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The Recovery of Latent Fingermarks from Evidence Exposed to Ionizing Radiation

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Continual reports of illicit trafficking incidents involving radioactive materials have prompted authorities to consider the likelihood of forensic evidence being exposed to radiation. In this study, we investigated the ability to recover latent fingermark evidence from a variety of substrates that were exposed to ionizing radiation. Fingermarks deposited on common surfaces, including aluminum, glass, office paper, and plastic, were exposed to doses ranging from 1 to 1000 kGy, in an effort to simulate realistic situations where evidence is exposed to significant doses of radiation from sources used in a criminal act. The fingermarks were processed using routine fingermark detection techniques. With the exception of glass and aluminum substrates, radiolysis had a considerable effect on the quality of the developed fingermarks. The damage to ridge characteristics can, in part, be attributed to chemical interactions between the substrate and the components of the fingermark secretions that react with the detection reagents.

Keywords: biological; chemical; fingermark detection techniques; forensic science; ionizing radiation; latent fingermarks; nuclear forensics; radiological; radiological forensics

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Australian Nuclear Science & Technology Organisation, Menai, NSW 2234, Australia. 2: National Centre for Forensic Studies, University of Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia. 3: Centre for Forensic Science, University of Technology, PO Box 123, Broadway, Sydney, NSW 2007, Australia.

Publication date: May 1, 2009

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