Vain Villains!

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Criminals with a love of dyeing their hair could be caught for their vanity.

Scientists have found a way to analyse hair samples at crime scenes to rapidly determine whether it was coloured and what brand of dye was used.

Part of the DNA system is flawed, testing hair samples for DNA requires an intact bulb or root, which isn’t always available. Investigators will often use the more traditional method of visually comparing hair from a crime scene with samples from suspects using a microscope. This approach does not always provide conclusive results. Scientists have wanted to find a more practical and accurate way to analyse hair.

The researchers turned to SERS (surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy) with a portable Raman spectrometer. SERS can detect minute amounts of drugs, explosives, gunshot residue and body fluids. Using this process, forensic teams could easily confirm whether hair samples, even microscopic ones, were dyed and what brand of dye was used.

This precise technique could help forensic investigators analyse hair quickly, catching those vain villains in their stride!

Hair analysis

Mass murder investigations in Tikrit

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Forensic teams in Tikrit have started the horrendous task of excavating what are thought to be mass graves, possibly containing up to 1,700 bodies, days after Iraqi forces re-took the city from Isis militants.

Up to 1,700 Iraqi bodies are reported to be spread around 12 sites, who were brutally killed in a mass execution in June 2014 which was photographed and circulated online by Isis. The victims are believed to be mostly Shia soldiers who were based outside of Tikrit.

Until now at least 20 bodies have been exhumed. Initial indications show that the bodies are of Speicher victims.  A survivor of the carnage told a news agency he was covered in the blood of his fellow soldiers and only escaped execution by pretending he was dead.

DNA testing will be used to identify the bodies once they have been exhumed, many families have never had confirmation of the death of their relatives since the barbaric massacre occurred. An upsetting situation for all involved.


Body bags in Tikrit

Chocolate who dunnit?!

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Criminals are often caught because they make careless mistakes. The person who robbed a safe at an up-market chocolate factory is a prime example. He was caught by his own bad manners. On his way to burgle the establishment’s safe, he toured the factory’s display area, helping himself to samples and biting into several chocolate bars. He tossed uneaten leftovers on the floor, from where police found them. If he had taken his chocolate home, or neatly disposed of it in a rubbish bin, he might never have been caught.

He had used an axe to bash the alarm system off the wall and had then overturned the office safe, making a hole in its back and removing the cash from inside. The employers also noticed the partially eaten chocolate bars the thief had dropped on the floor, and noticed that he had also taken chocolate from a display. Forensic evidence investigated the bite mark and dental records which helped trace the culprit!


bite in choc (2)

Before fingerprinting

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Before the time of collecting fingerprints, some forensic scientists, such as the ancient Chinese, used a process of measuring bodies to try to uncover identities. They kept records of how tall local residents were, as well as how long their limbs were, and then compared the measurements of missing individuals against bodies found!

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Passengers identified through DNA

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Investigators at the crash site of the Germanwings Flight 4U 9535, in the Alps, have been able to identify more than half
of the victims of the crash through DNA testing. Due to the violence of the impact of the plane hitting the mountains,
they have not found a single passengers body intact.

The vastness of the area is making it difficult for the search teams and forensic investigators to find victims and they are
still looking for the second black box which holds important technical flight data from the last moments before impact.

Through the transcript of voice recordings recovered from the first black box details have emerged as to how the Captain of
the aircraft was locked out of the cockpit after going for a comfort break. Loud bangs were heard on the recording, which
is assumed to be the Captain, using an axe to try and enter the cockpit. The investigations continue.

Investigations in Alps

Police forces testing drones

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Drones are being considered a cost effective option for
several Police forces around the country. The cost of
helicopters to forces is under scrutiny and the savings could
be used to fund further officers and boosting dog units to
help with searches.

Drones, also known as UAV’s, unmanned aerial vehicles, can be
up in the air faster, operate in environments that aircraft
could not safely operate, and aid the Police in terms of

They can be used to collaborate evidence quickly which could
be vital to an investigation and aid in the deployment of
officers to the right place more efficiently.

Trials in several forces have produced encouraging results.
Development of new technology is paramount to assist with the
protection of communities.

Police drones

Get a taste for Forensics

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The Wellcome Museum in London has a new showcase of forensic artefacts through history. It explores the science and art of forensic medicine, travelling from crime scenes to courtrooms. It displays the processes of collating and presenting medical evidence for crime scenes. ‘Forensics: the anatomy of crime’ contains original evidence, archival material, photographic documentation, film[…..]

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Criminals be warned – pollen is out to get you!!

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Hay Fever in Forensic Investigations Forensic Palynology is the study of pollen and spores. These can stick to a criminal’s body or clothing and can be used as an indicator of his whereabouts, based on areas where that species of plant grows. Pollen can be transported on to the culprit in many ways, such as wind, insects, or gravity bringing pollen down from overhanging plants. Should this occur, any traces of pollen found on a suspect can be used to link him to the scene of the crime. Pollen in spring

Forensic Fact

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For centuries, the two most common poisons were cyanide and arsenic. While cyanide left a tell-tale scent of almonds in the victim’s BODY, arsenic was undetectable through much of human history. Its symptoms closely resembled those of cholera, and since many common household products contained arsenic, obtaining it was easy. In France, it was known as poudre de succession, or “inheritance powder.”

Forensic Fact

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Superficial burns, cuts and scrapes do not affect fingerprints as the original pattern is maintained when the new skin grows back.

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