Washington, June 3 : Research by forensic scientists in the UK has revealed new techniques for identifying for identifying fingerprints on metal, a major breakthrough in crime detection, which could lead to hundreds of cold cases being reopened. orensic scientists at the University of Leicester, working with Northamptonshire Police, revealed the new techniques.
The University's Forensic Research Centre has been working with Northamptonshire Police's scientific support unit to develop new ways of taking fingerprints from a crime scene.
After conducting a study into the way fingerprints can corrode metal surfaces, researchers in the University Department of Chemistry and the Police's scientific support unit have developed the method that enables scientists to 'visualise fingerprints' even after the print itself has been removed.
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," said Dr John Bond, Honorary Fellow at the University of Leicester and Scientific Support Manager at Northamptonshire Police.
"Wiping it down, washing it in hot soapy water makes no difference - and the heat of the shot helps the process we use," he added.
According to Dr Bond, 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.
As a result of the research, cases dating back decades could be reopened because the underlying print never disappears. The technique also works in cases where prints may be left on other metals.
"It's certainly possible hundreds of cold cases could be reopened because with this method the only way to avoid a fingerprint being detected is through abrasive cleaning as that takes a layer off the metal," said Dr Bond.
The new project will explore further the corrosion of metal by fingerprint residue and investigate how it might be used to detect more crime with forensic science.