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How 3D printing and digital scans are helping to catch killers

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The technology has been used to scan victims in complex murder cases. Pic: WMG, University of Warwick

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Staying ahead of criminals, especially in murder cases, is an ongoing challenge for homicide detectives, forensic scientists and clinicians.

The latest technology in 3D scanning and printing is providing vital clues and evidence in murder cases.

Postmortems provide crucial information about the cause of death and hospital CT can provide evidence.

But the latest scans from the University of Warwick Center For Imaging, Metrology, and Additive Technology are 100% more detailed, detecting very minor injuries that would be missed by conventional equipment.

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The scanning machine in the center. Photo: WMG, University of Warwick

The team can also produce 3D renderings of the lesions, even so-called “micro-lesions” not detected by conventional scanners, and the age of the lesions can also be determined, which helps pathologists determine if they were a consequence of the incident. in question.

This evidence is used in trials to visualize jury trauma and support the pathologist’s testimony.

Sky News paid a visit to the latest equipment used at the center by leading professor Mark Williams and detective chief superintendent Mark Payne, who leads the West Midlands police homicide investigation.

Professor Williams is leading a new field of digital forensic pathology, and the center has secured funding from the force, allowing them to do this vital work.

Police forces across the country have already benefited from this technology, with more than 100 homicide cases from 13 forces backed by forensic evidence identified by the center. Causes such as stab wounds, bone fractures and strangulation were all investigated.

Professor Williams explained how the equipment and micro-CT analysis were used to find evidence in the case of the death of nine-week-old Teri-Rae Palmer, whose mother Abigail Palmer was found guilty of manslaughter and injured and sentenced to 13 and a half years in prison.

Palmer caused a total of 10 rib fractures in the baby
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The technology was used to find evidence to convict Abigail Palmer for her daughter’s wrongful death.

He told Sky News: “3D X-ray scanners have allowed us to identify various fractures of Teri-Rae ribs that have occurred over a long period of time.

“The ability to produce highly detailed 3D images of these shocking injuries that could be presented at court helped establish the truth and show what had happened.

“It is an honor for us to provide critical evidence in cases like this, and to help the police investigate such an unfortunate tragedy.”

Research is already underway to advance the types of investigations carried out at the center.

West Midlands Police Chief Forensic Services Officer Michelle Painter told Sky News: “Soon we will be finalizing other research projects, including fingerprint scanning and shoe marking and evaluation of damaged digital devices to protected data sources.

“The possibilities for research and partnership are endless and exciting.”

Detective Superintendent Mark Payne (left) and Professor Mark Williams at the facility. Photo: WMG, University of Warwick
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Detective Superintendent Mark Payne (1) and Professor Mark Williams at the facility. Photo: WMG, University of Warwick

Detective Superintendent Payne added, “It’s a fantastic development in the forensic field, and, as we have proved so few cases so far, can be crucial in helping us discover the truth behind some of our most serious crimes.”

The team worked on murder cases, identifying who was responsible for the death where more than one person was involved.

In a case where a hammer and spanner were used as weapons, both attackers claimed innocence and the work of CT scans helped to show that both were guilty.

Scientists, engineers and police officers examined the coal from a fire and found the humerus – a long bone in the shoulder-to-elbow arm – of a murder victim embedded inside.

The rest of the body was found in a suitcase, but the discovery of the bonfire helped link the defendants’ house to crime and was crucial in the ensuing verdict of guilt.

This is a 3D printed model of the humerus bone of a murder victim. Photo: WMG, University of Warwick
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This is a 3D printed model of the humerus bone of a murder victim. Photo: WMG, University of Warwick

The scanners were also used to make replicas of the famous dodo at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. During this investigation, they found that the animal had been shot with lead found throughout the skull.

The British Sugar Association even asked Professor Williams for help in replicating the queen’s wedding cake on her birthday.

Future work will also focus on industrial forensic research, including aircraft and car failures, to the development of human medicine implants such as hip implants.

The new installation was presented at the British Science Festival, organized by the British Science Association at the University of Warwick.

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