The effect of household corrosive substances on latent fingermark development in the context of deliberate corrosive substance attacks

Ruth Croxton*, Holly Joyce

*Corresponding author for this work

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Corrosive substance attacks (CSA) are a prevalent issue in the UK with 525 offenses involving a corrosive substance reported to the police in the year ending March 2022. Easy availability, low cost, and concealability in public are common reasons for choosing a corrosive substance as a weapon. The Metropolitan Police revealed that 68% of 1849 CSA cases resulted in no suspect identified or evidential difficulties. There is limited research into the effect of corrosive substances on latent fingermarks. This study aimed to determine the potential for fingermarks to be recovered from surfaces exposed to a household corrosive substance within the context of a deliberate CSA. Natural and sebaceous-loaded fingermarks were exposed to Domestos bleach, Harpic limescale remover (hydrochloric acid-based) and lemon juice. Harpic limescale remover had the most detrimental effect, with only 7.1% of fingermarks (n = 378) exposed being identifiable (defined as sufficient clear ridge detail for identification) after enhancement, followed by bleach with only 10.3% of fingermarks (n = 378) identifiable. Lemon juice had the least detrimental effect on fingermarks, with 40.5% fingermarks (n = 378) identifiable compared to 53.4% for the controls (not exposed to any substance; n = 378). Throughout the study, fewer natural fingermarks were identifiable after exposure to corrosive substances compared to sebaceous fingermarks which was as expected. Overall, this study demonstrated that there is potential to recover latent fingermarks, depending on their composition, following exposure to a household corrosive substance. This area warrants further research to establish best practice to maximize the potential to recover identifiable fingermarks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1991-2001
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Forensic Sciences
Issue number6
Early online date25 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2023

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