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Forensic Science International
Journal Prestige (SJR): 0.981
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  Hybrid Journal Hybrid journal (It can contain Open Access articles)
ISSN (Print) 0379-0738
Published by Elsevier Homepage  [3157 journals]
  • A study of background population of fibres on knife blades
    • Abstract: Publication date: Available online 17 January 2019Source: Forensic Science InternationalAuthor(s): Valentina Cammarota, Michael Schnegg, Geneviève Massonnet Edged weapons are frequently used to commit violent crimes (e.g., homicides, assaults or sequestrations). Following a stabbing, a fibre transfer might occur from the damaged fabric to the blade. It is crucial to investigate whether the target fibres were transferred to the blade as a result of the stabbing and if they are in association with the offence or whether they originate from another unrelated event (i.e., part of the background). The aim of this study is to explore the background population of fibres recovered on knife blades (police seizures and everyday knives) to help the interpretation of the results stemming from the analysis of the fibre evidence in crime cases involving the use of a bladed weapon.A population study was carried out to learn about the variety, the distribution and the size of the fibre population present on knife blades. After recovery using tapes lifting, stereoscopic examinations were performed to classify around 1500 fibres according to their colour and generic type. The most common colour/type combinations were: colourless/white cotton (31%), blue cotton (16%) and grey cotton fibres (11%).As blue fibres represent one of the most common colour group, they were selected to carry out a colour block study (based on microscopy observations and microspectrophotometry UV-VIS spectra) to investigate the number and the size of the groups of indistinguishable fibres present on each blade. Only 30% of the knife blades presented more than one blue cotton fibre. The number of groups found per knife varied between 1 and 3, each group containing between 2 and 6 fibres.Findings revealed an important difference between the background fibre populations in terms of quantity of fibres, their morphology and spatial distributions - and the population of fibres transferred in a stabbing. The collected data can be used in a Bayesian approach to help with the interpretation of results.
       
  • Letter to the Editor: Commentary on “Dennis McNevin, Bayesian
           interpretation of discrete class characteristics, Forensic Science
           International, 292 (2018) 125–130”
    • Abstract: Publication date: Available online 15 January 2019Source: Forensic Science InternationalAuthor(s): Alex Biedermann, Tacha Hicks This letter to the Editor comments on the paper ‘Bayesian interpretation of discrete class characteristics’ (Forensic Science International, 292 (2018) 125–130) by Dennis McNevin.
       
  • Rates of Loss and Replacement of Very Small Particles (VSP) on the Contact
           Surfaces of Footwear During Successive Exposures
    • Abstract: Publication date: Available online 14 January 2019Source: Forensic Science InternationalAuthor(s): David A. Stoney, Andrew M. Bowen, Madeline Ausdemore, Paul L. Stoney, Cedric Neumann, Frederick P. Stoney It has previously been shown that a walk of 250 m (approximately 175 steps/shoe) in a new environment is sufficient to remove and replace particles present on the contact surfaces of footwear. However, it is unknown how quickly this replacement occurs. This paper describes experiments measuring how quickly (in terms of steps) this loss and replacement of VSP occurs.Three environmental exposure sites were chosen to have different, characteristic particle types (soil minerals). Footwear of two types (work boots and tennis shoes) were tested, accumulating particles by walking 250 m in one site, followed by walking a designated number of steps (per shoe) in a second site.Very small particles (VSP) were harvested from contact surfaces of the footwear (those surfaces in direct contact with the ground when walking) using a moist swabbing procedure. The resulting numbers and types of VSP were determined using forensic microscopy and the proportions of VSP attributable to the first and second site were determined by particle combination analysis using a latent Dirichlet allocation model.The principal findings from this study are (1) that the contact surfaces of footwear are dominated by VSP attributable to the most recent site of exposure, (2) that walking in a new location rapidly removes and replaces VSP from the contact surfaces of footwear, (3) major replacement occurs in 5 to 10 steps and nearly complete replacement occurs by 25 steps, (4) the character of the loading site may influence the initial rate of loss and replacement of VSP (during the first five steps), and (5) overall, the loss and replacement of VSP on footwear in these experiments can be reasonably described by the relationship 1/(Steps +2.68).The significance of these findings is considerable. In cases where the last site visited is of interest, VSP from contact surfaces of footwear will give a nearly pure sample of that site. In cases where prior sites visited are of interest, the VSP from the contact surfaces can be used as a background signal, providing a necessary beginning for efforts to resolve mixtures of VSP arising from different exposures. The usefulness of VSP on footwear evidence depends on developing this ability so that a reliable, relevant evidentiary "signal" can be separated from background noise (or signals from other exposures).
       
  • Letter to the Editor
    • Abstract: Publication date: Available online 11 January 2019Source: Forensic Science InternationalAuthor(s): Ronald D. Cohn
       
  • A preliminary investigation of lung availability of cannabinoids by
           smoking marijuana or dabbing BHO and decarboxylation rate of THC- and
           CBD-acids
    • Abstract: Publication date: Available online 6 January 2019Source: Forensic Science InternationalAuthor(s): Marianne Hädener, Sina Vieten, Wolfgang Weinmann, Hellmut Mahler Highly potent cannabis concentrates obtained by butane or by supercritical carbon dioxide-extraction are gaining popularity. These extracts called butane hash oil (BHO) with Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid A (THCA) contents above 60% are consumed by flash vaporization on a glowing titanium nail, followed by inhalation of the resulting vapor through a water pipe in a single puff – a technique referred to as “dabbing”. We herein investigated the decarboxylation rate of THCA during artificial smoking of cannabis plant material and simulated dabbing, and the lung availability of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which we define as the recovery of THC in the smoke and vapor condensates. Preliminary smoking and dabbing experiments were performed using an apparatus built in-house. Due to availability of cannabidiol (CBD)-rich hemp in Switzerland, we included a sample of CBD flowers in our experiments and investigated the decarboxylation and recovery of cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) and CBD, respectively. Decarboxylation of THCA and CBDA during combustion of the plant material and vaporization of the BHO, respectively, was complete. The high recovery of total THC (75.5 %) by dabbing cannot be achieved by smoking marijuana. Lung availability ranged from 12 % for mixed cannabis material with a rather low THC content, to approximately 19 to 27 % for marijuana flowers, similar for THC in marijuana as for CBD in CBD-rich marijuana. In reality, when smoking a joint, further losses in recovery must be assumed by additional sidestream smoke. The rather high lung availability of THC via dabbing can explain the increased psychoactive and adverse effects associated with this new trend of cannabis consumption.
       
  • Classification of Illicit Liquors Based on Their Geographic Origin Using
           Attenuated Total Reflectance (ATR) – Fourier Transform Infrared (FT-IR)
           spectroscopy and chemometrics
    • Abstract: Publication date: Available online 6 January 2019Source: Forensic Science InternationalAuthor(s): Praveen Kumar Yadav, Rakesh Mohan Sharma In recent decades vibrational spectroscopy especially infrared (IR) spectroscopy has emerged as a fast, sensitive, and reliable technique in classifying alcoholic beverages based on geographic origin. However, Attenuated total reflectance (ATR) – Fourier transform Infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy has not been used in many studies. In the present study, an attempt has been made to classify 75 samples of illicit liquor from different regions of India based on their geographical origin. The samples were scanned in the MIR range of 600–3000 cm-1. It was observed that while using PCA 76% accuracy was obtained and while using LDA 93% accuracy was obtained. The samples of Delhi, Mansa, Patiala, Pathankot, and Fatehgarh Sahib show 100% classification with LDA whereas the samples from Ferozpur and Gurdaspur showed a 75% correct classification. These results point out towards the potential applicability of ATR-FTIR for the classification of alcoholic beverages based on the geographic origin.
       
  • Wing measurement can be used to identify European blow flies (Diptera:
           Calliphoridae) of forensic importance
    • Abstract: Publication date: Available online 6 January 2019Source: Forensic Science InternationalAuthor(s): Krzysztof Szpila, Aleksandra Żmuda, Kamran Akbarzadeh, Adam Tofilski Correct species identification is a crucial step in research and the practice of forensic entomology. At the moment the most common and widely used tool for this purpose are taxonomic keys based on morphological characters. During recent decades molecular methods have been used more and more often for species identification. Automated species identification can also be based on wing measurements. This method proved to be reliable in the case of some groups of necrophagous Diptera from various geographical regions. Up to now, this method has not been applied to a wide range of species of European Calliphoridae. We have used 968 specimens representing 15 species and 6 genera. Identification was based on 15 landmarks located at wing vein junctions. Wing shape differed markedly between the studied species. The overall correct classification rate at the level of species was 97.1%. Seven species, including C. vomitoria, Ch. albiceps, Ph. regina, Pr. terraenovae and L. sericata were identified without error. Lucilia caesar and L. illustris, which are considered relatively difficult to distinguish, were correctly classified in 93.0% and 94.1% cases, respectively. The correct classification rate at the level of genera was 99.2%. The results presented here suggest that wing measurements are a promising alternative to other methods of identification of necrophagous Calliphoridae. This method can be particularly useful for identification of large samples of females collected during carrion succession studies. It can also be used to double check identification performed by a taxonomist using traditional methods.
       
  • How to recognize the traces left on a crime scene by a 3D-printed
           Liberator' Part 2. Elements of ammunition, marks on the weapons and
           polymer fragments
    • Abstract: Publication date: Available online 26 December 2018Source: Forensic Science InternationalAuthor(s): Hanna Honsberger, Denis Werner, Damien Rhumorbarbe, Fabiano Riva, Matthieu Glardon, Alain Gallusser, Olivier Delémont The Liberator is a firearm that can be manufactured from its blueprints by the means of a 3D-printer. This handgun is composed of nineteen pieces: eighteen made of printed polymer and one metallic nail. This study focuses on the physical traces which can be found and exploited from a forensic point of view after the discharging of such types of pistols. Two main aspects have been investigated: (1) whether it can be inferred that a 3D-printed handgun was used when investigating a scene; (2) when presuming the use of a 3D-printed Liberator on a scene.Six Liberators were manufactured, assembled and discharged. The discharge occurred under controlled conditions to allow the collection of ballistics data and traces produced by the shooting. Elements of ammunition – cartridge cases and projectiles – that were fired during an experimental campaign appeared to carry polymeric materials (flakes, melted polymer or both). Besides, we observed that the fired ammunition elements lacked traditional marks left by the metal pieces of a conventional firearm. Indeed, the projectiles did not carry rifling marks and the cartridge cases were found torn or swollen. Fragments or larger pieces of polymer were found, mostly on the ground, near the location of the discharge, up to nine metres away. The impression of the cartridge case head stamp was also found on a part of the Liberator called the “hammer body”.This study showed that the discharge of a 3D-printed Liberator is expected to produce traces that can be transferred onto and recovered from the printed firearm, the cartridge case, the projectile, the target, and the environment of the discharge. These traces are different from those left by conventional firearms. When found on investigation scenes, some of these traces can inform on the use of a 3D-printed handgun and contribute to the reconstruction of a shooting event involving such a weapon. This study suggests that the approach adopted when investigating a scene must be adapted in terms of traceology when the use of such firearm is suspected.
       
  • DETERMINATION OF CUTTING AGENTS IN SEIZED COCAINE SAMPLES USING GC-MS,
           GC-TMS AND LC-MS/MS
    • Abstract: Publication date: Available online 26 December 2018Source: Forensic Science InternationalAuthor(s): Taís Regina Fiorentin, Melissa Fogarty, Renata Pereira Limberger, Barry Kerr Logan Cocaine is usually sold as a white powder and can contain several adulterants and diluents, known as cutting agents. The cutting agents play an important role in the identification of trafficking routes, and they can also modify or intensify signs and symptoms of drug intoxication increasing the risk to the health’s user. The purpose of this work was to quantify cocaine and cutting agents in 116 illicit samples from NMS Labs, Willow Grove, PA, U.S. Gas chromatography − mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and handle-portable gas chromatography toroidal ion trap mass spectrometry (GC-TMS) were used as screening methods A liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) method was developed and validated for the quantification of cocaine, levamisole, benzocaine, phenacetin, hydroxyzine, theophylline, diltiazem, acetaminophen and caffeine. Cocaine-d3 and caffeine-d3 were used as internal standards. The method was shown to be precise, accurate and linear over a range of 50–2000 ng/mL for all analytes. Cocaine was the only detected compound in 16.37% (n = 19) of the samples. Between the identified cutting agents, levamisole was the most abundant substance found (79.31% of the total samples, amounts ranging from 0.2 to 74.3%), followed by phenacetin (18.96%, 0.3–46.8%), caffeine (12.06%, 0.2–32.2%), hydroxyzine (9.48%, 0.7–13.8%) and benzocaine (5.17%, 0.4–58.3%). GC-TMS was considered suitable to be used as a tool in forensic analysis as a screening method for cocaine, benzocaine, phenacetin, hydroxyzine and caffeine with restrictions to be used for levamisole, while GC-MS presented good results in screening analysis for cocaine, levamisole, benzocaine, phenacetin, hydroxyzine and caffeine.
       
  • Development of a low cost gas diffusion device for ammonia detection in
           the vitreous humor and its preliminary application for estimation of the
           time since death.
    • Abstract: Publication date: Available online 24 December 2018Source: Forensic Science InternationalAuthor(s): Giacomo Musile, Rossella Gottardo, Covadonga Palacio, Ksenia Shestakova, Dario Raniero, Elio F. De Palo, Franco Tagliaro A simple and low cost analytical device is described for the determination of ammonium in the vitreous humor suitable for inferring the post mortem interval in forensic cases. The device is based on ammonia formation from ammonium ion by means of NaOH addition to the vitreous humor sample and its detection with a pH chemical indicator in the gas phase above the vitreous humor sample. From the gas phase, ammonia diffuses through a polymeric membrane and it is trapped and detected with a droplet of pH indicator thymol blue. The color change of the droplet is measured using a smartphone camera. Under optimal conditions, the device showed a limit of detection of 0.2 mM, with between days precision of ≤ 15% expressed as relative standard deviation, and an accuracy between days from 88.3% to 114.5%. This homemade gas diffusion analytical device was successfully used for the determination of ammonia in vitreous humor samples from forensic autopsies. The results obtained with the proposed method, although for a limited number, showed a close correlation with the data obtained with an instrumental analysis based on capillary electrophoresis. Moreover a significant correlation was also found between the results of the present method and the time elapsed since death by a simple evaluation of the color intensity. In conclusion, this preliminary study showed that the proposed device, after adequate validation, could be a promising tool for a presumptive estimation of the time since death directly at the crime scene.Graphical abstractRepresentation of the procedure. (A) Schematic representation of the procedure to detect ammonium in vitreous humor samples on the crime scene and (B) image of the sensing part of the devices for a saline solution (left) and for an ammonium solution (right).Graphical abstract for this article
       
  • DNA recovery from gelatin fingerprint lifters by direct proteolytic
           digestion
    • Abstract: Publication date: Available online 23 December 2018Source: Forensic Science InternationalAuthor(s): Martin Zieger, Christoph Schneider, Silvia Utz Fingerprints are a valuable source for DNA profiling in forensic investigations. In practice, the fingerprints are routinely visualized first by powder staining and then often transferred to tapes or gelatin lifters for storage or examination. If at all, fingerprints are usually sampled for DNA in a second step. To target the DNA sampling in an optimal way, it is essential to know how much of the DNA in the sample remains in place and how much is transferred to the lifter. In the present study we addressed this question analyzing 16 pairs of thumb prints and revealed that more than 80% of the DNA from a fingerprint is transferred to the gelatin lifter. Therefore, subsequent DNA sampling of the stored gelatin lifters appears more promising than recovery of the residual DNA from the original fingerprint. Furthermore, as a proof of principle, we developed a protocol for the direct extraction of DNA from gelatin fingerprint lifters by proteolytic digestion of the gelatin matrix followed by organic extraction. We show that DNA recovery from gelatin lifters by this direct extraction protocol is more efficient compared to swabbing the lifter followed by standard magnetic bead extraction of swabs. However, given the more elaborate protocol for direct extraction, we would still recommend the swab technique as the method of choice for forensic routine work.
       
  • Bacillus species at the Canberra Airport: A comparison of real-time
           polymerase chain reaction and massively parallel sequencing for
           identification
    • Abstract: Publication date: Available online 21 December 2018Source: Forensic Science InternationalAuthor(s): M.E. Gahan, S. Bowman, R. Chevalier, R. Rossi, M. Nelson, P. Roffey, B. Xu, D. Power, D. McNevin Anthrax, caused by the Gram-positive, spore forming bacterium Bacillus anthracis, is a disease with naturally occurring outbreaks in many parts of the world, primarily in domestic and wild herbivores. Due to the movement of people and stock, B. anthracis could, however, be at transportation hubs including airports. The continuous threat to national and international security from a biological agent release, or hoax attack, is a very real concern. Sensitive, robust and rapid (hours-day) methods to identify biological agents, including B. anthracis, and distinguish pathogenic from non-pathogenic species, is an essential cornerstone to national security. The aim of this project was to determine the presence of Bacillus species at the Canberra Airport using two massively parallel sequencing (MPS) approaches and compare with previous results using real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR).Samples were collected daily for seven days each month from August 2011–July 2012 targeting movement of people, luggage and freight into and out of the Canberra Airport. Extracted DNA was analysed using qPCR specific for B. anthracis. A subset of samples was analysed using two MPS approaches. Approach one, using the Ion PGM™ (Thermo Fisher Scientific; TFS) and an in-house assay, targeted the two B. anthracis virulence plasmids (cya and capB genes) and a single conserved region of the 16S rRNA gene. Approach two, using the Ion S5™ (TFS) and the commercial Ion 16S™ Metagenomics Kit (TFS), targeted multiple regions within the bacterial 16S rRNA gene.Overall there was consistency between the two MPS approaches and between MPS and qPCR, however, MPS was more sensitive, particularly for plasmid detection. Whilst the broad-range 16S genomic target(s) used in both MPS approaches in this study was able to generate a metagenomic fingerprint of the bacterial community at the Canberra Airport, it could not resolve Bacillus species beyond the level of the B. cereus group. The inclusion of B. anthracis virulence plasmid targets in the in-house assay did allow for the potential presumptive identifications of pathogenic species. No plasmid targets were in the Ion 16S™ Metagenomics Kit.This study shows the choice of target(s) is key in MPS assay development and should be carefully considered to ensure the assay is fit for purpose, whether as an initial screening (presumptive) or a more specific (but not entirely confirmatory) test. Identification approaches may also benefit from a combination of MPS and qPCR as each has benefits and limitations.
       
  • Development of RapidHIT® ID using NGMSElect™ Express chemistry for the
           processing of reference samples within the UK Criminal Justice System
    • Abstract: Publication date: Available online 21 December 2018Source: Forensic Science InternationalAuthor(s): David Shackleton, Nicola Gray, Lesley Ives, Simon Malsom, Des Vanhinsbergh The RapidHIT® ID is a new instrument, which has been designed, specifically for non-technical users in non-laboratory environments, for, example police custody suites or border control. The development studies, presented here were performed using the AmpFℓSTR® NGMSElect™ Express STR, kit with single source reference samples. The system has been, successfully optimised for extraction, PCR and electrophoresis. Once, optimised, studies on sensitivity in terms of DNA input template, sample, repeatability, and instrument reproducibility have shown that the, instrument is capable of producing robust profiles within an 85 minute, window using mock reference buccal samples. This work has been carried, out within the validation framework provided by the United Kingdom, Forensic Science Regulator and is a key stage in the validation of the, RapidHIT® ID for use in custody suites within the UK criminal justice, system.
       
  • The effect of composition and morphological features on the striation of
           .22LR ammunition
    • Abstract: Publication date: Available online 21 December 2018Source: Forensic Science InternationalAuthor(s): Valentina Manzalini, Michele Frisia, Monica Casolari, Valerio Causin In this paper, the effect of the chemical composition of .22LR bullets was studied and correlated to the extent and quality of the markings left after shooting them with the same gun. Scanning electron microscopy and optical comparator microscopy equipped with 3D and profilometry modules were used as non destructive techniques with two main purposes. The first is to assist the firearm examiner in the choice of the ammunition most suitable for preparing the test bullets. The second is to propose an approach, crossing data from optical microscopy, profilometry and space-resolved chemical analysis, for explaining the morphology of striae, whether continuous or interrupted. Among the most notable results is the finding that commercial .22LR ammunition show very wide interbrand, interlot and intralot variability. A selection of test ammunition solely based on the same brand and model used on the crime scene is therefore not suitable, urging the need for a more accurate choice, based on a preliminary chemical analysis.
       
  • Surface coatings including fingerprint residues can significantly alter
           the size and shape of bloodstains
    • Abstract: Publication date: Available online 19 December 2018Source: Forensic Science InternationalAuthor(s): Samira Shiri, Kenneth F. Martin, James C. Bird When conducting a blood pattern analysis (BPA) the size, shape, distribution, and location of bloodstains found at a crime scene may be critical in forming a hypothesis as to what transpired during a bloody event. Prior studies have demonstrated that the size and shape of a bloodstain on a smooth surface are determined from impact dynamics and to a lesser degree by the target material itself. Yet, these studies have relied on clean surfaces, and it is unclear whether the presence of microscopic coatings and residues could significantly alter the size or shape of the dried stain. Here, in the present work, experiments are conducted to demonstrate that various coatings, such as the sebaceous residue from a latent fingerprint, can dramatically alter the size and shape of the stain from the moment of impact through the drying process. These experiments also highlight that a drop impacting a tilted superhydrophobic-coating glass substrate can cause the blood drop to completely recoil without leaving a stain. Relying on a combination of high-speed and time-lapse photography, the specific stages in the stain evolution responsible for the deviations from the current models are identified. At a relatively low impact velocity, the stain sizes on the coated glass surfaces were 35–72% smaller than on the clean glass surface. At a higher impact velocity, the stains on the coated surfaces were not only smaller, but also contained drop spatter around the primary stain that was not observable in the absence of the microscopic coatings. The reduction in bloodstain size did not appreciably change when a chemical was added to deactivate the anticoagulant and allow the blood to clot.
       
  • A reliable method for estimating the postmortem interval from the
           biochemistry of the vitreous humor, temperature and body weight
    • Abstract: Publication date: Available online 17 December 2018Source: Forensic Science InternationalAuthor(s): Cristina Cordeiro, Lucía Ordóñez-Mayán, Elena Lendoiro, Manuel Febrero-Bande, Duarte Nuno Vieira, José Ignacio Muñoz-Barús The estimation of the time elapsed since death is of paramount importance in the field of forensic sciences and criminal investigation, owing, among other factors, to the possible legal repercussions. Over the past few years various formulae have been developed to calculate this interval using a combination of different statistical methods and the concentrations of substances found in the vitreous humor. Corrective factors, such as ambient temperature, cause of death or age, which can modify the concentration of these substances and therefore the estimation of the postmortem interval, have been incorporated into models. In this paper five simple and reliable models to estimate PMI based the on the analysis of potassium, hypoxanthine and urea in the vitreous humor are presented. Corrective factors, such as body weight, rectal temperature and ambient temperature, which can influence the estimation of this interval have been incorporated into the formulae. Finally, the R2 and the mean squared error have been calculated for each model in order to select the best of the five. A free software program which calculates the PMI from the model and parameters used is available from the authors. It provides quick and reliable results as well as the error committed and R2 for each case.Graphical abstractGraphical abstract for this article
       
  • Prediction of DNA concentration in fingermarks using autofluorescence
           properties
    • Abstract: Publication date: Available online 14 December 2018Source: Forensic Science InternationalAuthor(s): Kim Falkena, Richelle J.M. Hoveling, Angela van Weert, Saskia A.G. Lambrechts, Ton G. van Leeuwen, Maurice C.G. Aalders, Annemieke van Dam During criminal investigations trace DNA samples, including fingermarks, are submitted to laboratories for short tandem repeat (STR) analysis. For most common STR analysis systems a minimum amount of input DNA is required. Upon intake by the forensic laboratory the DNA concentration is estimated using quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) analysis after which most fingermarks are excluded. To tackle the problem of unnecessary processing in the lab, our study aimed to develop a method, which is able to predict the DNA content in fingermarks directly at the crime scene. Upon excitation with a UV crime-lite, fingermark residues have autofluorescent properties. We hypothesize that the intensity of the autofluorescence signal of the fingermark content correlates to the DNA concentration in fingermarks. In this study, 164 fingermarks were examined on their autofluorescence intensity when excited at 365 nm, the number of nucleated cells, their DNA concentration and the completeness of the STR profiles. No significant correlation was observed between the DNA concentration in fingermarks and the autofluorescence signal, indicating that a high amount of autofluorescence, thus a high amount of biomaterial, does not necessarily guarantee a higher amount of DNA. In addition, the completeness of the STR profiles did not correlate to the autofluorescence signal of fingermarks. A moderate correlation was found between the predicted DNA quantity, based on the number of nucleated cells and the DNA quantity. In summary, the autofluorescence signal of fingermarks cannot directly be used as a guide to select fingermarks for DNA analysis directly at the crime scene. However, predicting the amount of DNA using a sensitive and specific DNA staining method can probably be used to estimate the DNA concentration in touch samples.
       
  • CMF-iteMS: An Automatic Threshold Selection for Detection of Copy-Move
           Forgery
    • Abstract: Publication date: Available online 12 December 2018Source: Forensic Science InternationalAuthor(s): Nor Bakiah Abd. Warif, Mohd. Yamani Idna Idris, Ainuddin Wahid Abdul Wahab, Rosli Salleh, Ahsiah Ismail Taking into consideration that the prior CMF detection methods rely on several fixed threshold values in the filtering process, we propose an efficient CMF detection method with an automatic threshold selection, named as CMF-iteMS. The CMF-iteMS recommends a PatchMatch-based CMF detection method that adapts Fourier-Mellin Transform (FMT) as the feature extraction technique while a new automatic threshold selection based on iterative means of regions size (iteMS) procedure is introduced to have flexibility in changing the threshold value for various characteristics (quality, sizes, and attacks) in each input image. To ensure the reliability of the proposed CMF-iteMS, the method is compared with four state-of-the-art CMF detectionmethods: based on Scale Invariant Feature Transform (SIFT), patch matching, multi-scale analysis and symmetry techniques using three available datasets that cover the variety of characteristics in CMF images. The results show that the F-score of the CMF-iteMS outperformed existing CMF detectionmethods: by exceeding an average of 90% F-score values for image-level evaluation and 82% of F-score value for pixel-level evaluation for all datasets in original size. As special attention is given to the image resizing attack, the method is able to maintain the highest performance even if the images in the datasets are resized to 0.25 parameter.
       
  • Tamper Detection of Social Media Images using Quality Artifacts and
           Texture Features
    • Abstract: Publication date: Available online 7 December 2018Source: Forensic Science InternationalAuthor(s): V.T. Manu, B.M. Mehtre Maliciously edited images, also referred to as tampered or forged images, have become ubiquitous and challenging in recent times with the advent of social media platforms. Image splicing is a kind of image tampering where regions of images are copied and pasted into another image. Image tampering detection is a method for the authenticity verification of images produced as evidence in the court of law and forms a sub problem in image forensics. The aim of our work is to detect and locate the boundaries of image splicing, without a-priori knowledge of the reference image. We propose two methods, of which the first uses classification of texture patterns along with the standard deviations of block discrete cosine transformation of textures. In the second method, we combine the first with image quality artifacts incurred due to image tampering along with the entropy of histograms to get an integrated method. We use a support vector machine classifier for training and testing these approaches. Our methods are tested on two publicly available tamper detection datasets and the results are compared with seven other existing works. It is observed that our integrated method gives best results. We have also tested the proposed methods on a social media dataset and the results are encouraging.
       
  • A study into fingermarks at activity level on pillowcases
    • Abstract: Publication date: Available online 7 December 2018Source: Forensic Science InternationalAuthor(s): Anouk de Ronde, Marja van Aken, Marcel de Puit, Christianne J. de Poot In this paper, we describe a promising method to evaluate the location of fingermarks on two-dimensional objects, which provides valuable information for the evaluation of fingermarks at activity level. For this purpose, an experiment with pillowcases was conducted at the Dutch music festival Lowlands, to test whether the activity ‘smothering’ can be distinguished from an alternative activity like ‘changing a pillowcase’ based on the touch traces on pillowcases left by the activities. Participants performed two activities with paint on their hands: smothering a victim with the use of a pillow and changing a pillowcase of a pillow. The pillowcases were photographed and translated into grid representations. A binary classification model was used to classify the pillowcases into one of the two classes of smothering and changing, based on the distance between the grid representations. After applying the fitted model to a test set, we obtained an accuracy of 98.8%. The model showed that the pillowcases could be well separated into the two classes of smothering and changing, based on the location of the fingermarks. The proposed method can be applied to fingermark traces on all two-dimensional items for which we expect that different activities will lead to different fingermark locations.
       
  • Stability of synthetic cathinones in biological materials
    • Abstract: Publication date: Available online 6 December 2018Source: Forensic Science InternationalAuthor(s): Piotr Adamowicz, Aleksandra Malczyk IntroductionAlthough there is an observed decline in the number of new psychoactive substances entering the drug market, this phenomenon is still a significant public health problem. Synthetic cathinones are the second largest group of new substances and currently belong to the most frequently confiscated. Their availability and prevalence cause that they are often abused. Because of this, they should be detected and determined as part of routine toxicological screening in materials collected from both the living and cadavers. Recent reports indicate, however, that some of them are unstable in biological matrices. The aim of the study was the systematic evaluation of changes in concentrations of synthetic cathinones in whole blood and urine samples stored long-term under different temperature conditions.Material and methodsThe study involved 17 compounds that were added to blood and urine to obtain a concentration of 100 ng/mL. The material was stored at room temperature (24 °C), refrigerated (5 °C) and frozen (−26 °C) for six months. The extraction was initially performed daily, and then at 1–4 week intervals. The analyses were carried out using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). The calculated drugs content over time allowed the estimation of the half-life and total degradation time of the tested compounds.ResultsThe conducted research indicated that the temperature and matrix have a significant influence on the stability of cathinones, as well as the pH. Significant decreases in the concentrations of some analytes were observed within just several dozen hours of storage at room temperature. The most unstable was 4-chloromethcathinone (4-CMC), for which the half-life in blood was determined to be
       
  • DNA based method for determining source country of the short beaked
           echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus) in the illegal wildlife trade
    • Abstract: Publication date: Available online 5 December 2018Source: Forensic Science InternationalAuthor(s): A.E. Summerell, G.J. Frankham, P. Gunn, R.N. Johnson The illegal trade in wild animals being sold as ‘captive bred’ is an emerging issue in the pet and zoo industry and has both animal welfare and conservation implications. DNA based methods can be a quick, inexpensive, and definitive way to determine the source of these animals, thereby assisting efforts to combat this trade. The short beaked echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus) is currently one of the species suspected to be targeted in this trade. As this species is distributed throughout Australia and in New Guinea (currently comprising of five recognised sub-species), this project aimed to develop a DNA based method to definitively determine the source country of an echidna and explore the use of non-invasive sampling techniques. Here we use non-invasively sampled echidna quills and demonstrate the extraction of mitochondrial DNA and amplification of a region of the mitochondrial genome. Phylogenetically informative markers for analysis of a 322 bp segment of the D-loop region were developed, and subsequently validated, using animals with known source locations allowing us to reliably distinguish between echidnas from New Guinea, and Australia. This research presents the first validated forensic protocols for short beaked echidnas and will be an integral tool in understanding the movement of animals in this emerging trade.
       
  • Evaluation of an untargeted chemometric approach for the source inference
           of ignitable liquids in forensic science
    • Abstract: Publication date: Available online 5 December 2018Source: Forensic Science InternationalAuthor(s): Miguel de Figueiredo, Christophe B.Y. Cordella, Delphine Jouan-Rimbaud Bouveresse, Xavier Archer, Jean-Marc Bégué, Douglas N. Rutledge Recent research efforts in the domain of fire debris analysis have been mainly oriented towards the development of innovative analytical procedures and chemometric approaches for the detection and classification of ignitable liquids in fire specimens according to the ASTM E1618. However, less attention has been brought to the question of the source inference of ignitable liquids. Infer the identity of source of ignitable liquids recovered from arson sites is still a challenging and ongoing research area. In this study, the objective is to link neat gasoline samples sharing a common source through the use of an untargeted chemometric approach applied to data acquired by automated thermodesorption (ATD)-GC-MS following passive headspace extraction onto Tenax TA tubes. To that end, 190 unique gasoline samples from 19 gas stations collected over a year were used. A general and automated chemometric methodology for data treatment involving the following main steps is proposed: feature detection, normalization by exhaustive calculation of ratios between areas of pairs of features and selection of most discriminant ratios. The ratio selection procedure used here is based on the calculation of similarity measurements between pairs of samples sharing a common source or not. The algorithm maximizes the separation of the distributions of similarity measurements for related and unrelated samples by selecting a subset of ratios maximizing the area under the Receiver Operating Characteristics curve. The approach presented here was successfully applied to neat gasoline samples in order to assess if two gasoline samples share a common source or not.Graphical abstractGraphical abstract for this article
       
  • Nonlinear methods of vehicle velocity determination based on inverse
           systems and tensor products of Legendre polynomials
    • Abstract: Publication date: Available online 4 December 2018Source: Forensic Science InternationalAuthor(s): P. Kubiak, P. Mierzejewska, M. Krukowski The article presents research on the methods of crash velocity determination based on the Compact car class. The database used in the research is provided by the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and includes numerous frontal crash tests, which allowed the determination of the mathematical model parameters.Two methods are presented that enable the determination of vehicle velocity before the collision. The first researched method is the so-called inversed system method and is based on the assumption that the relationship between bk coefficient Cs is an inverse function. The second line of research focuses on the tensor product method, which is grounded in the Legendre polynomials, orthogonal on the interval [–1,1] [1], [2].The article presents the calculation algorithm for both cases and the results with reference to the NHTSA database [4], [5]. The application of the least square method provides more precise results in both cases than in previously researched solutions, with a slight advantage of the tensor product method. The obtained mean relative error of the velocity determination using the inverse system method is approximately 16,22% for the linear model and 10,58% for the nonlinear model. In the case of the tensor product method the errors for linear and nonlinear models are respectively 6,74% and 6,3%.
       
  • The novel psychoactive substance 3-methylmethcathinone (3-MMC or
           metaphedrone): a review
    • Abstract: Publication date: Available online 3 December 2018Source: Forensic Science InternationalAuthor(s): Bárbara Ferreira, Diana Dias da Silva, Félix Carvalho, Maria de Lourdes Bastos, Helena Carmo 3-Methylmethcathinone (3-MMC or metaphedrone) is a synthetic cathinone, recently introduced in the market of the new psychoactive substances (NPS), initially to replace mephedrone (4-methylmethcathinone or 4-MMC), and rapidly widespread among drug users. 3-Methylmethcathinone is legally controlled in many countries, but is still easily available for purchase from websites, and frequently found in recreational settings. Most toxicological data on this drug come from human case reports following intoxications. Thus, further investigation on their pharmacological and toxicological properties is necessary to evaluate its potential harmful effects. The present work provides a review on the available data about 3-MMC legal status, chemistry, patterns of use, prevalence, biological effects, toxicokinetics, toxicity and factors affecting stimulant/toxicological effects.
       
  • Human DNA degradation assessment and male DNA detection by
           quantitative-PCR followed by high-resolution melting analysis
    • Abstract: Publication date: Available online 29 November 2018Source: Forensic Science InternationalAuthor(s): S. Ginart, M. Caputo, D. Corach, A. Sala We developed a q-PCR technique that simultaneously evaluates the extent of degradation and determines the gender of a human DNA donor. QYDEG HRM is a triplex real-time PCR whose products are analysed by high-resolution melting (HRM). The system produces three amplicons: 1) transducin (beta)-like 1, Y-linked (TBL1Y) (84 bp); 2) large-target sequence (DGlt) (244 bp); and 3) small-target sequence (DGst) (152 bp). After HRM analysis, three melting peaks are detected in male DNA samples and two in female DNA samples. An imbalance between the DGst and DGlt melting peak heights allows for the estimation of the extent of DNA degradation. For sensitivity assessment, triplicate aliquots of 0.0032 to 50 ng/μL DNA were tested, denoting good linearity and reproducibility. The results also showed the analysis to be precise and accurate in the DNA range of 0.04 to 5 ng/μL. Diverse types of DNA samples were tested: experimentally heat-degraded DNA; crime scene samples derived from casework and highly degraded samples with partial STR profiles from corpse material and mass disaster events. The results were compared with those obtained from the Plexor® and PowerQuant® commercial kits. Additionally, the quantification results of the QYDEG HRM triplex correlate well with the STR amplification that was subsequently obtained. The method is simple, cost-effective and helpful for determining the DNA integrity and the sex of a sample donor in any field where human DNA quantification is required.
       
  • Testing and Comparing the Accuracy of Two Dental Age Estimation Methods on
           Saudi Children: Measurements of Open Apices in Teeth and The London Atlas
           of Tooth Development
    • Abstract: Publication date: Available online 22 November 2018Source: Forensic Science InternationalAuthor(s): Dara M. Alsudairi, Sakher J. AlQahtani Evaluation of dental development is frequently performed to assess maturity and estimate age. The aim of this study was to test and compare the accuracy of two dental age estimation methods in a sample of Saudi children by using Cameriere’s formula (measurements of mandibular teeth open apices) and The London Atlas of Tooth Development. Four hundred archived digital panoramic radiographs of healthy children (200 males and 200 females) between the ages of 6 to 15.99 years attending the Pediatric Dental clinics of King Saud University, College of Dentistry, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia were used. The mean difference between the Estimated Age (EA) and Real Age (RA) was (-0.89 years) for Cameriere's formula with a standard deviation of (± 1.14 years), and it was (-0.59 years) with a standard deviation of (± 1.45 years) for The London Atlas. Both methods consistently underestimated the age. No statistically significant difference between the sexes was found in both methods In conclusion, the London Atlas was found to be slightly more accurate and easier to use than was Cameriere’s formula.
       
  • Using virtual reality for forensic examinations of injuries
    • Abstract: Publication date: Available online 16 November 2018Source: Forensic Science InternationalAuthor(s): Stephanie Koller, Lars C. Ebert, Rosa Maria Martinez, Till Sieberth The ability to accurately determine injury dimensions is an essential property of forensic documentation. Currently, the best practice for injury documentation is photography using a scale, which allows the approximation of the injury dimensions in the image. The approximation highly depends on the placement of the scale in the image, and whether it is focused, placed at the correct depth and unbent. The technical qualities of the photograph, such as orthogonality, depth of the field and sharpness of the desired area, are vital to obtaining a correct measurement. Adequate training of the forensic staff can reduce technical errors; nonetheless, there will always be some loss of information when visualizing an injury as a three-dimensional (3D) object on a two-dimensional (2D) photograph.The shortcomings of 2D photographs can be resolved by using photogrammetry.Photogrammetry is a technology that allows 3D documentation of persons and their injuries. However, in order to create a photogrammetric model, a series of photographs has to be acquired and processed in photogrammetric software, which then allows the creation of a photorealistic and scaled 3D model.In a prior study, a mannequin equipped with wound tattoos of known dimensions was documented with a multi-camera device, which allows the documentation of a complete person with one push of a button in a fraction of a second. The acquired images were then processed in the Agisoft PhotoScan Professional software package to create a 3D model. On the 3D model, the dimensions of the injuries were then measured and compared to the dimensions approximated from standard forensic photographs. The results showed that the photogrammetric measurements in 3D are more accurate than the approximations performed with standard forensic photographs.In this study, the created 3D model was visualized and surveyed in virtual reality (VR), and the results were compared to the previous study. The aim of this procedure was to establish how accurately injuries can be measured in VR compared to the standard forensic photo documentation and photogrammetric method that is used on computer screens.The photogrammetric data of the prior study was visualized in VR with Unity 3D and the HTC Vive (HTC, Taoyuan, Taiwan). The HTC Vive controllers were programmed to perform measurement tasks by setting points in virtual space and calculating the distance between these points. Furthermore, a function to acquire screenshots was implemented. These functions were then used to survey and document the injury dimensions on the mannequin in VR.We found that the measurements in VR are more accurate than the approximations from forensic photodocumentation, but slightly less accurate than the photogrammetric measurements performed on a computer screen in Agisoft Photoscan.In conclusion, photogrammetric software and virtual reality tools can both be used to make accurate size measurements of forensics-relevant injuries. Furthermore, 3D models can be visualized in varying ways allowing a much better understanding and review of injuries, even after the injury has healed.
       
  • A modified trace metal detection test for secondary imprints on porous
           substrates: A preliminary study
    • Abstract: Publication date: Available online 22 October 2018Source: Forensic Science InternationalAuthor(s): Zhuo Xing, Ruiqin Yang, Wenbin Liu, Hongge Zhang In the investigation of criminal cases involving metallic weapons such as firearms and knives, the trace metal detection test (TMDT) and the transfer detection technique are two effective and on-the-spot methods to link a suspect and a suspected metallic weapon. In general, these tests need to be conducted on suspects’ hands or done by lifting trace metals from their hands within 3 days of the crime being committed. However, if no suspects are arrested within this period, neither of these two techniques is applicable.This paper presents preliminary development of a modified TMDT to overcome the intrinsic disadvantages of conventional TMDTs. The method primarily focuses on the secondary imprints on porous substrates that are transferred unconsciously from the palms of criminals after handling galvanized weapons. The modified TMDT was established by studying the effect of various factors on secondary imprints on porous substrates. We also tested the effectiveness of the modified TMDT for common porous substrates and galvanized weapons and its relative sensitivity in a depletion series. Additionally, the storage conditions of the developed secondary imprints as physical evidence were studied under different time lapses and light conditions. Finally, we proposed an improved procedure for detecting metal traces formed in the use of metallic weapons and subsequent activities at a crime scene.The modified TMDT provides a novel method for investigators to demonstrate the relationship between a suspect and a metallic weapon, thus reducing the heavy reliance of conventional TMDTs on suspects and the time limit available to visualize or lift metal traces. For this reason, it can be used as a complementary and remedial method for conventional TMDTs, especially when suspects are not arrested within 3 days of the commission of a crime. Furthermore, the improved procedure can serve as a guide for investigators to apply the TMDT series properly to solving the cases involving metallic weapons.Graphical abstractGraphical abstract for this article
       
  • Recent advances in understanding hard tissue alterations related to trauma
    • Abstract: Publication date: Available online 3 September 2018Source: Forensic Science InternationalAuthor(s): Douglas H. Ubelaker This special issue of Forensic Science International presents diverse perspectives and detailed information on the many factors involved in trauma analysis of the skeleton. Topics covered include nomenclature, antemortem timing, post-mortem loss of plasticity, terminal ballistic/gunshot trauma, sharp force trauma, heat-induced fracture, non-metric traits and pseudo-trauma, taphonomic alterations, microscopic evidence for hemorrhage, imaging of perimortem trauma, dental trauma and linkages between soft and hard tissue.
       
 
 
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