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Science and Justice 50 (2010) 100109

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Science and Justice

j o u r n a l h o m e p a g e : w w w. e l s ev i e r. c o m / l o c a t e / s c i j u s

Conference report

Body Fluids Conference Jointly hosted by the Forensic Science Society & the Centre
for Forensic Investigation, University of Teesside
1819 April 2008 Convenors: Julie Allard and Brian Rankin

The conference was opened by Louise McKenna, Forensic Science would involve dampened paper applied to the item of interest,
Providers' Group (FSPG), Body Fluids Forum (BFF) Chair and Brian pressure applied, resulting in the transfer of water and semen
Rankin, President of the Forensic Science Society (FSSoc). The purpose (if present) to the paper and then the application of AP.
of the conference was to share the Forum's knowledge with other In the research conducted by BFF members, many different
forensic biologists and to learn from each other through discussion parameters were investigated including how long the reaction may
groups and poster presentations. A wide range and rst-rate calibre of take, the strength of the reaction, the paper used, the quantity of
speakers from the UK, Ireland, New Zealand, Lausanne, Zurich and The water and direct application of the reagent to items. One member of
Netherlands presented their work and ndings over two days. the BFF conducted a literature search on cut-off times for AP reactions
The BFF of the UK and Ireland was established in 2003 to join and found that only one paper had been published which suggested
knowledge and experiences from various laboratories in order to that if there had been no reaction after 2 min then the test should be
optimise the location, recovery and identication of body uids and regarded as negative. However, there appeared to be no mention of
best practice in the interpretation of the forensic results within the why this specic time was selected. This resulted in the decision that
case context. The BFF then became a sub-group of the FSPG in 2006. reaction times would be a wholly worthwhile variable to look into.
Since its inception, members of the BFF have consolidated information The type of paper used was also investigated. Papers tested included
and conducted much research into specic body-uid matters. Ford's Gold Medal Blotting Paper, Whatman No.1 Qualitative Filter
This conference proved to be an impressive start in redressing the Paper, Whatman Grades 1 and 3 Filter Papers and Banner Blotting
imbalance between the resources and attention that have been put Paper. Items tested were seeded with previously frozen semen. The
into DNA proling in recent years over and above the efforts put into tests showed that there was not a great deal of difference in the papers
improving the abilities of biologists to locate, extract and identify at 2 min and between 5 and 10 min. What was established is that the
body uids and into understanding the factors involved in their longer the AP is left to react, the greater the dilution of semen that is
transfer and persistence. detectable. After several hours, faint purple reactions and purple
speck reactions were obtained. At 4 h it was possible to detect a 1-in-
And in the beginning.there was AP 1000 dilution on Whatman Grade 3 Filter Paper. Some of the ndings
from these studies have meant that many BFF laboratories no longer
Gerry Davidson, FSPG BFF Secretary, Forensic Science Service (Chorley), have a two-minute cut-off point.
and Jennie Lewis, FSPG BFF Member, Cellmark Forensic Services Another variable considered in the experimental studies was the
amount of water used to dampen the items under test and which
This presentation detailed the BFF's approach to maximising the items should be dampened: to wet the paper, to wet the exhibit or to
chances of nding relevant evidence in sexual offence casework and wet both? These tests involved trying out variations on 32 different
improving the value of forensic science. Gerry and Jennie addressed types of fabric, including a cotton facecloth, poly/cotton t-shirt,
issues relating to the use of the acid phosphatase (AP) test, an initial polyester eece, carpet, suede jacket, wool sweater, double layer
screening test for the presence of semen. Given that only an estimated cotton knickers, elastane top, polyester skirt, and a corduroy skirt. In
20% of rape cases are reported and of those, only 20% arrive at a general, the reactions seemed to be quicker when the exhibits and
forensic provider for work (2001 British Crime Survey) it is clearly of blotting papers were wet but semen was still detected when the wet/
paramount importance to maximise the chances of nding relevant dry methods were tested. There were no denitive conclusions
evidence in each case. relating to whether fabric type is likely to affect the results.
The AP screening test detects the presence of a substance found at Some recommendations included considering the specic circum-
especially high levels in human semen, acid phosphatase. The primary stances of the case in question, assessing expectations, gathering
obstacle with the use of this test in forensic investigation is that information, consideration of the fabric type, approach to search and
vaginal material itself can contain some AP activity and, although this recovery, time since deposition, time to deposition (for vaginal
usually gives a slightly different reaction in the test, it can on occasion drainage stains) and potential for primary and/or secondary transfer.
be confused with what might be expected from semen in trace In another series of tests, fresh semen at a series of dilutions was
amounts. The AP test used by forensic laboratories is used practically seeded on pairs of knickers which were then placed in bags and put in
as it was when it was rst described by Stuart Kind 50 years ago, a cupboard for a week. These were then tested for AP using the blot
although there are a number of variations on the theme. Typically this method, a spray method and direct aerosol application of the reagent.

Conference report 101

Direct application of the reagent proved to be the most sensitive and with AP included tea, urine, vaginal material and bleach. The effect
method with the added benet of the ne mist not penetrating the of washing the substrates was investigated, some with and some
garment through to other surfaces, thus making it easier to say on without powder. Both MUP and AP were only able to detect stains where
which layer of fabric the stain originated. powder had not been used. Crime-Lites (LED based torches) and ALS
Tests were also done to try to establish whether the AP method had methods worked very well regardless of whether washing powder had
any adverse effects on the likelihood of obtaining DNA proles. It been used. These tests were carried out after some garments had been
appeared that the method did not affect the uptake of haematoxylin and washed at 22 C and some at 40 C. Substances which were shown to
eosin and the ability to retrieve STR DNA proles was not affected. Work produce false positives using Crime-Lites and ALS methods were blood,
is still ongoing in this area. There is also a number of projects underway saliva, sweat, urine, vaginal secretions, coffee and toothpaste.
studying if a woman's age could be a factor in determining whether false In summary, MUP showed sensitivity to semen at a wide range of
positive AP results are obtained. The tests are being carried out on dilutions, on a variety of substrates but was less specic than AP testing;
semen-free vaginal material on knickers that have been worn for a day. however, increasing the number of MUP sprays may increase sensitivity.
Women in a range of age-groups and at different times in their cycles AP blotting was sensitive, specic and effective on all substrates with
have provided samples, and there is still a great deal of research to do. few false positives, but was poor at detecting semen on items washed
Future research projects intend to examine indirect testing with washing powder. AP is also time-consuming and laborious for large
followed by direct testing of samples, direct testing of live samples, areas. Crime-Lites were sensitive to semen on carpet and cotton to a
washed samples (under different washing conditions) and visualising dilution of 1-in-50, stains on non-absorbent items were easily detected,
semen on dark items. and stains on absorbent substrates were less easily detected.
In conclusion, the studies demonstrated that direct spraying of MUP
A blast from the past semen detection 70's style onto items is a useful complementary screening test to AP blotting,
methylumbelliferyl phosphate, a screening tool in Crime-Lites, ALS, and especially when screening large areas. It is
the detection of semen stains revisited important to consider a range of issues when choosing the most
appropriate method of screening for seminal stains. It seems that AP
Sarah Jones, FSPG BFF Member, SPSA Forensic Services, Aberdeen mapping is the most reliable and sensitive method to detect the presence
of semen, but if the item is large initial use of Crime-Lites or ALS may be
Historically the chemical basis for the forensic identication of more appropriate. It is also critical that the type of substrate being
semen has been built on the acid phosphatase (AP) activity of seminal examined should be used to determine the choice of detection method.
uid. The earliest type of screening test used on medical swabs and In relation to the effects of MUP on later DNA recovery there is a
clothing, used in the 1950s and 1960s, was the Brentamine test. Some requirement for further work.
advances in semen detection were made in the 1970s, in particular,
Adams and Wraxall [1]. Their method found that seminal AP could be Transfer and persistence of semen and the washing machine
distinguished from other phosphatase activities (such as vaginal) by
electrophoretic mobility. The separation of seminal AP from other Gerry Davidson, FSPG BFF Secretary, Forensic Science Service (Chorley)
phosphatases was visualised in the gel using 4-methyumbelliferyl
(MUP) and long wave UV light. Over the years the use of MUP has This presentation reected on how the persistence of semen can
diminished in favour of the Brentamine and AP tests, but does that affect the ndings in sexual offence casework. Results from the
mean forensic biologists are missing out on a useful forensic tool that research carried out by members of the BFF in relation to the transfer
could provide a complementary test useful in certain circumstances? and persistence of constituents of seminal uid, such as acid
The use of MUP as a method for the detection of semen has now phosphatase (AP), prostate-specic antigen (PSA), and spermatozoa
been evaluated in comparative studies involving other routinely used were reported, in addition to how these ndings might impact on the
chemical and uorescent techniques. The studies considered issues interpretation of ndings in forensic casework.
relating to sensitivity, the effect of substrates, the potential for false Gerry opened the presentation by posing the question, Is it enough
positives, the effect of washing, labour-intensiveness, health and to nd out if semen is present and who it could have come from? We
safety hazards, and whether the direct spraying of MUP had any were asked to consider how forensic biologists are currently interpret-
detrimental effect on the recovery of DNA. ing the presence of semen from an individual. Gerry suggests that if the
This study found the Brentamine test to be very effective in scientic ndings are not properly considered within the context of the
detecting semen stains on a wide range of substrates and it also case then it becomes possible that the courts could be misled. It is
proved to be very specic. It did demonstrate however that the important to address whether any semen found is offence-specic, so it
screening of large areas of substrates can be extremely time- is necessary to address issues relating to the transfer and persistence of
consuming, using the blotting method, and that direct application of semen. Regarding intimate swabs there is published persistence data
Brentamine raises some serious health and safety concerns. Visualis- available which allows scientists to consider time since intercourse (TSI)
ing stains on dark fabrics also proved to be rather difcult. Direct and therefore whether the ndings are related to a specic offence. The
application of MUP showed itself to be a possible alternative due to studies conducted here included examining the effects of washing
the benets of it being a quick technique when screening large areas garments on the persistence of semen, AP and PSA. Also considered was
for semen, and it can also be easily visualised on darker fabrics. the potential for the transfer of constituents of semen onto clothing
Fluorescence methods, LED torches and Alternative Light Source during washing.
(ALS) methods were also considered. Serial dilutions of semen were Semen was applied to the gussets of new cotton knickers and on
carried out to look at variations in sensitivity on a range of substrates. clean bed sheets, then left to air-dry. The subsequent wash cycles
Light sources were only effective down to a 1-in-50 dilution, whereas contained three semen-stained items, three new and clean items, and
MUP gave a strong reaction on carpet down to a 1-in-5000 dilution. AP a portion of a bed sheet with eight semen-stained areas. Three clean
also worked at a 1-in-5000 dilution but the reaction was not as strong lab coats were also added to the wash to simulate a full load. The wash
as with MUP. MUP detected stains on all substrates tested except for a cycles consisted of, rstly, a 10-min wash in cold water, a rinse and a
white cotton bed sheet, due to some strong background uorescence. gentle spin without powder; secondly, a 65-min wash at 40 C with a
AP detected some stains on all substrates. non-biological detergent. After wash one AP gave a positive reaction
The potential for false positive reactions was also investigated and in less than 50 s from all semen-seeded areas, PSA gave positive
with MUP these materials included saliva, sweat, coffee and toothpaste, reactions and 4+ heads were detected. After wash two, AP activity did
102 Conference report

not persist, PSA activity was only detectable in one of 12 items and analysis on degraded blood and saliva stains using an Affymetrix
sperms were found in signicantly reduced amounts. Microarray system which encompasses 54,000 human transcripts. The
So, what about the transfer of semen and spermatozoa when most stable mRNAs were then selected following microarray data
washing with stained items? After wash one AP activity was detected on analysis using the GNF SymAtlas expression database. This is a web
some knickers, PSA on some and sperm was found in many areas. In application for publishing experimental functionalisation datasets
wash two no AP or PSA activity was detected but traces of sperm were integrated with a exibly searchable gene-centric database. Genes
found in 4 out of 13 areas tested. These ndings support previously were selected only if they were abundantly and exclusively expressed in
published literature. Most importantly the ndings once again raise the the target tissues. Using these very strict criteria, the team identied
question of whether semen detected is offence-specic. The forensic stable tissue-specic mRNA markers from ve genes for saliva and nine
biologist needs to carefully consider their expectations in any given case. genes for whole blood. This was done whilst also considering the
Transfer of dry semen stains was also considered. It is evident that degradation stability of mRNAs. Expression of the candidate genes
this is a possibility but of course the amounts transferred will be remained high enough to be detected after 180 days of stain storage.
dependent on the initial amounts present on a garment. In one case The results were validated using Real-Time Polymerase Chain
example presented, a child had alleged that a male had put his hand Reaction (RT-PCR) and reproducible amplication was achieved for all
down her knickers and digitally penetrated her. Vulval swabs and the the saliva and blood-specic markers. The experimental method also
girl's knickers were submitted for forensic testing and screening tests included an approximate estimation of the markers' detection
gave negative results for semen but an incomplete DNA prole was sensitivity relative to the starting amount of stain material. As little
generated from the samples which matched a relative who was not a as 0.05 cm of tissue spotted with blood allowed the detection of the
suspect in the case. Normal domestic activities that could explain the blood-specic mRNA markers. Unlike previous similar studies, these
transfer of spermatozoa were considered and this drove the BFF to do candidate genes were selected from many thousands of human mRNA
further research on washing machines. So, a range of tests were transcripts based on real experimental data upon gene-expression.
carried out, including things such as children's pants being stored in Zubakov et al. [11] demonstrate in their research paper that the
washing baskets with semen-stained items, and being washed with candidate genes identied do indeed provide informative mRNA
semen-stained items. Where the pants had been stored and washed markers for blood and saliva identication for stains of up to 180 days
with semen-stained items, trace amounts of sperm were detected. of age. It is also suspected, however, that the proposed markers will
Swabs were also taken from the door, the drum and the seal of the successfully identify much older stains. The research team now
washing machine and sperm was detected. propose that these markers could be applied in forensic casework for
From the experiments where children's knickers had not been stored stains of at least six months of age.
with or washed with semen-stained items, single spermatozoa were
detected on four out of 13 pairs. Where the knickers had been stored in a The medical practitioner's perspective and implications for the
washing basket with semen-stained items but not washed with them, forensic biologist
no spermatozoa were found. In the next experiment whereby the
knickers had been stored and washed with semen-stained items, trace Dr. Debbi Rogers, Chair of the Forensic Science Committee, Faculty of
amounts of spermatozoa were found on the inside and outside of the Legal and Forensic Medicine, and Mary Newton, Forensic Science Service
four pairs examined. On swabs taken from the washing machine door, (London)
occasional spermatozoa were found on the door, drum and seal.
These ndings further highlighted issues relating to the potential The Faculty of Forensic and Legal Medicine (FFLM) was established
for the transfer and persistence of semen and sperm and raised the to promote for the public benet the advancement of education and
question, What is likely? Evaluation of the results in the context of knowledge in the eld of forensic and legal medicine. It seeks to
the case is critical and accurate expectations based on the information develop and maintain for the public benet the good practice of
available should be developed to ensure that the evidential value of forensic and legal medicine by ensuring the highest professional
the ndings is appropriately realised. And nally, a rule for one case is standards of competence and ethical integrity. The principal purpose
by no means a rule for another. of the FFLM is to ensure that all relevant forensic samples are collected
in a way that maximises the recovery of potential forensic evidence
Stable RNA markers for the identication of body uids whilst minimizing the stress to an examinee. Their principal objective
is to maintain guidelines on forensic sampling that will be updated
Dr. Dmitry Zubakov, Erasmus Medical Centre, the Netherlands regularly when appropriate. Currently these are in the form of the
published Guidelines for the collection of forensic specimens from
The primary motivation for this ongoing research is to develop a complainants and suspects. The contributors to this document meet
reliable method of tissue identication in forensic casework in order every six months to review and update the advice.
to uncover important insights into crime reconstruction and thus play The presentation concentrated on some of the difculties facing
a role in crime detection. Forensic Physicians as they attempt to collect any available and
Blood and saliva are sources of human biological materials relevant forensic evidence, and also provoked debate on why the yield
commonly found at scenes of crime. Blood stains are commonly tested of forensic evidence from complainants and suspects of sexual
in forensic casework using a range of methods such as the KastleMeyer offences is so low. The normal volume of a single ejaculate is between
(KM) or Leucomalachite Green (LMG) tests, which are indicative but not 2 and 7 ml, and contains approximately 50120 million spermatozoa.
able to identify blood. The nature of these presumptive tests is such that Given this data it becomes difcult to understand why yield of
there is potential for false positives to be obtained. Saliva stains can be evidence is so low. Here are some of the dilemmas put forward by Dr.
detected using other similar types of presumptive test and again are not Debbi Rogers and Mary Newton:
sufcient for identication of saliva.
Some methods for the identication and quantication of mRNA in Are collection techniques adequate?
human tissue exist which make gene-expression proling possible. What affects persistence?
Despite beliefs that mRNA is highly prone to degradation, some recent What contamination issues should be addressed?
studies have shown that it is possible to isolate RNA of sufcient quality How should samples be packaged and stored?
and quantity from biological stains that are months or even years old. Dr. Where, when and how should skin swabs be taken?
Zubakov and his colleagues performed whole genome gene-expression What, if any, control samples should be taken?
Conference report 103

With skin swabs in particular, it can be challenging to determine for example, how might that change a scientist's opinion on an issue?
exactly where to swab for body uids, cellular material and lubricant How do scientists reason in these situations? Mr. Jackson invited the
as the Forensic Physician is often reliant on taking a history of the conference delegation to consider how such a wide range of individuals
assault from a traumatised person who may be tired, unsure, might view a particular scenario. This scenario was to consider the
reluctant, and/or under the inuence of drink and/or drugs. likelihood that we believed Mr. Jackson was once a semi-professional
For many years Dr. Rogers has used the Wood's Lamp which emits footballer. The audience was able to select any of the following options:
ultra-violet light at 360 nm wavelength. Santucci et al. [9] reported the
Certainly not
Wood's Lamp as being of use in rape evaluations as it supposedly causes
Very likely not
semen to uoresce. In relation to the taking of control skin swabs best
Likely not
practice guidance is currently to use the double swabbing method
(damp then dry swab) on an area of skin adjacent to but not in contact
Likely was
with the stained area of skin. If multiple areas of skin are to be sampled
Very likely was
then the area between the shoulder blades can be used. So when should
Certainly was
swabs be taken? It is important to rst establish if this type of
examination would be relevant. It is crucial to have evidence to There was a broad array of views as might have been expected. Once
demonstrate that it is worth subjecting an examinee to additional views had been expressed, the audience was provided with some new
trauma. Previously published literature, such as Rutty [8] An Investiga- information, that he had once broken his ankle and injured his knee and
tion Into the Transference and Survivability of Human DNA Following then everyone was asked to reconsider their opinions. Mr. Jackson
Simulated Manual Strangulation with Consideration of the Problem of Third reasons that the Bayes Theorem can be used to help scientists to
Party Contamination can be used to help reach these decisions. It is appraise this kind information logically. This approach exists to help
important to consider whether the individual has washed, and whether scientists interpret ndings robustly and is underpinned by an
they have any piercings which could yield useful evidence. evaluation of a likelihood ratio (LR). The Theorem offers a logical
What about intimate samples? Currently FFLM guidance says that framework to evaluate the signicance of new pieces of information and
with female genitalia two vulval, two low vaginal, two high vaginal and to update one's uncertainty about a questioned event. The concept of the
two endocervical swabs should be retrieved. Nevertheless, how long after LR is of central importance in the model. Jackson et al. [7] state that:
an incident should an examiner subject individuals to such an intimate It is a measure of the weight of scientic observations the LR
examination? Decisions here need to be based on vaginal persistence changes the prior odds of an uncertain event into the posterior odds of
research. Davies and Wilson [5] reported that semen can be found up to that event. In essence, the LR can be likened to a weight that is added,
seven days post-coitus, and this is still the guidance used today. depending on whether it is greater than or less than 1 in numerical
Consideration ought to be given to whether these papers are still valid. value, to one or other of the pans of the scales of justice. The
In relation to the persistence of female DNA on the penis, Cina et al. likelihood, or probability, that it was a particular defendant who left a
[3] reported that it is possible to detect female DNA on the penis up to crime stain depends not only on the strength of the scientic evidence
24 h post-vaginal contact. Dr. Rogers suggested that there is variation but also on the combined strength of the other non-scientic
in sampling methods used but that the FFLM guidance is such that evidence. If a scientist gives a view on the probability of the origin
samples should be taken if the vaginal contact was within 48 h, even if of a crime stain, then that view may be limited and potentially
the subject has bathed. misleading because it will, almost inevitably, be based on limited
Willott and Allard [10] published data that attempted to clarify the knowledge of the totality of the evidence in a case.
persistence of spermatozoa on vaginal, anal and oral samples taken at The process begins with a consideration being given to the questions
known times after alleged intercourse in sexual offence cases. Their that are of importance. The courts then have two propositions to
data demonstrated persistence of spermatozoa up to 120 h for consider. 1) The Prosecution proposition is that the defendant left the
internal and external vaginal swabs, up to 65 h (113 h in one crime stain. 2) The Defence proposition is that some other, unknown
exceptional case) on rectal swabs, up to 46 h on anal swabs and 6 h person left the crime stain. The court will have heard all the background
for oral swabs. It is this type of research and data-gathering that can circumstances, which would be termed as prior odds. The posterior
assist both the Forensic Physician and the Forensic Biologist to assess odds come after the scientic evidence and Bayes uses the LR to move
the value of each examination and test and indicate the signicance of from prior to posterior. This is a sound and transparent way of
the results when giving evidence in a court of law. appraising evidence and it is the magnitude of the LR which implies
support for one or other of the propositions that the scientist has
Interpretation and expert opinion considered. This approach allows a demonstration of consistency and
impartiality to the courts within a logical structure of reasoning through
Graham Jackson, Advance Forensic Science consideration of events offered by both the prosecution and defence.
Mr Jackson does not imply that all case circumstances can be forced
There is a wide range of ways of expressing expert opinion. The into this seemingly inexible framework, but does propose that it assists
type of expressions used by forensic scientists would appear to in clarifying the rationale behind the scientic work in these situations.
depend not on only the ndings from their examinations but also on
individual partiality for certain words and phrases. For example: Both sides of the story
The ndings are consistent with the act of anal intercourse.
Dr. Helen Davey, Keith Borer Consultants
The body has been identied as that of.
The suspect probably handled the knife.
Dr. Davey's presentation reected on issues related to forensic
Explanations have a position in the investigative phase of an science in defence work, and provided information on how defence
enquiry, whereas sound appraisal of the weight of evidence requires scientists work and the kinds of ethical dilemmas encountered. This
formal propositions based on prosecution and defence positions. type of work is highly variable in nature and primarily comes via
Explanations clearly have a role but have severe limitations as well. solicitors, but sometimes via Counsel's recommendation. It is usually
The presentation considered the hierarchy of issues, the classica- funded privately or through the Legal Services Commission. Instruc-
tion of opinions, and looked at what information forensic scientists tions can be especially general Check out the forensic ndings, or
require to formulate their opinions. If new information were provided, they can be highly specic Give consideration in regard to transfer
104 Conference report

and persistence of DNA and what is the current published knowledge accused's penile swabs and/or underwear, and where the two parties
in this area, or Find out what size the t-shirt is and comment on were in each other's company prior to the alleged incident.
whether it could have been worn backwards. The lack of research and literature in this area to demonstrate what
The duty of a forensic scientist is to the court, to address the issues on might be expected to transfer through non-intimate social contact as
which they have been instructed, but also to advise if a particular opposed to as a result of sexual activity was the principal trigger for this
weakness is identied. It is not to provide or suggest a defence but to research project, which started three years ago. The aim of the project is
inform about the limitations of the tests undertaken. Dr. Davey considers to investigate the extent to which DNA may transfer innocently in
the role of a defence scientist to be exactly the same as that of a scientist order to provide reporting ofcers with some valuable information
who has examined the casework rst, with the single distinction being when evaluating alleged rape cases where the complainant and accused
that there is often a different version of events to consider. have spent time in each other's company preceding the said event.
Acquiring complete information, including the version of events Experiments included a male and female volunteer who were
from the defendant is often very difcult, and is not always followed asked to simulate non-intimate social contact and the amount of
up. The seeking out of information is crucial to any investigation in female DNA detected on the male's underpants and penile swabs was
order that meaningful conclusions can be drawn from any forensic then scrutinized. During the experiments, social contact was
ndings. The frequency of the no comment interview, which seems simulated under varied conditions and female volunteers were
to be the advice of most legal representatives, is unhelpful. It hinders selected after their shedder status had been observed. A shedder
the process of robust interpretation of results. Unfortunately, the and a non-shedder were selected. Prior to the social contact the male
current drivers of cost reductions and decreasing casework turn- was asked to shower, dress in a brand new pair of underpants and
around times in the forensic marketplace are acting against good normal clothes. Both male and female volunteers washed their hands
practice. It can result in quick-x solutions to prove a prosecution case prior to the contact, then following the contact the male simulated
rather than an investigation of both versions. The obvious dilemma urination and continued to wear the underpants for another 5 min.
here is that injustices work both ways. Failure to convict the guilty is Here are some examples of the experiments:
equally as dreadful as failure to acquit the innocent.
1) min of face-touching, 3 min of handholding and immediate
In one casework example, Dr. Davey reported a sexual offence case
that had two very clear alternative propositions, but where the defence
2) 2 min of face-touching, 3 min of handholding then urination after
alternative was not investigated. A girl alleged that she was raped on a
fteen minutes.
sofa by a male friend in his house. Relevant medical samples and
3) 1 min of handholding then immediate urination.
clothing were taken during a forensic medical examination. The
defendant's version of events was that he claimed to have had Following the experiments, the male volunteer's penis (shaft) was
consensual vaginal intercourse with the girl and that he had had swabbed using a damp then a dry swab and these were combined for
occasional sex with her over a nine-month period on the bed in his analysis. The front inside, front outside, back inside and waistband of the
home. The bed sheets were not retrieved. Later in the case, the mattress underpants were also sampled for evidence of DNA transfer. In scenario
was recovered from the man's home and was examined by Dr. Davey's one, as above, 33% of the underwear sampled indicated transfer of
laboratory. Twenty-one areas of body uid staining were detected and female DNA (50% exhibited 15+ alleles). 67% of the penile swabs
these were submitted for DNA proling resulting in mixtures of DNA demonstrated transfer of female DNA (15 alleles). On the samples
from the defendant and the complainant. This previous sexual history taken from the inside front of the underwear there were two mixed
became the distinguishing factor between their accounts. Dr. Davey felt proles out of six samples with the male being the major component
that in this case the onus was on the suspect to prove his innocence. and at least two people in the minor. The female could not be eliminated
There also appears to be a large disparity between the ways in from the minor. The results were the same from the outside front of the
which information contained in forensic reports is used. Prosecution underwear samples. On four out of six of the penile swabs, the major
reports are fully disclosed and used in the case, and contain details of prole came from the male with a minor matching the female.
unused materials. In contrast, defence reports are only sometimes In scenario two, as above, all the DNA proles detected had a major
disclosed and are used for cross-examination and as leverage to male and the female volunteer was not detected on any samples from
encourage a plea. Ultimately, the fate of the report in relation to the underwear or penis. In scenario three, as detailed above, again no
disclosure is out of the experts' hands. female DNA was detected. From the underwear, a large amount of
To conclude the presentation, Dr. Davey invited opinions from the unknown DNA was also detected, so in later experiments the underwear
audience as to whether there is a role for a new professional body to was UV cross-linked to remove any contamination. A repeat of the rst
regulate these direct and seemingly irresolvable conicts presented experiment was carried out using a different male volunteer and this
by the system in which forensic scientists work. time there was no evidence of transfer of female DNA.
These early results showed that transfer of DNA through non-
intimate social contact can occur, but only when the conditions such
The transfer of DNA through non-intimate, social contact as the nature and length of time of contact, time delays, and shedder
status, are maximised. When more realistic social scenarios were
Sarah Jones, FSPG BFF Member and Kirsty Scott, SPSA Forensic Services simulated, the female's DNA was not detected on the underwear or
(Aberdeen) penile swabs. There is much further work to do, but this has at least
provided a good basis on which to continue work.
Can DNA end up on a penis through non-intimate social contact? It
is well documented in the literature that the potential for low levels of Discussion groups
DNA to be deposited by contact presents the uncertainty of how it got
there. It is entirely possible for secondary, even tertiary, transfer (to Medical examinations can we improve the collection of samples and
underwear for example) of DNA to occur where a defendant and the interaction between medical practitioners and scientists?
complainant have had legitimate contact. However, the issue remains
to what extent transfer of DNA can occur in this manner. The Facilitated by Dr. Debbi Rogers, Mary Newton, Anne Baird, and
possibility of this type of transfer creates tricky interpretational Gwen Teppett
problems in, for example, allegations of rape where the evidence Forensic sampling by Forensic Physicians is largely steered by the
comprises DNA that matches to that of the complainant on the contents of medical kits and any associated instructions or training
Conference report 105

given. Sampling processes have progressed over time due to advances Frederick Stone was arrested on suspicion of rape on 2nd April
in forensic science, and the demands of different forensic disciplines 2008 and penile swabs and underwear were taken from him that day,
such as bres, lubricants, DNA etc. These developments have been 8 h after the alleged rape. He denies having sexual intercourse with
very diverse across the UK and Ireland. The aim of this discussion Ann Foster. He says that they drank and danced together for a few
group therefore was to canvass views on the range of options hours in the bar that evening.
available for sampling and collection of medical samples that could The rst police submission was vaginal swabs and clothing from
then be included in a universally available medical examination kit. Ann Foster and reference DNA samples from both parties.
The rst topic of discussion in this group was considering the necessity A subsequent police submission consisted of penile swabs and a pair
for control swabs in medical examinations. Points put across included of underpants from Frederick Stone. The police request was to Conduct
that the taking of control swabs can almost double the time it takes to an examination for DNA from Ann Foster in order to prove rape.
conduct a medical examination of a complainant thereby increasing the Firstly, the discussion group proposed the following as the most
stress experienced by him or her. Perhaps it is worth investigating how signicant points for discussion:
often control samples are examined at the forensic laboratory.
1) What are the issues to address?
Penile swabs could mini-taping be an effective method of evidence
2) Will examining the items from the suspect be worthwhile?
recovery? It was mentioned that this could be another interesting and
3) Would you want any further information before starting your
useful study for BFF member laboratories to carry out. Also discussed were
examination of the suspect's items?
the methods of taking penile swabs and what areas should be sampled.
4) What ndings would you expect?
There are no current guidelines but it was proposed that if the pubic hair is
5) How would you interpret these and report them to the Court?
visibly matted then this should either be swabbed or cut and the penis
should be swabbed to the base. Further, should the pubic area be taped for Relating to discussion point one, there was a consensus that the
other particulate evidence? Currently guidelines dictate that this area issues to address are quite clear in this scenario. The most likely
should have any visible debris removed and should then be combed. alternatives to consider would be whether any forensic evidence
Primarily the discussion group considered the most effective could have transferred between the individuals as a result of non-
methods of evidence collection whilst considering how most intimate social contact or as a result of sexual intercourse. After a little
effectively to minimize trauma to victims. debate, the group agreed that it would be valuable to have more
information before deciding what, if any, items from the suspect
would be worth examining. The gathering of information such as
The future of forensic biology is the evaluative role of the
whether the complainant had washed, bathed or was menstruating at
forensic scientist under threat?
the time of the alleged assault would be very useful for example. It
would also be elemental to determine as far as possible that the
Facilitated by Louise McKenna, Gerry Davidson and Martina McBride of
correct items of clothing had been collected for examination.
the FSPG Body Fluid Forum
On considering the expectations, the group argued about what
could be construed by the absence of any evidence when the items
An essential part of the role of forensic scientist is in assisting the
were examined. Would the transfer of materials be likely and if so
customer to understand the signicance of forensic results within the
what quality of results is likely to be seen for example, it may be
context of the case. The truth, however, is that the majority of forensic
likely that a weak DNA prole could be generated from penile swabs
laboratories, instead of distinguishing between weak and strong
had social contact occurred, but that a strong prole might only be
evidence, persist in using terms such as the semen could have could
expected where intimate contact had occurred.
from.. or the ndings are consistent with.. It is becoming
Overall, this was a useful debate, particularly to observe such a
increasingly imperative that stakeholders are adequately informed of
cross section of especially wide-ranging thoughts and opinions on one
the importance of forensic evidence in case context. Conversely, it is
relatively straightforward scenario.
becoming increasingly apparent that there are ever-increasing pres-
sures to produce more results in shorter time-frames, thereby deecting
The detection of semen and saliva traces by chemiluminescence
resources further away from time-consuming interpretation.
This discussion group looked at the threats to the evaluative role of a
Marie-Pierre Milon, Institut de Police Scientique, University of Lausanne
forensic scientist and indeed, where the possibilities lie to explore
opportunities to enhance appreciation of the provision of robust and
There is no doubt that the detection of biological traces deposited at
reliable scientic services to the Criminal Justice System. In the struggle
crime scenes or on items that are subsequently recovered from crime
to produce forensic results as quickly and inexpensively as possible, are
scenes is problematical. Nevertheless, the detection of biological traces
we jeopardising the critical role of the forensic scientist as an evaluator?
is crucial in forensic science, which stresses the consequence of research
such as this. The paper presented by Marie-Pierre demonstrated
The evaluation of DNA transfer, using a case example investigations into the use of chemiluminescence to allow the detection
of biological uids such as semen and saliva.
Facilitated by Sarah Jones and Julie Allard of the FSPG Body Fluid Forum Chemiluminescence is the emission of light with limited emission
of heat as the result of a chemical reaction. An established example of
The discussion was based on the following Case Scenario: chemiluminescence in a laboratory setting is the Luminol test, where
Ann Foster says that she met an old acquaintance, Frederick Stone, evidence of washed blood can be seen when Luminol reacts with
in a bar on 1st April 2008 and that they spent the evening drinking haemoglobin in blood stains. The reagents tested in this study are
and dancing. They had not seen each other in the past year. At about Europium, and 4-Methylumbelliferyl (MUP) which are luminescent
midnight, they left the bar together to catch a bus home. On the way, under ultra-violet light.
he forced her into an alleyway and had unprotected vaginal A notable nding from this research shows that the colour of the
intercourse with her against her will. He then disappeared. surface on which a stain is deposited can have quite an inuence on the
She reported this to the police immediately and was medically detectability of the stain. Some of the substrates tested were black
examined 5 h after the alleged incident when vaginal and anal swabs cotton, green corduroy, white cotton and grey sweatshirt material.
and her clothing were taken. She is unsure as to whether he ejaculated Where saliva was under test, the materials included cups and bottle
inside her. necks but luminescence was not systematically detected. The
106 Conference report

interaction with MUP resulted in a white chemiluminescent reaction at condition of using mRNA expression proling in routine forensic
365 nm 1 h after its application. The situation was quite different with analysis is the ability to co-extract DNA and RNA from the same stain.
semen-seeded samples; even when only small quantities were available The methods used in the research included total mRNA extraction,
(5 l), reactions create a vivid and instantaneous bluewhite chemilu- reverse transcription, end point PCR and Real-Time PCR. For each body
minescence when in contact with MUP at 365 nm (UV). This was also uid tested, two tissue-specic markers were used in a multiplex. The
the case where the samples underwent drying for periods of six and ten sensitivity of the multiplex assays was tested using different amounts of
days. Specicity studies were also conducted and examples of false dried stains on cotton swabs. The stability of samples was tested using
positives were shown. The samples tested included deodorant, washing stains that were up to two years of age. Plotting the age of the stains
powder, soap, a selection of amino acids, and cauliower. against peak height proved that stains up to this age would be suitable
Following application of the reagents to detect the biological for mRNA proling due to the apparent stability of the mRNA during this
traces, DNA quantications showed a reduction in DNA quantity but period. Testing specicity using a range of known markers for vaginal
with saliva, this reduction was not signicant. Using the SGM+ DNA secretions, menstrual blood, blood, semen and saliva, produced
proling technique the DNA proles generated were of good quality. compelling results because specicity was demonstrated for all marker
Some of the conclusions drawn from this Masters research and genes. Thirteen articial stains were identied correctly and DNA
presented during this session included that Europium applied to proles were produced evidencing the possibility for simultaneous DNA
semen traces was of limited use due to a high number of false positive isolation without the loss of material. The methods used here were
results, whereas MUP provided excellent specicity and high reaction applied to casework samples and the results were analogous to those
stability even after long periods of time (still visible after ve months) seen from traditional enzymatic and immunological tests. The advan-
with no decrease in sensitivity. Despite some of the limitations, the tages over the more conventional tests are high sensitivity and
use of these reagents applied to the detection of semen and saliva specicity and the ability for co-extraction of DNA and RNA.
traces is a resource worthy of note in forensic science.
Body uid identication and forensic biology research in
mRNA proling for the identication of body uids New Zealand

Dr. Cordula Haas, Institute of Legal Medicine, University of Zurich Dr Sally Ann Harbison, ESR, Mt Albert, Auckland, New Zealand

RNA in forensic science is a promising area of research. Currently, the ESR (Environmental Science and Research) are a government owned
unequivocal identication of the cellular origin of crime-scene samples New Zealand Crown Research Institute. ESR's work includes operational
used for DNA proling is rarely possible. The paper presented here gave scientic services and research into communicable disease, food safety,
a comprehensive account of research at the University of Zurich into the human biosecurity, pharmaceuticals, and public health surveillance
use of mRNA as a method for the identication of body uids. Some amongst others. The forensic branch is the sole provider of forensic
body-uid specic mRNA markers have been successfully amplied in services to the New Zealand Police and they are the custodians and
both fresh and old samples. Dr. Haas described details of the project managers of the New Zealand DNA Databank. The New Zealand Police
including a summary of the methods and commercial kits used, the buy the services of the ESR facility at a commercial rate along with
primers designed, the tissue-specic markers used and the results. The Customs and private clients such as insurance companies.
ndings imply that forensic mRNA testing can be reliable and robust. ESR undertakes forensic casework and offers services in crime scene
Dr. Haas also mentioned some other potentially viable and investigation, forensic biology and DNA, physical evidence, illicit drugs,
advantageous uses of mRNA proling in a forensic setting. For example, and toxicology. There are fty staff in the biology department who have
Bauer et al. [2] have published research and data on the degradation of expertise in autosomal DNA analysis tests such as SGM+ (Applied
RNA as an indicator for post-mortem interval. Other studies have Biosystems) and AmpFISTR Identiler. They also undertake Y-STR DNA
examined pre-mortem changes in gene-expression to assist in diagnosis proling and low level DNA Analysis, focusing on ngerprints and palm-
of the cause and mechanisms of death. prints stored by the police, and cartridge cases and documents. The DNA
mRNA or Messenger RNA is a copy of the information carried by a Databank contains proles from around 85,000 individuals and 19,500
gene on the DNA. A number of studies have already identied mRNA crime-scene stain DNA proles. Samples taken from individuals are
markers for the most relevant body uids in a forensic context; blood, submitted from the New Zealand Police when persons are convicted of
semen, saliva, vaginal material and menstrual blood. To date several crimes that are listed in the Criminal Investigation (Bodily Samples) Act
enzymatic and immunological detection methods have been devel- 2003 or from those who volunteer to provide a sample.
oped to determine the type of body uid present in crime-scene Currently, Dr Harbison's major research area is the population
stains. Persistent obstacles with these types of tests are their poor genetics of Polynesia and DNA evidence interpretation. A student at
specicity and sensitivity, so their use has been limited. These the centre is studying the uniqueness of bacterial colonies in saliva in
conventional methods are also labour-intensive and must be an effort to determine if this could be of use in a forensic context.
performed in a series rather than a parallel manner. This project Relating to the location, identication and reporting of body uid
concentrated on the verication of reverse transcription PCR evidence, Dr Harbison rst described the initial three steps under-
(Polymerase Chain Reaction) methods for the identication of body taken with each sample in question.
uids based on published data, the specicity of body-uid markers,
1) use of non-specic or presumptive tests could the stain be blood?
their performance on old stains, the suitability of the markers applied
2) species of origin
to crime stains and the sensitivity of the assays used. Articial stains as
3) DNA proling
well as real crime stains were examined during this research.
Most cell types have a unique pattern of gene-expression, which is Some considerations during step one are whether or not the stain is
demonstrated by the occurrence, and relative profusion of specic RNA visible, and if so, what it looks and smells like. The scientists at ESR are
types. If the type and abundance of mRNA can be detected in crime- proponents of the use of Luminol and use this wherever appropriate. For
scene stains, it would be entirely possible to identify the body uid the presumptive testing of saliva, Phadebas is used and for semen, AP
under examination. However, many of the stains commonly encoun- (acid phosphatase) testing. Hematrace tests are used if a quick result is
tered at crime scenes involve diverse mixtures of different body uids needed at a scene of crime to presumptively test for human blood.
(e.g. semen and saliva, semen and vaginal material). Sampling separate Relating to the identication of semen, a positive identication is
areas of these mixed stains could result in misleading ndings, thus, a recorded only when microscopic examination reveals the presence of
Conference report 107

sperm or the P30 antigen test result is positive and correlates with the The study examining the transfer and persistence of DNA following
AP results. With saliva, visual inspection and the detection of salivary digital penetration included the taking of four samples per experiment
amylase using phadebas is the basis for reporting results as merely a per couple; pre-experimental swabs from both hands, experimental
probable or possible saliva stain. Identication per se is not possible samples from the right hand and control samples from the left hand. The
using these methods due to the potential for false positive results. materials and methods used during experimentation included QIAgen
Although it does not come up in casework often, the laboratory uses QIAmp Mini-Kit, Picogreen, AmpFISTR SGMPlus (28 Cycle), 3130xl
Merckognost Urea Test Strips, colour and odour of stains to presump- Genetic Analyser CE and Genemapper software.
tively test for urine, and the Edelman's test, colour and odour for faeces.
An evaluation of the presence of body uids and subsequent DNA Results
proles are only made as opinion evidence and only when High quantities of DNA were always transferred. Fifteen out of
circumstances allow. Caveats related to this are also included at the sixteen samples gave full female DNA proles with no male alleles and
beginning of each evidential statement. one out of sixteen samples gave a full female DNA prole with male
In addition to the aforementioned services and research, within drop-in. Signicant factors that were found to affect the results
the Forensic Biology Research Programme at ESR is the study of what included dish washing and hand washing. Nail length and showering
plant materials are associated with crime scenes and how they might were factors shown not to affect the ndings.
be best collected, stored, extracted and identied. This type of work
has been done historically using the microscopic analysis of pollens, Conclusions
but pollen lends itself to DNA analysis. The researchers intend to DNA is always transferred.
conduct geographical studies of locations around New Zealand to
determine pollen proles on a large scale. Furthermore, the group is 6 h full female proles were always recovered
looking into the genetic variability of cannabis using DNA markers to 12 h full female proles produced in of couples
identify and/or differentiate between plants to establish links 18 h mixed proles produced from most samples
between seizures and crops. If it is found that there is adequate
variability present in the New Zealand cannabis population the Hand washing was the main lifestyle factor affecting persistence
researchers may continue investigating this potential service further. but persistence is dependent on a wide range of characteristics and
habits of the individuals.
Foreign DNA under the ngernails Overall, the ndings conrm that ngernail evidence collection is
valuable. This type of research allows the collection of indispensable
Colin McAlister, Forensic Science Service data on background levels of the incidence of foreign DNA under the
ngernails of individuals in the general population. This is funda-
Fingernail samples taken from the hyponychium can be a good mental in determining the evidential value of mixed DNA proles
source of biological material as DNA is transferred and can accumulate taken from ngernail samples following sexual assaults. This
during violent and sexual assaults and could therefore be of interest in particular study involving co-habiting couples also gives an indication
police investigations of such crimes. Actions of restraint and violence can of whether mixed DNA proles are more likely to be seen between
facilitate the transfer of biological material between victims and suspects. couples who are in a more intimate relationship. It is this kind of
Samples also typically contain many cells from the sampled individual information that will help to decrease uncertainty as to the origin of
although there is much potential of foreign DNA being transferred from a DNA linking a victim and a suspect.
second individual. Previous legitimate contact between victim and
suspect could cast reasonable doubt over whether a mixed DNA prole Prostate-specic antigen: biology, detection and forensic application
from such ngernail samples originated from an assault or from previous
social contact. In court it has become increasingly evident that prior Professor Richard O'Kennedy, School of Biotechnology, National Centre
contact between a victim and a suspect before an alleged sexual assault is for Sensor Research, Dublin City University
being used to reinforce the case for the defence.
The paper presented by Mr. McAlister gave an overview of the The prostate gland, which is only present in males, is a walnut
investigations carried out by the Forensic Science Service to measure the sized gland located in the pelvic area. It is positioned just underneath
frequency of non-donor DNA under ngernails given certain scenarios. the outlet of the bladder and is in front of the rectum. It surrounds the
The offence of sexual assault by digital penetration is described as, urethra and can be felt during digital rectal examinations.
Non-consensual manipulation, fondling or penetration of the body The cells of the prostate produce prostate-specic antigen (PSA),
orices by the suspect's ngers including anal, vaginal and oral areas. which is used as a biomarker of prostate cancer. PSA is present in small
As far as we know, 19% of sexual assault investigations involve quantities in the serum of normal men, and is often found at elevated
allegations of digital penetration and that ngernail samples are levels in the presence of prostate cancer and in other benign disorders of
collected in 46% of cases. These gures demonstrate that a study such the prostate, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Prostate-
as this is entirely worthwhile and could provide information to aid specic antigen (PSA) is the best serum marker currently available for
sexual assault investigators. the detection of prostate cancer and is the forensic marker of choice for
A preliminary study considered the persistence of DNA under determining the presence of azoospermic semen in some sexual assault
ngernails after digital penetration. These investigations showed that cases. Another benet of PSA detection in a forensic context is that it is
victim's DNA was detectable up to 24 hours after penetration. The relatively stable in the vaginal environment when compared with
incidence of foreign DNA under the ngernails of the general population prostatic phosphatase. PSA is secreted into seminal plasma by the
has previously been examined by Cook, O & Dixon, L.A. [4]. Interestingly prostate gland and varies in concentration from 0.3 to 3 mg per
6% of samples produced mixed DNA proles. Other studies, Malsom millilitre. Most PSA in the blood is bound to serum proteins. A small
et al. (in review) have demonstrated that 37% of samples taken from co- amount is not protein-bound and is called free PSA. In men with prostate
habiting couples also contained foreign DNA. Research underway cancer the ratio of free (unbound) PSA to total PSA is decreased. PSA is
intended for publication by Mr. McAlister considers the transfer also present in the blood and vaginal uid at very low levels and is
(incidence of DNA under the ngernails after digital penetration) and present in high concentrations in breast milk and amniotic uid. PSA
persistence (of DNA under the ngernails after digital penetration also is found in the serum of women with breast, lung, or uterine cancer
following different sampling intervals post penetration) of DNA. and in some patients with renal cancer.
108 Conference report

If cancer is suspected in a male following the detection of raised consuming and ddly undertaking that also increased risks of
PSA levels in the blood and a digital rectal examination, a biopsy is contamination to the material being recovered and later to be tested.
often offered. The tissue samples taken during biopsy are then Mini tapes consist of a 20 mm 20 mm adhesive tape mounted on
examined under a microscope to determine whether cancer cells are one end of a 20 mm 50 mm acetate strip. The adhesive end is
present, and to evaluate the microscopic features of any cancer found. pressed rmly and repeatedly over the sampling area of interest. The
This results in a score being given, called the Gleason Score. Cancers adhesive part can then be placed in a snap cap tube in preparation for
with a higher Gleason score are more aggressive and have a worse DNA extraction. These tubes are suited to automation, making this
prognosis. method advantageous for more reasons than one.
The majority of current-day assays for PSA detection are processed These mini tapes are small, easily produced, they concentrate DNA,
on large analysers at single testing sites, meaning that samples must be and benecially no freezing or drying of samples is required. Assess-
sent away for testing. The use of these methods in a clinical setting ments carried out by a number of BFF laboratories has compared mini
means that there can be long delays for patients awaiting results. In a tapes as a method of cellular material recovery, against cutting and bulk
forensic setting these problematical delays are slowly but surely leading extraction, and the ndings have demonstrated such benets in so
to the development of novel biosensor detection methods that are many circumstances that all BFF laboratories are now using mini tapes
suitable for the miniaturisation of assays for various targets, including to recover cellular material alongside the more traditional methods.
PSA. According to Healy et al. (2007) [6], a biosensor is an analytical The SPSA Glasgow forensic services laboratory prepares its own mini
device that brings together an immobilised biological sensing material tapes for use in forensic casework. A member of staff wearing full
and a transducer, to produce a quantiable signal that is proportional to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) makes the mini tapes using a
the concentration of the analyte. Biosensors comprise three distinct laminar airow cabinet and each batch produced is quality-control tested
components: (i) a biorecognition element, usually an antibody, to for any DNA contamination. Many other BFF laboratories also make their
recognize and bind the analyte or analytes of interest; (ii) a transducing own mini tapes, but there are also now commercially available kits.
element that converts the interactions of biomolecules (e.g. antibody In the Glasgow laboratory these mini tapes were originally used for
and antigen) into a quantiable signal; and (iii) a readout system. DNA recovery in volume crime cases, which equates to approximately
It is not the determination of the levels of PSA that is of importance in ve thousand cases per year in that region. Practitioners have found
forensic investigation, but the capability to detect PSA in samples that that this quick and cost-effective method excels at the recovery of
have been recovered from crime scenes or victims of crime. These DNA from fabric, particularly large areas. They have also found that
samples will often be contaminated with dirt, other debris and oftentimes this is a suitable method for use on some non-porous substrates such
other bodily uids, making PSA detection a challenge. PSA assays in as mobile phones and knife handles. They are even effective at
forensic examinations also need to have only a limited sensitivity due to recovering blood from non-porous items, such as aky blood on glass.
the low levels of PSA sometimes present in other body uids. Mini tapes are certainly not always the best method of recovery
With a nod to the popular Pimp my Ride television programme, of cellular material; it depends on the substrate in question, with
Professor O'Kennedy described his research and work in the cutting and swabbing still being the most appropriate method in
engineering of polyclonal, monoclonal and re-combinant antibodies many cases.
as Pimp my Antibody! Richard described the automated robotic The best use for mini tapes is when looking for wearer DNA. This
screening technology that can be used to analyse up to 4000 clones can be collected effectively from collars and cuffs of clothing, coats,
per day, using custom designed software. This gives the ability to jumpers, gloves, hats, masks, socks and underwear. When user DNA
produce a huge selection of antibodies. Using instruments such as is required, mini tapes can be an effective method of recovery of skin
BIAcore and Surface Plasmon Resonance (SPR) technology, Richard cells from items such as hairbrushes, toothbrushes, handles of
and colleagues have been able to investigate the characteristics of weapons and cigarette lighters. Relating to DNA recovery from
each antibody of interest. The characteristics of importance are the crime scenes, mini tapes can be an excellent method of evidence
ease of antibody production, stability, sensitivity and the capacity for retrieval from car steering wheels (particularly where there is a lot of
improvement. The specicity of antibodies of particular interest can stitching), and ligatures etc.
be altered to make them more stable. Carol described a case involving the successful use of mini tapes,
It seems that recent developments in biosensor technology are the murder of Wei Wong. Wei Wong was struck on the head with a
beginning to facilitate the evolution from centralised to mobile PSA glass bottle resulting in death, after which the assailants ried
testing. In the future, it is entirely possible that technology will offer through the pockets of the victim and stole personal items. The inside
real-time detection and measurement, meaning results will be of the victim's trouser pockets were mini taped and sufcient DNA
available within minutes. This kind of laboratory-on-a-chip device was recovered to produce a DNA prole that was then searched
has the capacity to integrate the functions of a laboratory into a against the National DNA Database (NDNAD) and matched to an
portable device that could provide prompt and precise sample individual, resulting in an arrest.
analysis of minuscule samples in every type of setting and location. The paper presented demonstrated clearly the benets of this new,
supplementary method of DNA recovery that can be used effectively
The use of mini tapes in forensic casework in a variety of settings.

Carol Weston, FSPG BFF Member, SPSA Forensic Services, Glasgow References

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