Gunshot residues persist in cremated bones

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  • Published: Jun 13, 2013
  • Author: Steve Down
  • Channels: UV/Vis Spectroscopy / X-ray Spectrometry / MRI Spectroscopy / NMR Knowledge Base / Base Peak / Chemometrics & Informatics / Infrared Spectroscopy / Raman / Proteomics / Atomic

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Criminals can no longer escape justice by burning the body after shooting someone, as the gunshot residues can be detected in the burnt bones. This is the conclusion of Professor Cristina Cattaneo and her colleageus from the Universities of Milan and Pavia who carried out a systematic study that they described in Journal of Forensic Sciences.

They took 16 cow ribs, half covered with flesh and half totally clean, and shot them at close range with unjacketed or full metal-jacketed bullets. The bones were then heated in an oven for 12 hours at 800°C and cooled over a further 12 hours, to simulate charring of a body. Swabs were taken of the area around the entrance wound and they were soaked in nitric acid for analysis by inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry.

The levels of Pb, Sb, Ba, Zn and Cu could all be measured in the burnt bones, even though they were lower than in fresh unburnt bones. As expected, Pb is the main component of gunshot residue, even after charring, but the detection of the other metals helps to confirm its presence.

This is a non-destructive method, unlike scanning electron microscopy/energy dispersive X-ray analysis which is often preferred when identifying gunshot residue, so will be useful when the forensic evidence needs to be preserved.

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