An evaluation of the mechanisms of recovery of DNA and fingerprints from fire scenes

Rights statement
Awarding institution
  • University of Strathclyde
Date of award
  • 2010
Thesis identifier
  • T12577
Qualification Level
Qualification Name
Department, School or Faculty
  • Incidents involving the intentional or deliberate setting of a fire within a compartment are frequently difficult to investigate both because of the damage to the property in question and the apparent lack of forensic evidence which could be used to potentially identify a suspect. The recovery of such evidence in the form of DNA and fingerprints from a fire scene would therefore be advantageous. During this project, replicate samples of DNA and fingerprints were deposited on both porous and non porous surfaces which were then exposed to laboratory controlled elevated temperatures for various time periods. In each case replicate DNA samples or replicate depleted series of fingerprint samples were used to produce robust data sets for subsequent statistical analysis. DNA and fingerprint samples were also exposed to a real fire environment using a fire training facility in order to simulate operational conditions. The results obtained suggest that the optimum recovery method for low template DNA was to use a wet followed by a dry cotton swabbing action of the surface before combining the two swabs for extraction. When the DNA was exposed to elevated temperatures in a controlled environment, there was a greater possibility of recovering a full SGM Plus profile if the DNA had been absorbed into a porous rather than non porous surface and the surface exposed up to a maximum of 100˚C only. All of the samples which were exposed to the uncontrollable fire environment produced partial DNA profiles. The survivability and chemical enhancement of fingerprints deposited on both porous and non porous surfaces was robustly investigated where 70 replicate fingerprints were examined in each case for each test condition. For porous surfaces the most efficient sequence of enhancement techniques was an initial visual examination, followed by a fluorescence examination prior to treatment with DFO, and finally PD. It was found that this sequence could be employed for both wet and dry articles. In the case of dry, non porous surfaces, visual examination followed by fluorescence examination should be utilised prior to undertaking superglue - BY40 treatment. Powder suspension should be substituted for superglue in the case of wet items.
Resource Type
Date Created
  • 2010
Former identifier
  • 814385