Prints even more priceless thanks to Hallam experts

Dr Simona Francese, who leads the team of forensics at Sheffiled Hallam University.

Dr Simona Francese, who leads the team of forensics at Sheffiled Hallam University.

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Police will soon be able to tell what a crook ate and drank and what drugs they took before they committed a crime, thanks to pioneering fingerprint technology developed at Sheffield Hallam University.

Researchers have already been able to determine the sex of a criminal with the new crime-fighting weapon.

Tests show it can also detect certain drinks and foods such as coffee and garlic.

The team are now working to see if it is able to test for medical conditions, as well as being able to tell how long the fingerprint has been at the crime scene.

The microscopic technology is called Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption Ionisation Mass Spectrometry Imaging - MALDI-MSI - which traces drugs, hair and cleaning products in fingerprints.

It has been developed by researchers at Hallam’s biomedical research centre led by Dr Simona Francese.

Dr Francese said: “MALDI enables you to detect the chemistry of the finger marks so essentially what chemicals are present.

“In one example we found the presence of cocaine in traces, we also found the presence of cocaine metabolite, that is very good because it actually tells us immediately the person who left the mark has not just touched cocaine but actually ingested it.

“So that changes the forensic scenario very quickly. With food, I’ve tried that on my own fingerprints, I’ve drunk a cup of coffee, then looked at my own finger marks at a certain time, after ten minutes, and you could see a very clear signal for caffeine.”

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