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Fingerprint technology pioneered in Leicester -- to identify the dead

Technology developed for roadside fingerprints using hand-held devices-announced in the media this month- has also been pioneered in identifying the dead, it has been revealed.

The University of Leicester, working with Leicestershire Constabulary and the Institute of Legal Medicine, University of Hamburg, recorded the first ever use of the technology on the dead over six months ago.

The purpose of developing the technique is to enable rapid identification of the deceased and would be of particular benefit in cases of mass fatalities.

The research has been submitted for consideration for publication to an international forensic medical journal and has been carried out by Professor Guy Rutty of the East Midlands Forensic Pathology Unit at the University of Leicester; Karen Stringer, Leicestershire Constabulary Fingerprint Bureaux, and Dr E.E.Turk Institute of Legal Medicine, University of Hamburg.

Professor Rutty said: No matter where one works in the world, the primary purpose of a medico-legal autopsy is the investigation of who the person was, where, when and by what means they came by their death.

In mass fatality investigations there is a shift of emphasis of the investigative process towards gathering information for the identification of the deceased. Fingerprinting is usually undertaken by scene of crime or fingerprint officers at the mortuary and although the recovery of fingerprints is possible at the scene of death, as with mortuary recovery, to date handheld real-time on-site analysis (near-patient testing) is not available to investigators.

The researchers made use of a handheld, mobile wireless unit used in conjunction with a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) device for the capture of fingerprints from the dead. They also used a handheld single digit fingerprint scanner which utilises a USB laptop connection for the electronic capture of cadaveric fingerprints

Professor Rutty added:
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Contact: Professor Rutty
1-162-523-221
University of Leicester
27-Nov-2006


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