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'You never get used to the smell.' Lee Iordanidis has spent 30 years cleaning crime scenes.

Warning: This post deals with death, extreme descriptions and suicide and may be triggering for some readers. 

Lee Iordanidis will never get used to the smell of death. 

"Go out to the rubbish tip on the hottest day ever and multiply that by a million and you might be getting close," she explained on this week's True Crime Conversations. 

It's a smell she deals with daily in her job as a crime scene cleaner.

Listen to the full chat with Lee below. Post continues.

But don't be mistaken, Lee absolutely loves her chosen career. She's been doing it for 30 years and won't be giving it up anytime soon.

She came to it at the age of 28 after dabbling in hairdressing for a while and not really clicking with it as a profession. She'd grown up unafraid of death with a grandfather who was a gravedigger, and an Irish Catholic religion that taught her death was a natural, normal part of life. 

So, when a close friend died by suicide, and his parents were informed it was up to them to clean up the mess left behind by his corpse, Lee stepped in. She went to Bunnings, picked up a painter's suit, gloves, boots and a mask and got to work. 

"I didn't know if I was doing the right thing... all I knew is that I was getting the smell out. So I cleaned it up and they [his parents] went back in and I thought, 'I've found what I need to do. This is it. I want to be a crime scene cleaner.'"

Lee grew up unafraid of death. So she made it into her full-time job. Image: Supplied. 

Lee is in hot-demand. She estimates there's only four people with her credentials in the country and she's been flown not just around Australia, but the world, for her services. While her main workload tends to be suicides and unattended deaths, she's done her fair share of murders.

"I'm never shocked by what I've seen, because I have seen everything and I don't think there's one thing left to shock me," she told True Crime Conversations.

"Some jobs can take you three, four weeks because there's so much to do. You've got to get rid of the flies. You've got to get rid of the maggots. Then you've got to rip up the carpet, then you've got to tear up the wooden floors, or even the cement floors - so you've got a jackhammer and you're taking up cement. Then you've got to check that it hasn't got into the soil underneath the house, because that smell will stay there."


When Lee says she's seen it all - she means it. 

There was the time a murderer jumped on her from a roof cavity as she was cleaning up the crime scene he'd created. 

"Murderers do return to the scene of the crime. That's not a fallacy - it's the truth," she said.

There was the time the police called her and asked her to retrieve the ear of a murderer who had fatally shot his son, and then shot himself in the head, taking out his ear. 

"We looked where we thought the ear would have blown off... and next thing I know, I'm hearing this very happy dog next door jumping on something that sounds very grisly. We look over the fence and guess what - dog's got the ear."

She had to get one of her team to buy a pig's ear to swap with the possessive dog, and the man's ear was eventually returned to his person. 

"Let me tell you, that man has got to have the ugliest ear in the world - and he deserves it," Lee said. 

There was the time she helped solve two murders. In one, she found the bloodied knife a woman had used to stab her de facto partner on a shelf in the bedroom closet. Another time, she found fingerprints on the back of a picture frame that had been used to hit someone. 

Maggots, flies and the smell of death are just part of the job. But the positives outweigh the negatives for Lee. Image: Supplied.

There was the time she was cleaning up a particularly gruesome scene, where a woman had taken her life in the spa of a fancy hotel room in the city. Her body had been left there undiscovered in the heat of the day. When Lee got home, she found out the woman was her neighbour - someone she knew quite well. 

Of course there are tough days - many tough days. But it doesn't perturb Lee. 

"Because I really believe this is what I was meant to do," she explained. "And if you believe in your job and have the passion for your job, and believe that you're doing good for the people left behind, then you've got no worries."

Lee considers compassion and empathy a major part of her role. She starts her initial conversations with a client asking, "How are you?" rather than, "How did they die?", and she takes great pride in the care she provides her customers.


"People are at their most vulnerable point," she said. "They're dealing with grief... [and] we all know it's going to happen, but it hits everybody in a different way. So yeah, I'm a psychiatrist without the qualifications.

"It's a big service we offer. We're not just a cleaner, we're a new best friend, a shoulder to cry on - we're everything at that point."

Lee works with a team - which has come in handy when, for example, there was a murderer hiding out in the roof cavity of a vacant crime scene. Image: Supplied.

Her team's services are expensive - often in the five-figure range. They have to be, given the nature of the job. But as Lee told True Crime Conversations, "I have done jobs for free, because I can't let them do it themselves. I'd psychologically damage someone." 

She finds the jobs involving children the hardest. Especially children who've taken their own life. 

"If everybody knew how many suicides there were in the world, happening every day, people would be very scared," said Lee, describing that their 'busy periods' fall around holidays like Christmas, Valentine's Day and Easter where there is a much higher incidence rate of suicide deaths. 

It's a hard job. One where blood, gore and creepy crawlies are just part of your every day. But for Lee, the benefits outweigh the negatives, and she has forged lifelong friendships with some of the families she's helped over the years. 

"You've got to have a strange sense of humour," is her advice, for anyone thinking it could be the job for them. 

"You've got to have a great eye for detail, you've got to be prepared to vomit the first time you smell death, and you've really got to go in there, and see if you can do it... not everyone can."

If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner. If you're based in Australia, 24-hour support is available through Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636. 

If you’ve enjoyed learning about Lee’s story, you can stream The Cleaner, a comedic take on a crime scene cleaners job, available exclusively on BritBox.

Feature Image: Supplied/Lee Iordanidis.