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Technical Note

Recovering Bloody Fingerprints from Skin

David Petretei1
Miklos Angyal2

Abstract: Well-known processes for developing blood prints (i.e., amido


black, leucocrystal violet, and Hungarian red) were tested to recover bloody
fingerprints from cadaver skin. Several tests with varying quantities of blood
on a thumb and fingers were tested to determine the most effective process.
The process using Hungarian red proved to be the most successful and was
then tested on living human skin, resulting in two of the five planted prints
being identifiable.

Introduction
This paper focuses on the development of blood-stained
fingerprints on human skin, both cadaver and living, by apply-ing
different developers. Three developers were selected for the
experiments: (1) amido black (AB), (2) leucocrystal violet (LCV),
and (3) Hungarian red (also known as acid fuchsin).
Amido black is a chemical dye solution that binds to protein
molecules in blood and yields a dark blue color [1]. The applica-tion
of the AB method on human skin has been described in the scientific
literature for more than a decade [2]. Field application has been
reported for more than two decades [3]. The amido black kit (BVDA
Cat. No. B-89501, Netherlands) that was used during the experiment
was methanol based and had three stages: staining, rinse 1, and rinse
2 [4].
1

Hungarian
InvestigationInstitute for Forensic Sciences, Department of Crime Scene
Hungarian Institute for Forensic Sciences, Department of Forensic
Medicine
Received December 3, 2014; accepted January 28, 2015
Journal of Forensic Identification
65 (5), 2015 \ 813

Leucocrystal violet (BVDA Cat. No. B -88600, Netherlands) is a


cationic triarylmethane dye that has an affinity for both cellu-losic
and proteinaceous materials. LCV is often called gentian violet. LCV
is the completely reduced form of crystal violet and is therefore
colorless. When LCV and hydrogen peroxide come into contact with
the hemoglobin in blood, a catalytic reaction occurs and the solution
turns to a purple-violet color [5].
Hungarian red (BVDA, Netherlands) is a dye solution in a wateracetic acid mixture that is used for staining finger-prints and
footprints made in blood. Because of the water-based solution of the
Hungarian red, it is not considered to be a hazard-ous material and
may not affect the toxicology results. Prints in blood are colored red
after treatment with Hungarian red [6]. Hungarian red is a wellknown blood-staining agent [7].
Experiments Blood
Preliminary Experiment
Before using on human cadaver skin, we conducted a prelimi-nary
experiment with the three aforementioned methods to verify the
suitability of each method. Author 2 performed a venipuncture on
author 1 and partially filled a small petri dish. Author 1 put his thumb
into the untreated blood for 1 second, and after 1 to 3 seconds of airdrying, author 1 slightly rubbed his thumb with his forefinger. He
then placed bloody thumb prints on the glass surfaces (smear slides),
holding for 1 second, using moderate pressure. The blood was
replenished on the thumb between each impression.
Application of Amido Black
No fixative was used because the staining solution is a methanolbased amido black dilution, which does not require a fixative. We
used the methanol-acetic acid solution (rinse 1) for the first rinsing.
After 10 to 15 seconds, the 5% aqueous acetic acid (rinse 2) was
used for the second rinsing. All three components were sprayed. No
additional water or other solvent was used.
Application of Leucocrystal Violet
Leucocrystal violet comprises a separately packed water-based
LCV solution and a water-based hydrogen peroxide dilution. For the
experiment, we mixed the two solutions in
Journal of Forensic Identification 814 / 65 (5), 2015

a mixing ratio of 1:4, 10 minutes before using. LCV does not require
any fixative. After 10 to 20 seconds of spraying using a hand-held
sprayer, we had to wash the surface off with tap water, otherwise the
entire surface would have become purple. Tap water was used directly
from the built-in hose of the dissec-tion table.
Application of Hungarian Red
Before dyeing with Hungarian red, the bloody prints needed to be
fixed. We used 2% 5-sulfosalicic acid diluted in distilled water.
Despite the instructions of BVDA, we sprayed the fixative directly
onto the prints and did not use any absorbent paper to cover them.
Spraying was performed while keeping a relative distance from the
surface to avoid the spray washing the prints off. (BVDAs
instructions advise using the absorbent paper to avoid the fixative
washing the details off. But we used the fixative with careful
attention; the prints were preserved. Covering the untreated prints
seemed to be risky.) After 20 to 30 seconds, we used the staining
solution, and after another 10 to 20 seconds, we rinsed the slides with
tap water. Both the fixative and the staining solution were sprayed;
tap water was used directly from the built-in hose of the dissection
table.
The preliminary experiment yielded the expected result: all three
developers worked equally well on the smear slides
(Figures 13), and all fingerprints were sufficient to identify a
person.

Figure 1
Amido black-treated print on smear slide.
65 (5), 2015 \ 815
Journal of Forensic Identification

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