Police have launched an investigation into claims that firefighters at Dorset and Wiltshire Fire Service photographed women who had died in car accidents.

This comes after ITV News uncovered evidence that images were shared on an informal WhatsApp group, where male firefighters are alleged to have made degrading comments about the deceased victims.

One whistleblower, speaking anonymously, told ITV: "I've seen people make comments about the type of underwear the women are wearing in the car crash."

The female firefighter added: "Retrieving the body of someone dead should tear you apart, not make you want to take photos of it, just to joke about it later.

"Because that's someone's loved one, isn't it? That's someone's relative."

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Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service (DWFRS) has also launched its own independent review, amid damning testimony about the treatment of women within the organisation.

Several female firefighters said there was persistent sexual harassment within their stations, including one male firefighter demanding sexual favours at the scene of a fire.

The women also shared dozens of explicit photographs and messages they had been sent unsolicited by male colleagues, including demands for sex.

Despite several of the firefighters being reported for their behaviour, it is understood that all of the men are still working for the service.

Sarah - not her real name - said: "I'd never want to see a picture like that and it repulses you, and then you have to go back to work.

"You have to sit with this person in the truck, you have to go to fire calls with them and you know the way they feel and you know what they've sent you.

"And it just changes the whole atmosphere."

ITV News has discovered that one of the individuals who sent explicit photographs to Sarah also sent the same pictures of himself to a separate woman within hours of her attending an open day at the fire station.

She subsequently decided not to join the service.

Advancing career would 'cost sexual favours'

Similar experiences are shared by another firefighter, Jess, whose name we have also changed.

She told ITV that a male colleague tried to kiss her while they were attending the scene of a fire.

"It was late into it and the fire was dampening down basically," she told us.

"The crew had been sent away to fill up the appliance with water, which meant that I was left alone with him on site.

"Whilst we were alone, he was trying to kiss me.

"Then he said: 'if we hurry up, then you can give me sexual favours before they come back.'

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"I remember just sitting there and in my mind just thinking, please guys just come back quickly. Where are they? What's taking them so long?"

The interaction left Jess feeling vulnerable. She was told that in order to progress her career, she'd have to provide sex in return.

"Things like if I want to advance my career - or if I want any help or guidance - I am told it would cost me sexual favours.

"Meetings would be arranged for me to go into the station to work on my development folder, but when I arrived that would be quickly scrapped and I would be told to get naked or do a sexual favour."

When Jess told him she would report him, he told her she wouldn't be believed.

"It makes you feel kind of worthless and deflated because we train so hard to get in and then to do the job... and yet we're only ever just seen as that, that that's all will ever be.

Salisbury Journal: Chief fire officer Ben Ansell.Chief fire officer Ben Ansell. (Image: DWFRS)

Chief fire officer Ben Ansell, at DWFRS, was interviewed by ITV News at Five Rivers Leisure Centre, in Salisbury, on Monday, January 30.

He said there is "no place" for inappropriate behaviour in a "modern service", adding: "The matters you have raised with us are deeply concerning and we take allegations of this nature extremely seriously.

"As allegations of criminal behaviour are involved, we have immediately alerted the police so the appropriate action can be taken. I am also commissioning an independent investigation.

"As part of this investigation, I will be providing all of our female staff with the opportunity to speak to an independent organisation."

A confidential helpline has been set up for staff.

"The vast majority of our staff are good people, working hard and doing a great job. But when and if those standards are not met, we will move quickly to address it," added Mr Ansell.