March 29th, 2013
A mummy is a human or animal that has been preserved, through artificial or accidental means (i.e. by exposure to chemicals, very low humidity or extreme cold, lack of air, etc.). People tend to associate the word mummy with the well-known mummies of Egypt or South America but never with contemporary preserved bodies.
From time to time, Forensic Anthropologists and other forensic scientists face the challenge of analyze and identify mummified bodies (normally through fingerprint analysis). The first stage is to rehydrate the tissues in order to regain something of its normal texture. With or without amputation of fingers, the tissues are soaked or injected with solutions in order to enhance fingerprints. The reported formulas vary from a mixture of alcohol, sodium carbonate and water; alcohol alone; fabric softener; or simply 1.2 per cent saline.
Alejandro Hernandez deals with mummies continuously. He is a forensic dentist who works in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico and has a secret formula that allowed him to rehydrate hundreds of mummies in order to identify facial features or reveal wounds related to cause of death. Read about his story here.
January 24th, 2013
We all know from our History classes that the explorer and colonizer Christopher Columbus was born in Genoa, Italy. Or at least that is the the general consensus among historians…
Recently, the forensic document examiner Jesús Delgado published a book entitled “Christopher Columbus, his origin and life examined with 21st century police techniques” (my translation of ”Cristóbal Colón, su origen y vida investigados con técnicas policiales del siglo XXI “.
In his book , Delgado states that Columbus was from Catalonia. A careful study of files containing different types of documents revealed that the explorer lived in Barcelona, Spain and his false origin could be attributed to the Kings of Spain who were not willing to pay him and name Columbus a viceroy. Being a foreigner, he was not entitled to anything promised.
Jesús Delgado also describes the personality of Columbus as being shy, a good father, and a dreamer. ”This is the first book about the life of Columbus based on scientific evidence”, he states.
We will have to see what historians have to say!
For more information on Delgado’s book press here.
Read more here.
November 14th, 2012
The body of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is set to be exhumed on November 26, eight years after his death, to investigate whether he may have been poisoned. Palestinians are coordinating with Russian, Swiss, and French experts.
Mohammed Yasser Abdel Rahman Abdel Raouf Arafat al-Qudwa al-Hussein , popularly known as Yasser Arafat, the president of the Palestinian Authority and a symbol of Palestinian resistance, was a a highly controversial figure. He died in France in 2004, aged 75, a month after being flown, seriously ill, from his battered headquarters in Ramallah, and no autopsy was carried out. Allegations of foul play have long surrounded Arafat’s death, leading to persistent conspiracy theories that he had cancer, AIDS or was poisoned.
French prosecutors opened a murder investigation in August after Al-Jazeera television broadcast an investigation in which Swiss experts from the Swiss Institute of Radiation Physics in Lausanne discovered high levels of the radioactive element polonium-210 on Arafat’s clothing provided by his widow Suha.
The Polonium-210 is a highly radioactive and toxic element, present in foods in low doses. This element is very dangerous if significant doses are ingested.
Read more here and here.
October 15th, 2012
According to the IAPBA (International Association of Bloodstain Pattern Analysts, “bloodstain pattern analysis can yield valuable information concerning the events which lead to their creation when examined by a qualified analyst“.
This type of analysis involves the examination of the size, shape and distribution of bloodstains at scenes involving bloodshed in order to conduct a scientifically based reconstruction of a crime.
BPA as a forensic discipline is credited to Dr. Paul Leland Kirk. He became involved in the famous case of Dr. Sam Sheppard. He was tried and convicted accused of murdering his wife. Dr Kirk testified at the retrial of the case, which led to Sheppard’s acquittal after serving almost a decade in prison.
Recently, scientists in Germany predict that the new insights in the field will lead to a number of criminal cases that will have to be reopened.” Ideas that were once seen as certainties in the field have been put to the test” said Dr. Silke Brodbeck, the director of the Blutspureninstitut in Germany.
It seems the 2012 IABPA Conference that will be held in Edinburgh (Nov. 12-14) will bring news around this issue.
We will keep you posted!
Read more: here
Scientific Working Group on Bloodstain Pattern Analysis (SWGSTAIN)
August 20th, 2012
Forensic imaging means knowledge of the technical aspects of recording crime scenes and objects according to the legal context. The analysis implies the validation, enhancement, and evaluation of video and still images. These applications are very important to understand the special relationships between objects and people for the people involved in the investigation of a crime.
The analysis of a video allows enlarging of portions of a scene, highlighting an object and taking measurements. This often leads to the identification of a person or the number plate of a car. But who would have thought these forensic techniques may have found Amelia Earhart’s plane debris?
Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly alone over the Atlantic Ocean, disappeared in 1937 when she attempted to fly around the world. An immediate search found no traces of her airplane.
Recently, forensic specialists found debris located off Nikumaroro Island in the southwestern Pacific republic of Kiribati, right where analysts and archeologists think Earhart’s plane went down in 1937.
Read full article here.
July 18th, 2012
The forensic analysis of ink evidence covers the analysis of ink samples and the differentiation of the profile of the samples in a forensic context. The available techniques entail microscopy, nos destructive analysis, and chemical analysis. It doesn’t matter the piece of evidence you are handing. You, as a forensic scientist, will try to use the less destructive but most accurate technique available and any innovation regarding avoiding damaging our piece of evidence will be highly appreciated.
The Best Case Study published in 2011 - according to the National Institute of Forensic Science – deals with ink analysis. Broderick Matthews from Flinders University published a virtually non destructive technique able to distinguish different ballpoint pens from a single fiber of paper!
Check this amazing news here.
June 19th, 2012
I was amazed to learn about an area of expertise very peculiar: Forenisc Knot Analysis.
Did you know that are thousands of knots and an infinite number of variants of some of them? Or that two identical knots may have different names if they are tied by different methods or used for different purposes? What about the fact that tying behavior is consistent and reproducible?
I became interested in knots after a few cases I had where bondages were found.
There are only a few experts worldwide contribuiting to solving crimes which involve the tying of knots. They identify a knots, the sort of cordage or rope used (natural or synthetic), maybe help ID the ropemaker…
The areas of expertise are wide. From analysis of knots used in strangulation, hanging ligatures, binding of limbs, suicide, murder, and death in police custody, to assessment of urgency of tying knots and the skills involved.
I wish I had one of those experts handy for my cases.
Welcome to the fascinating world of Forensic Knot Analysis through an interview to Robert Chisnall!
Read complete article here.
More info about knot analysis here.
May 6th, 2012
On a previous post we sadly announced the British government plans to close its Forensic Science Service (click here).
Recently, a growing number of good news related to governments investment in forensic science around the world were announced.
The Guyana government signed a contract for the construction of the first forensic laboratory of the country at the University of Guyana. The construction, founded by Inter-American Development Bank, is part of the modernization plan to upgrade the Guyana Police Force. The multimillion construction is expected to be completed in April. Read more here.
Not so expensive but still very important, the Dubai Police Chief has ordered to establish a Forensic Entomology Division in accordance with a development plan set by the Dubai Police. This new Division will fall under the forensic science and criminology department. More details here.
The East African Community is evaluating which country will host a multimillion Regional Referral Forensic Center (RRFC) whose purpose is to offer about ten forensic disciplines, including DNA, toxicology and ballistics. The RRFC will also set standards and quality assurance, including certifying forensic experts. The report of the EAC experts will be presented to the next meeting of the Chiefs of Police and the fifth Sectoral Council on Inter-State Security for consideration and adoption. More details here.
Another step towards the improvement of forensics services was the South African government promise to launch an internship collaboration between the University of Pretoria and the Department of Health and the establishment of another Forensic Laboratory. Complete article here.
Are these initiatives, the voice of a world that finally understood that not investing in forensic science can be extremely costly?
March 24th, 2012
Results from a research conducted by Dr. Kewal Krishan (Punjab University, India) shows fingerprints found at a crime scene can help in determining the sex of a criminal. The discovery will help the police to narrow down their search to a particular gender.
Years ago, Dr. S. Gungadin, the Principal Police Medical Officer at the Police Medical Division in Port Louis, Mauritius published his results around a research based on sex determination from fingerprint ridge density. His study was conducted on 250 females and 250 males and found out that females tend to have a statistically significant greater ridge density than men.
Click here to read Dr. Gungadin’s paper.
The new study by Dr. Krishan was conducted on 194 individuals and was presented at the AAFC annual conference held at Atlanta, USA, this year. No paper has been published yet.
Read more here.
January 25th, 2012
The exhumation of human remains is a crucial component of the investigation of Human Rights atrocities. But what would you do if there is a religious ban regarding the exhumation of bodies? Well… a forensic archaeologist, Caroline Sturdy Colls, has used a ground penetrating radar – GPR- to “unearth” evidence to prove the existence of mass graves at the Nazi death camp Treblinka. Using this technology, Sturdy has been able to identify a number of buried pits and has already presented her findings to the authorities responsible for the memorial at Treblinka.
More than 800,000 Jews as well as Romani people were killed at Treblinka. The GPR evidence proves that the WWII camp was just not a transit camp. The lack of evidence like the one Sturdy has found, has been used in the past by Holocaust deniers.
On January 27 1945, the Nazi Auschwitz camp where more than 1 million people died, was liberated. The International Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 27, is the international day designated by the UN for the millions of victims (not only Jews) of the Holocaust.
After the Holocaust the world promise “never again” but genocide persists and sixty seven years after January 27 1945, one fifth of young Germans have never heard of Auschwitz.
Read full article here.