Crime scene cleaner Lee Iordanidis pulls back the curtain on working with death

Even after being attacked by a killer hidden in the ceiling and stabbed by a junkie with a syringe, Sydney’s crime scene cleaner says she would never change jobs.

Crime scene cleaner Lee Iordanidis pulls back the curtain on working with death

The key, Lee Iordanidis says, is never to ask what happened.

When grieving families approach the experienced cleaner, the first thing she does is ask the caller how they are doing.

“I never say ‘what happened?’ – I always say, ‘How are you?'” she says.

“You have to think about the people who have been left behind.”

Camera IconLee Iordanidis has been Sydney’s forensic cleaner for 30 years, cleaning up after hoarders, squatters, death, and bloody murder. Credit: News Corp Australia

Ms. Iordanidis strives to maintain a good relationship with the families or friends who often suffer the tragic loss of a family member or friend they have not been able to say goodbye to.

She jokes that she “became a psychiatrist without degrees.”

Ms. Iordanidis can empathize with clients who entered the business more than 30 years ago after the death of a friend. She was shocked to learn that her friend’s family had to clean up the place after he died.

“In addition to losing a family member, you also have to clean it up,” she says.

Instead, she decided to help the family and do the cleaning herself — and she hasn’t looked back.

“I did it, and it wasn’t easy – it was my friend. But if I can do it for him, I can do it for everyone,” she said.

Mrs. Iordanidis, whose grandfather was a gravedigger, cleans up after squatters, hoarders, natural deaths, suicides, and horrific crime scenes. Nothing is too heavy for her heavy natural products or her sunny attitude.

Camera IconOne of the horrific scenes that Lee Iordanidis has cleaned in her career. Credit provided: News Corp Australia

“I think this is what I should always have been,” she said.

“This isn’t a difficult job – it’s a job of love and passion.”

Her love for the craft comes despite her being attacked by a killer hidden in the ceiling, beaten with a gun, threatened with a knife, and stabbed by a junkie with a syringe.

When a hidden killer jumped from the ceiling onto her back, Ms. Iordanidis said she radioed her crew to tell them she had a man on top of her.

“Well, aren’t you lucky?” came the funny answer before her associates – who she described as “big, muscular footballers” – pulled the killer off her and detained him for the police. Contrary to popular belief, Ms. Iordanidis says it is common for murderers to return to the crime scene.

Camera icon The glamorous Lee Iordanidis said people often mistake her for a hairdresser or beautician and are often shocked when they hear her real work. Credit: News Corp Australia

She was also threatened by “a junkie” at an hourly hotel in Kings Cross when he mistook her for a police officer. The man held a knife to the cleaner’s throat and stabbed her with a needle.

“That was the worst because I had to wait three months to do the second test for HIV,” she said.

“So we were in a bind… so that was pretty harrowing for me, to think my job put me in this position of being stabbed by a syringe.”

At the other end of the spectrum, one of the saddest scenes she has seen in her long career was the suicide of an eight-year-old boy who was bullied so badly that he killed himself instead of going to school.

But it’s not all tears and fears – the bubbly Mrs. Iordanidis says there’s also a humorous side to crime scene cleanup.

She recalls when one of her “boys” had to be constantly reminded to wear his protective gloves at crime scenes, which he found uncomfortable for his large hands.

Camera IconLee Iordanidis says she looks beyond blood and gore to sympathize with families and friends left behind. Credit: News Corp Australia

After a few reminders, it appeared that he had listened a little too close to the boss and kept him on while using the bathroom – resulting in a very uncomfortable honeymoon for the employee and his new wife.

“He said, ‘Well, you told me to keep my gloves on,'” laughed Mrs. Iordanidis.

This dark, humorous side of the work led to the creation of the crime comedy The Cleaner, which helps Ms. Iordanidis launch in Australia, drawing on her real expertise on the subject.

The British show features award-winning comedian Greg Davies, who stars as the eponymous crime scene cleaner who dives in to clean up the mess after the police finish.

While she loves the show, which she says is accurate and “hilarious,” Ms. Iordanidis says the reality of the job is a lot less palatable.

“They did their best but still have to show humor because people are watching it. If people saw me doing the work, it would be very different because it’s much more graphical,” she says.

Camera icons a new Britbox show called ‘The Cleaner’, award-winning actor Greg Davies plays a crime scene cleaner who cleans up the scene after the police are done. The crime comedy also features Helena Bonham Carter. Ryan O’Donoghue Credit: News Corp Australia

Despite all she’s seen, Ms. Iordanidis says Covid-19 has created new difficulties in her work. She warns that the “isolating” pandemic has sparked mental health problems, especially among vulnerable people.

“The end of it will be a lot of mental health problems, a lot of suicides, a lot of elderly people who don’t have people to take care of them,” she said.

“The government must look at the mental health issues that will arise.”

If you want to learn more about crime scene cleaning, Ms. Iordanidis recommends watching The Cleaner on Britbox.

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Lori J. Kile
I love to write and create. I love photography, design, travel and art. I am a full time freelance writer and photographer.I am very excited to be creating new content and opportunities for my readers.