The Crime Scene and Evidence research area conducts exploration in relation to crime scene examination, evidence processing and recovery, scene investigation, standard operating procedures in crime scene practice and issues of crime scene contamination.
This includes fingermark visualisation, fire investigation, forensic medicine and pathology and archaeology.
The Crime Scene and Evidence research area is part of the Forensic & Investigative Sciences Research Group.
Find out more about our members by exploring their staff profiles.
During the summer, Forensic and Investigative Sciences research group member, Zoe Cadwell embarked on international travels as a Churchill Fellow.
Funded by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust (WCMT) Zoe spent two weeks in Australia and a further two weeks in Canada. Her research centres on the development of fingermarks in extreme environments and how this can be adapted to retrieve fingermarks from evidence which has been buried.
Zoe, Senior Lecturer in Forensic and Investigative Sciences, School of Life Sciences, said:
"Burial is used by offenders as a means of concealing, not just bodies, but a wider variety of evidence types across a range of serious and major crimes. However, there is no research into optimal methods for enhancing fingermarks on such pieces of evidence. We have very robust methods for fingermark development on evidence from ‘surface crime scenes’ but the effect of the burial environment on fingermark residue is not understood."
Whilst in Australia and Canada Zoe visited the forensic laboratories of a number of federal and municipal Police forces. She also visited the leading forensic research groups at universities in both countries and the Australian Facility for Taphonomic Experimental Research (colloquially known as a Body farm). The generosity of the WCMT and the hospitality of all of the hosts enabled her to observe burial case studies and a variety of novel approaches to treating forensic evidence for fingermarks, as well as opportunities to explore how to develop research relationships between Police forensic practice and academia.
This article originally appeared in the September 2019 issue of 'First', our Faculty Research Newsletter.
The Forensic and Investigative Science Research Group found paraffin and paraffin free skin care products pose a serious fire risk when soaked into clothing.
Dr Sarah Hall and Joanne Morrissey, from our School of Life Sciences, are working with West Yorkshire and Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service (FRS), the London Fire Brigade, St Andrews Centre for Plastic Surgery and Burns, and the National Fire Chiefs Council. They’re also expert panel members and part of a stakeholder group for the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which supports the Commission on Human Medicines, to raise awareness of safety issues with emollients, embedding regulatory measures and monitoring the impact.
This research has also changed the remit on the safety of lower paraffin content and paraffin free emollients. Their initial study, 'The flammability of textiles when contaminated with paraffin base products', published in the Fire Safety Journal was praised as an important contribution to fire safety and science highlighting a significant problem in the healthcare community. They presented recent results on fatal fire investigations with West Yorkshire FRS at the annual UK Arson and Fire Investigators conference on the investigation, reporting and recording of skin product fires.
Using a standard method for vertical burns, with a nondirect flame (7cm from bottom of fabric) ignition time was significantly reduced when 100% cotton or polyester/cotton mix sheeting was contaminated with various skin care products. E.g. 100% cotton ignites in approx. 60 secs. When imbued with emollient and left to dry ignition time reduced to approx. 10 secs for all products tested, including paraffin free products. No difference was found by leaving the same amount of contaminant (approx. ¼ tsp) for 24hrs, 48hrs or 7 days. Flame time was measured along with glowing/smouldering combustion time, vertical flame spread/speed and flame height. All tests indicate that when skin care products contaminate fabrics, they burn more intensely and flame height, maximum burn temperature and vertical flame spread significantly increases.
Re-wearing clothing soaked with skin care products presents a fire risk impacting the reaction time when someone accidently exposes their clothing or bedding to a flame. There is the likelihood of severe skin burns caused by increased smouldering combustion time with the contaminated fabric burning next to the skin. The increase in flame height and flame spread indicates other clothing or nearby fuels could ignite causing fire to spread quicker. Recent research includes tests on blended fabrics and those with an inherent flame retardant characteristic. These have also proven to ignite and support a flame when imbued with emollients, where fabrics would normally just shrink and char, identifying another potential fire risk with contaminated bed sheets, nightwear and dressings made of blended fabrics, such as those used in hospitals and care settings.
Sarah and Joanne’s research has been supported by Lab Technician, Carolyn Bugg, a RIDO funded summer placement student, Tamsin Coomber and UG project students Tracy Curshen, Ashleigh Palmer and Darryl Rayment. They’re currently working with Research Assistant, Kirsty Blackburn, on washing methods to remove creams and analysing the residues with Infrared Spectroscopy analysis, plus, assessing the current risk information distributed by Clinical Commission Groups (CCGs) and Fire and Rescue Services in the UK. A summer internship student, Kiara Daly, is extending the range of paraffin free products being tested.
This article originally appeared in the June 2019 issue of 'First', our Faculty Research Newsletter.
Dr Rahul Pathak participated in an international documentary project commissioned by MediaCorp Singapore and Channel News Asia International.
As part of the documentary project, a high profile double murder case that took place in India in May 2008 was revisited and re-investigated. The case has become famous as the Aarushi Talwar Case and is often dubbed as India’s JonBenet Ramsey. In this case a 13-year-old girl was found brutally murdered in her bedroom in New Delhi. The parents of the girl were found guilty of ‘honour killing’ and sentenced to life imprisonment by a trial court.
Today the case is being heard in Higher Court on the parents’ appeal that the trial court verdict was a result of a compromised crime scene and substandard investigation.
Rahul reviewed the case documents including crime scene photographs and reconstructed the crime scene for bloodstain pattern analysis.
The full story can be read on BBC News.
This article originally appeared in the June 2017 issue of 'First', our Faculty Research Newsletter.
Jo Dawkins, recently presented at the Home Office Centre for Applied Science and Technology (CAST) Academia and Industry meeting at the University of Westminster.
The meeting is attended by the leading forensic researchers, practitioners and industrial partners from across the UK. The presentation focused on the latest research regarding the development of fingermarks from painted walls at crime scenes, which is being undertaken at our University with Dr Lata Gautam and Dr Leesa Ferguson, and in conjunction with Dr Helen Bandey at CAST.
"The ability to process forensic evidence ‘in situ’ at crime scenes is a hot topic at the moment due to the impact of austerity measures and the stringent accreditation procedures that are now in practice. This research will have an impact on practitioners working in the field and will assist them in maximising the number of fingermarks recovered at crime scenes."
Jo’s main research interests lie in fingermark development and recovery, particularly ‘in situ’, and is currently completing her PhD in this area in collaboration with CAST.
With a notable professional and teaching background, Jo is also a Professional Member of the Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences and was elected to its Fingerprint Division Committee and Events Committee. She sits on the editorial board for ‘Fingerprint Whorld’ and is a peer reviewer for the journal. In addition to this Jo is also a member of The International Association for Identification, Society of Evidence Based Policing, and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
This article originally appeared in the June 2017 issue of 'First', our Faculty Research Newsletter.
Dr Sarah Hall presented data at our 2018 Faculty research seminar series from research based on the flammability of clothing when contaminated with skin care products. Sarah and Joanne Morrissey are currently collaborating with Essex, London and West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Services in this area of research. There work has recently been in the media.
Joanne Morrissey is a member of the Board of Directors for the European Division of the International Association for Identification. She organised the 2016 conference at Interpol in Lyon and the 2017 conference in Amsterdam. Jo presented her research on the ‘Development of fingermarks on ballistics evidence’ in Lyon. This research has resulted in two publications to date which are listed under our key publications.
Zoe Cadwell presented her latest research at the International Association for Identification at Interpol HQ, Lyon, France and won 1st prize for best conference paper.
Jo Dawkins presented her latest research at the International Association for Identification at Interpol HQ, Lyon, France and won 2nd prize for best conference paper.
Dr Rahul Pathak reviewed a double murder case that has become part of a documentary project commissioned by MediaCorp Singapore and International News Channel Asia. The documentary is currently being edited and will be broadcast shortly. (2017)
Dr Rahul Pathak was an invited speaker at the 5th International Conference-Romanian Police Academy (European Association of Scientific Research) 27-28 April 2017 in Bucharest, Romania.
Kyprianos Georgiou delivered a workshop on fingermarks at GCC Forensic Science, 2017 – Abu Dhabi.
Dawkins, J., Gautam, L., Bandey, H.L., and Ferguson, L., 'Development of latent fingermarks on painted walls'. Academia and Industry Meet Event, Centre of Science and Technology (CAST), Home Office, UK 26 April 2017.
Cadwell, Z., 2016. Polymer Banknotes: how are we going to treat them. 2nd Conference of the European Division of the International Association for Identification, Interpol HQ, Lyon, France, 20-21 October 2016.
Dawkins, J., Gautam, L., Bandey, H.L. and Ferguson, L., 2016. If only the walls could talk: can fingermarks provide the answers?. 2nd Conference of the European Division of the International Association for Identification, Interpol HQ, Lyon, France, 20-21 October 2016.
Jo Dawkins also presented her research on the recovery of latent fingermarks on wetted substrates at the International Association for Identification at Interpol HQ, Lyon, France:
Hagger, M. and Dawkins, J., 2016. Powder Suspension: a comparison of methods to develop and recover latent fingermarks on wetted substrates ‘in situ’. 2nd Conference of the European Division of the International Association for Identification, Interpol HQ, Lyon, France, 20-21 October 2016.
Christofidis, G., Morrissey, J. and Birkett, J.W., 2018. Detection of Fingermarks – Applicability to metallic surfaces: A literature Review”. Journal of Forensic Sciences. doi: 10.1111/1556-4029.13775
Morrissey, J., Larrosa, J. and Birkett, J.W., 2017. A Preliminary Evaluation of the Use of Gun Bluing to Enhance Friction Ridge Detail on Cartridge Casings. Journal of Forensic Identification, 67(3), pp.313-322.
Morrissey, J.,2017. The student journey: time to make it personal. In: Innovations in Practice, 11(1), pp.9-11.
Dawkins, J., 2017. Journal Review. Fingerprint Whorld, 42(164), pp.18-20.
Parker, J., Pathak, R., 2015. The Effects of Salt Water and Elevation of the Corpse on the Rate of Decomposition and Subsequent Insect Succession. Indian Journal of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, 9(1), January-June 2015.
Dawkins, J., 2014. The persistence of fingerprints in fire scenes – a comparative study using water and compressed air foam as extinguishing methods. Global Forensic Science Today, Issue 14.