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Detection of Bleached Ninhydrin Developed Fingerprints on Paper

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Identification Volume: 52 Issue: 5 Dated: September/October 2002 Pages: 537-550
Chris Lennard; Milutin Stoilovic
Date Published
December 2002
14 pages
This article describes the procedure and presents the conclusions of a test to determine whether police had bleached a check and then deposited the defendant's fingerprint on the area, as alleged by a defense expert.
According to the defense expert, the questioned document, a stolen bank check, had been cleaned on the back by police with a bleaching solution before they deposited a forged latent fingerprint of the defendant on the check; the forged fingerprint was subsequently developed by police with ninhydrin, according to the defense expert. This theory became a significant issue in the 1995 appeal, following the defendant's conviction in 1983. The Forensic Services laboratory of the Australian Federal Police was requested by the court to assist in determining whether or not a bleaching reagent had been used on the questioned document. A number of experiments were conducted, with results presented before a Court of Criminal Appeal in November 1998. This article describes these experiments, which used two bank checks of the same type as the stolen bank check at issue. The experiments found that diluted household bleach is an effective reagent for the removal of ninhydrin-developed fingerprints and that a latent fingermark can be deposited on a bleached area and subsequently developed with ninhydrin. Further, any such area of bleaching can be readily detected when seen in the luminescence mode. Although the claim of the defense expert was established as a possibility in this testing, the experiments found no evidence of bleaching in the photographs of the questioned fingermark taken in July 1982 during luminescence enhancement of the fingermark. Further, no such bleaching was evident in photographs taken of the questioned fingermark after treatment by the physical developer in 1985. Neither was it evident on the check at the time of this testing. A photographic expert who presented evidence at the appeal supported these conclusions. 15 figures


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