A comparison of the use of vacuum metal deposition versus cyanoacrylate fuming for visualisation of fingermarks and grab impressions on fabrics

Joanna Fraser, Paul Deacon, Stephen Bleay, David H. Bremner

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12 Citations (Scopus)
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Both vacuum metal deposition (VMD) and cyanoacrylate fuming (CAF) are techniques used to visualise latent fingermarks on smooth non-porous surfaces such as plastic and glass. VMD was initially investigated in the 1970s as to its effectiveness for visualising prints on fabrics, but was abandoned when radioactive sulphur dioxide was found to be more effective. However, interest in VMD was resurrected in the 1990s when CAF was also used routinely. We now report on studies to determine whether VMD or CAF is the more effective technique for the detection of marks on fabrics. Four different fabrics, nylon, polyester, polycotton and cotton, were utilised during this study, along with 15 donors who ranged in their age and ability to leave fingermarks, from good to medium to poor, thus reflecting the general population. Once samples were collected they were kept for a determined time (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 14, 21 or 28 days) and then treated using either the gold and zinc metal VMD process or standard cyanoacrylate fuming.
The smoother fabrics, such as nylon, consistently produced greater ridge detail whereas duller fabrics, like cotton tended only to show empty prints and impressions of where the fabric had been touched, rather than any ridge details. The majority of fabrics did however allow the development of touch marks that could be targeted for DNA taping which potentially could lead to a DNA profile. Of the two techniques VMD was around 5 times more effective than CAF, producing a greater amount of ridge detail, palmar flexion creases and target areas on more samples and fabrics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-140
Number of pages8
JournalScience & Justice
Issue number2
Early online date18 Dec 2013
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014


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