justice can be done, and I see the comfort it offers so many families, I take some solace and job satisfaction. We’re committed to doing our very best for the families who are left utterly devastated by these crimes.

“It’s tough emotionally and some cases get under your skin more than others, they will stay with me forever."

DS Darby, who is set to retire in July when he’ll have completed 30 years’ service, said he often feels guilty about the long hours he’s worked, especially when his daughter, now 16, was younger. He recalls her often waiting up for him to get home from work to give her a kiss goodnight.

He said: “We’re a group of very committed individuals, its more than a job, it’s a vocation. The work-life balance can be difficult at times but we all try to work together to minimise that for each other as much as we can."

Outside of work Al is a keen runner and is currently rebuilding a house and has had no hot water or heating all winter. He says all of this helps with stress and keeping his mind in a healthy place. The comradery and teamwork that go with the job also help, he said.

Al joined the police force in 1991, having initially wanted to go into the RAF due to his love of flying - which he still enjoys now.

During his long and varied career - he's spent time as a response officer, a neighbourhood policing role, in the operational support unit and CID, and on the homicide team for the last 10 years.

He says he's loved nearly every minute of his time with the police - a career he decided to pursue having watched a TV series called Black in Blue which followed new recruits in the Met.

He said: “I know it’s a cliché - but I’m genuinely proud. It’s a fantastic career which has changed so much since I joined, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I feel privileged and fortunate to be in the job. The people I work with are amazing and I’m in awe of the bravery of the bereaved families we seek to assist at their darkest times."

On his retirement he plans to complete the renovations on his house and says he will be looking into an Open University course, possibly history, to help keep his mind active.

He is also looking forward to getting back in the air and may even consider becoming a flying instructor.

Episode 2 of Forensics: The Real CSI airs tonight at 9pm on BBC 2. Previous episodes can be seen on the BBC iPlayer.