Sex offenders targeted in new forensic technique

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A new technique has been developed which researchers say will help detectives track down sex offenders who use condoms in an attempt to evade capture.

Scientists at Sheffield Hallam University say the technique means forensic specialists will now be able to detect condom lubricant on fingermarks left at the scene of a crime.

Researchers at the university's Biomedical Research Centre (BMRC) say there has been an increase in the use of condoms in sex attacks which is partly due to offenders wanting to avoid sexually transmitted disease but also because of fears they may leave DNA evidence behind.

The team says it is hoping the technique will eventually mean they can match lubricant found on fingermarks with samples taken from victims.

It said it also hopes the technique can be developed in the future to identify specific condom brands and, therefore, help with offender profiling.

The BMRC study used MALDI-MSI - matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionisation mass spectrometry imaging - a powerful technology which can be used to map fingermark ridge patterns.

Dr Simona Francese, from the centre, said: "Offenders are increasingly aware of forensic issues and it is common now for condoms to be used and removed from the scene of a sexual assault.

"However, they are less likely to consider the possibility of lubricant transferring onto their fingertips and then into fingermarks left at

the scene.

"If condom lubricant can be detected in fingermarks it would improve the evidence for the prosecution by establishing the assailant's presence at the scene and, crucially, having had contact with a condom.

"This would enable forensic scientists to provide further support to the evidence in alleged cases of sexual assault."

The BMRC research is published in the February edition of the journal

Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry.

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