New technique can gather crime scene clues from lipstick

CATHAM, England, Aug. 8 (UPI) -- British scientists say they can identify a brand of lipstick worn by someone at a crime scene without removing evidence from its bag, avoiding contamination.

A new technique will allow forensic investigators to analyze lipstick marks left at a crime scene, such as on glasses, a tissue or cigarette butts, without compromising the continuity of evidence, as the sample will remain isolated in the bag in which it was collected, researchers at the University of Kent reported Thursday.


Using a technique called Raman spectroscopy, analysis of lipstick traces from crime scenes can be used to establish physical contact between two individuals, such as a victim and a suspect, or to place an individual at a crime scene, they said.

Current analysis of lipstick traces relies either on destructive forensic techniques or human opinion, they noted.

"Continuity of evidence is of paramount importance in forensic science and can be maintained if there is no need to remove it from the bag," Kent forensic scientist Michael Went said. "Raman spectroscopy is ideal as it can be performed through transparent layers, such as evidence bags."

Raman spectroscopy yields a characteristic "fingerprint" which can be compared to spectra of lipsticks of various types and brands, he said, allowing investigators do to determine identity of the lipstick involved quickly and non-destructively.


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