A study of background population of fibres on knife blades.

Affiliation

University of Lausanne, School of Criminal Justice, Batochime, CH-1015 Lausanne - Dorigny, Switzerland. Electronic address: [Email]

Abstract

Edged weapons are frequently used to commit violent crimes (e.g., homicides, assaults or sequestrations). Following a stabbing, a fibre transfer might occur from the damaged fabric to the blade. It is crucial to investigate whether the target fibres were transferred to the blade as a result of the stabbing and if they are in association with the offence or whether they originate from another unrelated event (i.e., part of the background). The aim of this study is to explore the background population of fibres recovered on knife blades (police seizures and everyday knives) to help the interpretation of the results stemming from the analysis of the fibre evidence in crime cases involving the use of a bladed weapon. A population study was carried out to learn about the variety, the distribution and the size of the fibre population present on knife blades. After recovery using tapes lifting, stereoscopic examinations were performed to classify around 1500 fibres according to their colour and generic type. The most common colour/type combinations were: colourless/white cotton (31%), blue cotton (16%) and grey cotton fibres (11%). As blue fibres represent one of the most common colour group, they were selected to carry out a colour block study (based on microscopy observations and microspectrophotometry UV-vis spectra) to investigate the number and the size of the groups of indistinguishable fibres present on each blade. Only 30% of the knife blades presented more than one blue cotton fibre. The number of groups found per knife varied between 1 and 3, each group containing between 2 and 6 fibres. Findings revealed an important difference between the background fibre populations in terms of quantity of fibres, their morphology and spatial distributions - and the population of fibres transferred in a stabbing. The collected data can be used in a Bayesian approach to help with the interpretation of results.

Keywords

Colour block study,Fibre background,Knife blades,Population study,