New forensic method can lift fingerprints from bombs fragments

The state-of-the-art forensic method that can identify fingerprints on bullets could now be used to lift them from bomb fragments even after they have been wiped off. John Bond, scientist at the University of Leicester, who developed the technique with the University chemistry team, said "We have developed a method that enables us to "visualise fingerprints" even after the print itself has been removed. We conducted a study into the way fingerprints can corrode metal surfaces. The technique can enhance - after firing - a fingerprint that has been deposited on a small calibre metal cartridge case before it is fired.For the first time we can get prints from people who handled a cartridge before it was fired. Wiping it down, washing it in hot soapy water makes no difference - and the heat of the shot helps the process we use."

The procedure works by applying an electric charge to a metal - say a gun or bullet - which has been coated in a fine conducting powder, similar to that used in photocopiers. Even if the fingerprint has been washed off, it leaves a slight corrosion on the metal and this attracts the powder when the charge is applied, so showing up a residual fingerprint. The technique works on everything from bullet casings to machine guns. Even if heat vaporises normal clues, police will be able to prove who handled a particular gun. Bond is investigating whether the technique can be used to find prints on roadside bombs. It would mean recovered fragments of bombs could be tested for prints it got while it was fabricated. After the research was published earlier this year, Dr Bond has been approached by military personnel in Afghanistan to discuss potential use of the technique.

Source: newlaunches.comAdded: 29 August 2008