Footwear, Tools and other Marks
Footwear and other marks are one of the few forensic evidence types which have the potential to provide “conclusive” evidence to support a view that a particular shoe or implement made a particular mark or impression. This has many benefits over some other evidence types which, at best, only provide some degree of scientific support for the prosecution, or defence viewpoint.
Our footwear and marks team has extensive experience in the field of forensic chemistry. The team is led by Karen Wade who has many years forensic experience reporting physical evidence (marks) cases. Our team can provide expertise in a wide range of cases including:
Footwear mark (shoemark) and toolmark analysis and comparisons
Footwear and toolmarks are left behind at a variety of crime scenes and can be compared with “suspect” footwear and tools. This is done by a combination of assessing the similarity in pattern, pattern size and wear between the mark(s) and the shoes or tools. If there is any unique damage or other features present, this also adds significance to the association. Our marks team provide a diverse range of services including:
- Pattern identification
- Interpretation of the significance of any similarity in pattern, pattern size, wear and damage between footwear marks recovered from scenes, and shoes seized from a suspect
- Enhancement of footwear marks using specialist lighting, chemical and photographic techniques
- Footprints and "feet in shoes" to determine the regular wearer of a particular pair of shoes
- Specialised footwear marks on clothing and bodies and footwear marks made in blood.and other materials
- Review of prosecution findings in the light of new information
- Identification of the type of tool which made a given mark
- Comparison of tools and suspected marks
- Recovery of toolmarks
- Forensic examination of locks, keys and security tags for evidence of tampering or copying
- Examination of items to assess damage and the possiblity of physical fits
Fingerprint analysis and comparisons
Fingerprint evidence is not only one of the oldest and well established forensic disciplines, but also provides the only unique method for identifying the person who made the mark. No two individuals have ever been found to have the same fingerprints. They even vary between members of the same family and identical twins.
Fingerprints are left at a variety of crime scenes, and can be compared with a suspect or victim to help to establish the presence of a particular individual. The position of individual prints can also assist in developing a hypothesis of the chain of events.
First Forensic offer a comprehensive fingerprint comparison service, including:
- Comparison of recovered fingerprints and comparison with known prints
- Examination of items for the presence of fingerprints
- Recording and recovery of prints from items
- Taking reference fingerprints from anyone, for comparison with recovered prints
- Interpretation of fingermarks in blood and other materials
- Interpretation of the orientation and positioning of fingerprints
- Enhancement of latent ("invisible") marks using specialised chemical and lighting techniques as well as expert photography
We were recently asked to comment in a case involving the assault of a male. Kick marks were found on the victim’s head, which were photographed. The defendant had been arrested and several pairs of his footwear taken.
We would normally expect the photographs of the injuries to be examined in a forensic laboratory by a forensic scientist with expertise in marks on bodies. The laboratory examination should include comparison of scaled photographs of the injuries with test marks made by the suspect shoes. This would be followed by an assessment of the significance of any similarities between the pattern and pattern size (class characteristics) and the wear and damage (individualising characteristics) of the marks and the shoes.
In this case the shoes were examined visually by a scenes of crime officer through the packaging (i.e. without a physical examination), who commented in his statement that the injuries were consistent with the pattern of both shoes. He did not use scaled photographs of the injuries.
Our advice to our client was that as the sole “pattern” of an item of footwear is based on the orientation and size of the various pattern elements, an accurate assessment of any similarity cannot be made without scaled photographs and a thorough physical examination, In addition, there are many different brands and models of footwear available which include the same pattern elements. The significance of any similarity should only be assessed by an experienced forensic scientist.
Our advice to the client was that the superficial comparison carried out in this case was spurious and should not have been used in evidence.