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Variation in amino acid and lipid composition of latent fingerprints

By Ruth Croxton, Mark Baron, David Butler, Terry Kent and Vaughn Sears


The enhancement of latent fingerprints, both at the crime scene and in the laboratory using an array of chemical, physical and optical techniques, permits their use for identification. Despite the plethora of techniques available, there are occasions when latent fingerprints are not successfully enhanced. An understanding of latent fingerprint chemistry and behaviour will aid the improvement of current techniques and the development of novel ones. In this study the amino acid and fatty acid content of ‘real’ latent fingerprints collected on a non-porous surface was analysed by gas chromatography–mass\ud spectrometry. Squalene was also quantified in addition. Hexadecanoic acid, octadecanoic acid and cis-9-\ud octadecenoic acid were the most abundant fatty acids in all samples. There was, however, wide variation in the relative amounts of each fatty acid in each sample. It was clearly demonstrated that touching sebum-rich areas of the face immediately prior to fingerprint deposition resulted in a significant increase in the amount of fatty acids and squalene deposited in the resulting ‘groomed’ fingerprints. Serine was the most abundant amino acid identified followed by glycine, alanine and aspartic acid. The significant\ud quantitative differences between the ‘natural’ and ‘groomed’ fingerprint samples seen for fatty acids\ud were not observed in the case of the amino acids. This study demonstrates the variation in latent fingerprint composition between individuals and the impact of the sampling protocol on the quantitative analysis of fingerprints

Topics: F110 Applied Chemistry, F410 Forensic Science, F180 Analytical Chemistry
Publisher: Elsevier
Year: 2010
DOI identifier: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2010.03.019
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