Visualisation of fingermarks and grab impressions on fabrics. Part 1: gold/zinc vacuum metal deposition

Joanna Fraser, Keith R. Sturrock, Paul Deacon, Stephen Bleay, David H. Bremner

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    Vacuum metal deposition (VMD) is a highly sensitive technique originally introduced for detecting latent fingermarks on smooth non-porous surfaces such as carrier bags, plastics and glass. The current study explores whether VMD can be used in the examination of clothing from physical and sexual assault cases in order to visualise identifiable fingermark ridge detail and/or palmar flexion crease detail, thus allowing potential areas to be indicated for DNA swabbing and/or to determine the sequence of events. Four different fabrics were utilised during this study – nylon, polyester, polycotton and cotton, along with 15 donors who ranged in their age and propensity to leave fingermarks, from good to medium to poor as determined by results obtained from test runs using paper and plastic carrier bags processed with VMD. 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 the gold/zinc metal VMD process. From the results, it appears that greater ridge detail is visible on the smoother non-porous fabrics, such as nylon whereas on rougher porous fabrics, such as cotton, only empty prints and impressions, rather than any ridge details, were visible. All fabrics did however allow the development of touch marks that could be targeted for DNA taping thus potentially leading to a DNA profile and possible identification of a suspect.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)309-314
    Number of pages6
    JournalForensic Science International
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - May 2011


    • Fingermark detection
    • Vacuum metal deposition
    • Fabrics
    • Nylon
    • Polyester
    • Polycotton
    • Cotton


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