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Beyond primary transfer: The secondary transfer of geoforensic trace particulates and their dissemination within social networks

18 January 2011

James French

Transfer experiments were undertaken in order to explore the topic of the secondary transfer of trace geoforensic particulates and the potential for evidence dissemination within social/contact networks.  UV-powder was introduced to an individual in three experimental scenarios.  Samples from individuals and surfaces were analysed using an image-rasterisation technique in MATLAB which quantified the recovered material.

Trace geoforensic particulates underwent secondary, tertiary and quaternary transfers along chains of individuals and surfaces, while particulates were disseminated within the entire contact network of an individual.  Such findings can inform forensic protocol: Sampling the entirety of contact networks is recommended, while amalgamating transfers of different orders during analysis could curtail the sequencing of transfers.  The possibility of secondary transfer to innocent parties must be heeded when interpreting evidence, as well as the possibility of mistaking recent secondary transfers for decayed primary transfers.