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Investigation Into the Merits of Infrared Imaging in the Investigation of Tattoos Postmortem

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Sciences Volume: 56 Issue: 6 Dated: November 2011 Pages: 1569-1573
Alexandra Starkie, M.Sc.; Wendy Birch, M.Sc.; Roxana Ferllini, M.A.; Tim J.U. Thompson, Ph.D.
Date Published
November 2011
5 pages
This study examined infrared imaging and its use in the detection of tattoos on the human body postmortem.
Infrared imaging has a history of use in the forensic examination of artwork and documents and is investigated here for its wider use in the detection of tattoos on the human body postmortem. Infrared photographic and reflectographic techniques were tested on 18 living individuals, displaying a total of 30 tattoos. It was observed that neither age, sex, age of the tattoo, nor, most significantly, skin color affected the ability to image the tattoos using infrared imaging techniques. Second, a piglet carcass was tattooed and the impact of the decomposition process on the visibility of the tattoos assessed. Changes were recorded for 17 days and decomposition included partial mummification and skin discoloration. Crucially, the discoloration was recorded as greatly affecting the image quality using conventional photography, but was insignificant to the infrared recording of these tattoos. It was concluded that infrared reflectography was beneficial in the investigation into tattoos postmortem. (Published Abstract)