Comparison of Handmarks in Manual Strangulation: An Experimental Study


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Niels Lynnerup, D.D.S., Ph.D.
Institute of Forensic Medicine
Frederik d. 5's vej 11
DK-2100 Copenhagen


ABSTRACT: A police case with a strangulated woman with fingermarks on the neck and two suspects identifying each other as the perpetrator set off a laboratory experiment. Twenty-one males participated in the study. Blue paint was applied to their fingers, after which they grasped a neck dummy and pressed hard as if strangulating someone. The imprint was removed from the dummy, and their hands were photographed. Five imprints were randomly chosen and superimposed on the hand photographs in blind trials. In no cases did we match an imprint to the correct hand. However, in four cases we matched the imprint with several hands, one of which was the correct one. This means we were able to exclude nonmatches in 4/5 cases. Overall, matching of hands and fingermarks is difficult and inconclusive. Objective criteria for matching are difficult to establish, and matching is probably best suited for cases with specific anatomical features.