Lee Iordanidis (pictured), from Sydney, has been a crime scene cleaner for 30 years. She
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Cleaning up crime scenes sounds like a horror story for most, but it’s just another day of work for forensic cleaner Lee Lordanidis.

The 59-year-old has seen some of the most gruesome crime scenes in Sydney during her ongoing 30-year career.

From being jumped on by a murderer on the run to finding a missing human ear that had been stolen by a family pet, Lee has come across what many would likely never experience. 

Growing up with a grandfather who was a grave digger, Lee said she was always taught ‘death was inevitable’ and ‘not to be frightened of it’.

Lee Iordanidis (pictured), from Sydney, has been a crime scene cleaner for 30 years. She's been jumped on from the ceiling by a murderer, held at knifepoint and found a missing human ear while on the job

Lee Iordanidis (pictured), from Sydney, has been a crime scene cleaner for 30 years. She’s been jumped on from the ceiling by a murderer, held at knifepoint and found a missing human ear while on the job 

Growing up with a grandfather who was a grave digger, Lee said she was always taught 'death was inevitable' and 'not to be frightened of it'

Growing up with a grandfather who was a grave digger, Lee said she was always taught ‘death was inevitable’ and ‘not to be frightened of it’

The horrid crime scenes are often fraught with blood-spattered walls and carpets, maggots, flies, human fluids and sometimes human remains.

Lee is always aware of what she’s going to walk into and says a job can take anywhere between one day to three weeks to complete.

‘I walk into hell and walk out of heaven, because for me I like to make sure the families can always go back in feeling safe,’ she said.

She’s cleaned hotel rooms, houses, granny flats and squatter hideouts, and says ‘you never forget the smell of death’.

‘Imagine the worst smell at the dump you can think of on a hot day, multiply that by a million and then you’re getting close,’ she said.

To combat against the smell she applies Vicks VapoRub inside the tips of her nostrils and a couple of coffee beans inside the respirator face mask.

The horrid crime scenes are often fraught with blood-spattered walls and carpets, maggots, flies, human fluids and sometimes human remains. To combat against the potent smell, she applies Vicks VapoRub inside the tips of her nostrils and a couple coffee beans inside the respirator face mask

The horrid crime scenes are often fraught with blood-spattered walls and carpets, maggots, flies, human fluids and sometimes human remains. To combat against the potent smell, she applies Vicks VapoRub inside the tips of her nostrils and a couple coffee beans inside the respirator face mask

Lee has cleaned hotel rooms, houses, granny flats and squatter hideouts, and says 'you never forget the smell of death'

Lee has cleaned hotel rooms, houses, granny flats and squatter hideouts, and says ‘you never forget the smell of death’

Lee has been able to cope with walking into the aftermath of horrific crime scenes because of her upbringing and having to handle the shocking deaths of those close to her.

She started her unique career after a friend committed suicide and she couldn’t bear the thought to watch the family clean up the mess.

‘Obviously my friend’s mum was absolutely devastated, and people don’t realise the police don’t touch the mess that’s made,’ she said.

‘So I took myself off to Bunnings, bought a hazmat suit, gloves and cleaning products.’

Once inside the home she had to remove the cupboards, cleaned the carpet and any remanence of human fluids and flies.

‘I thought: “If I can do this for a friend, I can do it for anybody”, and that’s how I became a forensic cleaner,’ she said.

Lee has always been enchanted by crime and previously worked for lawyers.

Lee is always aware of what she's going to walk into and says a job can take anywhere between one day to three weeks to complete

Lee is always aware of what she’s going to walk into and says a job can take anywhere between one day to three weeks to complete

With her hair neatly groomed and nails done, Lee said others often believe she's a hairdresser or secretary and are astonished when she reveals her job title

With her hair neatly groomed and nails done, Lee said others often believe she’s a hairdresser or secretary and are astonished when she reveals her job title

Lee recalled moments of danger as on one occasion a murderer jumped on her from the ceiling when she was working. 

‘We were in a beautiful leafy area in North Sydney where a murder had happened,’ she said. 

‘I started the job, it was an older house, and I thought “these f**cking possums (in the roof) are so loud, how big are they?”.’

‘As I walked down the hallway, the trapdoor ladder on the ceiling was down, next thing I knew he jumped and landed on top of me.

‘My boys had to grab him, pull him off and we called the police to say, “Um we found your murderer, he’s here”.’

'I walk into hell and walk out of heaven, because for me I like to make sure the families can always go back in feeling safe,' she said

‘I walk into hell and walk out of heaven, because for me I like to make sure the families can always go back in feeling safe,’ she said

The tough nature of the job does often take a tool on Lee's mental health at time, particularly if children are involved. To cope with it all, she's supported by her husband, Peter, (pictured) and enjoys listening to music, drinking coffee and going for long walks

The tough nature of the job does often take a tool on Lee’s mental health at time, particularly if children are involved. To cope with it all, she’s supported by her husband, Peter, (pictured) and enjoys listening to music, drinking coffee and going for long walks

On another occasion she claims she was held at knifepoint and shot at in a ‘dingy’ hotel in Kings Cross.

‘We had been out on the hotel awning picking up syringes and were talking to a couple through the window for hours,’ she said.

‘They didn’t care we were there, so I went down to the car and changed into my blue overalls because I was getting a bit dirty. 

‘But when I went to walk back up the stairs one of the guys (in the hotel room) I had been speaking to thought I was a cop and held a knife to my neck.’

Lee’s co-workers had to calmly tell the man to lower the knife, which he eventually did, but instead he ‘jabbed her with a needle’.

‘It’s never ever a dull day; I had to wait three months to see if I had any HIV.’

When asked what death smells like, Lee said: 'Imagine the worst smell at the dump you can think of on a hot day, multiply that by a million and then you're getting close.'

When asked what death smells like, Lee said: ‘Imagine the worst smell at the dump you can think of on a hot day, multiply that by a million and then you’re getting close.’ 

When recalling how she found a missing human ear, Lee claims the story is ‘quite sad to talk about’ as the circumstances involved a murder-suicide attempt.

‘The father killed the child and shot himself, but didn’t die,’ she claims, adding: ‘So they took him to the hospital and I received a phone call explaining his ear is missing.’

‘We looked everywhere you could think of, then we heard the dog next door chewing on something and realised it has the ear.’

With a quick visit to the pet shop, the human ear was retrieved and the dog was given a pig ear to munch on.

'There's nothing I haven't seen; it's never a dull day,' she said

‘There’s nothing I haven’t seen; it’s never a dull day,’ she said

With her hair neatly groomed and nails done, Lee said others often believe she’s a hairdresser or secretary and are astonished when she reveals her job title.

‘Some people either run away thinking “I’m weird” or I have others wanting to know more,’ she said.

‘When I take my uniform off, I’m still me. So I still want to look good and feel like myself,’ she said.

The uniform itself covers the entire body with a hazmat suit, gloves, socks, boots, eye goggles and respirator.

The tough nature of the job does often take a tool on Lee’s mental health at times, particularly if children are involved. 

To cope with it all, she’s supported by her husband, Peter, and enjoys listening to music, drinking coffee and going for long walks. 

‘There’s nothing I haven’t seen,’ she said. 

Lee added how she’s excited about the launch of the new television show The Cleaner, starring Helena Bonham Carter, that focuses on a crime scene cleaner and can be watched on BritBox. 

If you or someone you know is in need of crisis or suicide prevention support, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit the website here.

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