Scientists have developed a new futuristic fingerprinting technique that can tell whether the prints were left by a male or female and identify products such as hair gels.
The technology, which is being trialled by West Yorkshire Police, analyses proteins that are secreted in sweat to determine with 85 per cent accuracy whether the prints were left by a male or female.
The technique, which is sensitive to minute concentrations of chemicals, can identify products such as hair gels, condom lubricants and cleaning products as well as showing whether someone has consumed coffee or drugs during the hours before a crime took place.
“It means if we can’t identify them, we can still get some intelligence and build up an offender profile. I see this being used routinely on crime scenes,” said Neil Denison, a fingerprint expert and West Yorkshire Police’s Regional Head of Identification Services.
The trial will also test how accurately prints can be dated, based on the idea that certain chemical constituents of a print will degrade more quickly than others, ‘The Times’ reported.
“We think this is the future of finger printing. You’ll be able to see what a person has been doing before committing the crime and get a sense of their lifestyle,” said Dr Simona Francese, a forensic scientist at Sheffield Hallam University who is leading the trial.
At a crime scene, police isolate the prints using powder in the normal way. After the fingerprints have been lifted for identification purposes, the forensic scientists take a second lift of the print with tape, collecting the chemical residue left by the suspect.
This is then analysed with a spectroscopic technique, called MALDI-MSI, which allows scientists to work out the different compounds contained in the residue. By measuring the level of proteins and other compounds that are released in sweat, scientists have shown the technique is 85 per cent accurate at determining the sex of a person based on their fingerprint.