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Forensic technology developed at Loughborough University will make it “impossible” for criminals to destroy fingerprint evidence

New forensic technology created by scientists at Loughborough University will make it “impossible” for criminals erase their fingerprints from crime scenes.

The original fingerprint which prompted Dr Kelly's curiosity

The advanced detection technique, which allows investigators to take prints from problematic exhibits, such as spent ammunition casings, was carried out in partnership with the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) - an executive agency of the Ministry of Defence.

Those involved in the innovation said it will make it far easier for police to recover impressions from previously problematic crime scenes involving materials subjected to high temperatures, or immersed in water or prints left on deformed surfaces.

Overseeing the project for Loughborough was Dr Paul Kelly, of the University’s chemistry department.

He started work on the project seven years ago alongside PhD student Rob King, who is now a research and development applications specialist for forensic company Foster and Freeman (F&F) – the company that will make the technology commercially available later this year.

Dr Kelly said the technique, which uses a chemical to unciver prints, has the potential for major advancements in forensic science, and expects it to be popular across the globe.

He said: “This advancement opens up possibilities for evidence retrieval in situations where traditional methods either struggle or fail completely – for example, when attempts have been made to destroy print evidence through burning or washing.

“The whole process, up until now, has been developed here at Loughborough, from its initial serendipitous observations through to prototyping. But now Foster and Freeman will refine the technology for commercial use.

“It’ll be gratifying to see it sold worldwide and deliver a positive impact on forensic capabilities.”

The DSTL is one of the principal government organisations dedicated to science and technology in the defence and security field and is run along commercial lines.

The agency’s lead scientist on the project Steve Thorngate said it would be “impossible” for criminals to eliminate fingerprint evidence.

He said: “Through our work with Loughborough University, the ability to significantly increase fingerprint recovery rates from items recovered will mean criminals will find it impossible to conceal or destroy their fingerprints.

“This research with Loughborough has seen us demonstrate the ability to recover fingerprints that would have been previously exceptionally challenging or impossible to recover.

“Although the technology needs further refinement, it will be of significant benefit to forensic scientists across the world.”

The managing director of F&F Bob Dartnell said: ”By having access to this technology we will be able to provide a major step forward in fingerprint detection and visualisation in order to enable our customers to have significant gains in their capability to aid detection rates and convictions.”

The study was carried out in collaboration with the Home Office’s Centre for Applied Science and Technology – the organisation behind the world-recognised Fingermark Visualisation Manual – which ensured that the technology was accurately developed to tackle realistic and challenging scenarios.

News of the innovation was announced yesterday by Defence Minister Harriett Baldwin.

She said: “British innovation is progressing at a rapid pace and we are investing millions in it to keep our country safe.

“Whether it’s used on a foreign battlefield or a British crime scene, this pioneering fingerprint technology will make it much harder for criminals to escape justice.”

ENDS

 

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 17/163

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Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world to study sports-related subjects in the 2017 QS World University Rankings and top in the country for its student experience in the 2016 THE Student Experience Survey.

Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 6th in the Guardian University League Table 2018, 7th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018 and 10th in The UK Complete University Guide 2018. It was also named Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2017.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.

 

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