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Forces Required for a Knife to Penetrate a Variety of Clothing Types


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Guy N. Rutty, M.B.E., M.D.

East Midlands Forensic Pathology Unit

University of Leicester

Robert Kilpatrick Building

Leicester Royal Infirmary

Leicester LE2 7LX




In stabbing incidents, it is usual for the victim to be clothed and therefore a knife penetrates both clothes and skin. Clothes (other than leather) have been thought to make little difference to the penetration force. However, there is little quantitative data in the literature. In this study, a range of clothes have been tested, either singly or in layers of, for example, T-shirt and shirt, to quantify the additional force required when clothes are present. A materials testing system has been used to test the penetration force required to stab through clothes into a foam–silicone rubber skin simulant. The results show that the force required can be significantly different, particularly when layers of clothing are penetrated. A cotton t-shirt adds c. 8 N to the penetration force, while a T-shirt and jacket can add an additional 21 N. The results allow a more quantitative assessment of forces required in stabbing.