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"Aha! Oho! A trail in the snow! Whose is this trail and where does it go?"

September 01 2011

Forensic Science Interpreting The Evidence

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Footwear Marks

One of Dr Guy Cooper’s recent instructions could have been taken directly from Julia Donaldson’s popular children’s book “The Gruffalo’s Child”. 

He reviewed a burglary case where footwear marks in snow had been reported tracking from a burgled premises back to the defendant’s girlfriend’s house. No shoes had been seized from the defendant but Dr Cooper was asked to confirm that all the marks had been made by the same type of shoe and to consider what size the shoe could have been. 

Upon closer inspection of photographs taken at the scene, Dr Cooper found some footwear marks had been photographed well, including a scale ruler and showing them in context at the scene. This showed there was evidence of more than one outsole pattern at the scene, suggesting that more than one individual was involved. Others, reportedly showing the trail to the girlfriend’s house, had been photographed very badly, with no photographs recording the locations of the impressions, no scale ruler and showing poor definition in the marks. Some of the photographs which the officer claimed were part of the ‘trail’ were in fact photographs of the same impression. These had been taken around 12 hours after the incident in an unsecured area of the scene and part of the apparent ‘route’ had not been photographed at all. 

There was no scientific evidence to link any of the marks to the defendant and the alleged trail between the scene and defendant’s girlfriend’s house was unreliable. Following receipt of Dr Cooper’s report, the prosecution discontinued the case.

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