26 September 2023

Path to solving crime paved in gold

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The Australian Federal Police’s (AFP) Forensic Teams have been using gold to identify and track down law-breakers.

Forensic Coordinator at the AFP, Nathan Scudder said the Teams were using precious metals, such as gold and silver, in an evidence recovery technique that could develop fingerprints on cash and other items – including plastics, glass, mobile phones and weapons.

“The powerful technique, known as Vacuum Metal Deposition (VMD), was responsible for the detection of dozens of fingerprints, some of which were identified to alleged criminals, on seizures of Australian currency as part of Operation Ironside,” Dr Scudder said.

“The technique causes these metals to form thin films under the controlled high vacuum conditions, which develops any ‘invisible’ fingerprints present, so that they can be seen.”

He said the capabilities of AFP Forensics were continually evolving, allowing investigators to locate evidence that previously would have remained undetected.

“This is an extremely powerful and sensitive process where precious metals such as gold can actually enhance the fingerprints of individuals that have touched the exhibits, such as banknotes,” the Forensic Coordinator said.

“Suddenly evidence that was not visible before has been miraculously recovered, thanks to this capability.”

He said VMD had delivered significant results for multiple AFP investigations.

“The AFP’s Forensic Team played a significant role in Operation Ironside thanks to our elite evidence recovery techniques,” Dr Scudder said.

“We used VMD to process more than 20 alleged illicit cash seizures, totalling thousands of dollars, as part of Operation Ironside.”

“These banknotes were sent to our Majura Forensic Facility to undergo specialist fingerprint development in a purpose-built machine,” he said.

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