Previous Cases

Forensic Science Ireland
Eolaíocht Fhóiréinseach Éireann

// Science Supporting Justice
Luminol Before
Luminol Before
Luminol After
Luminol After
The body in the Royal Canal

An unidentified male torso and dismembered body parts were found in the Royal Canal, Dublin. The victim had also been decapitated. The canal was searched, but no personal items were found which could help identify the body. Samples of bone marrow and muscle tissue were sent to the DNA section for profiling. A complete DNA profile was obtained from the samples but there were still no clues as to the identity of this man.

Some time passed until a woman reported to the local gardaí that her estranged partner had not been to visit their son in weeks. A paternity test was carried out using the samples from the bone marrow and the results showed that the body in the canal was the biological father of the child.

Following this information, detectives were led to a nearby flat, the last known residence of the victim and his new partner. The flat was now occupied by new tenants and had been recently redecorated. A team of forensic scientists soon located small amounts of blood on skirting boards and some on the bedroom furniture. At this stage it could not be determined if this location had been the scene of the crime as very large volumes of blood would have been present after the dismembering of an adult body.

Luminol testing was carried out in several areas of the flat including the bedroom door (pictured) and proved that large volumes of blood had indeed been present in the flat prior to a clean-up. Lab analysis of the bloodstains showed that the DNA profile matched that of the body in the canal.

There was now no doubt that the victim had been murdered at this location. The victim’s new partner and her two daughters were subsequently questioned and charges were brought against them.

Lifeboat collecting drugs
Lifeboat collecting drugs
Drugs haul team
Drugs collection team
The biggest drugs seizure in State history

On the 2nd of July 2007, amidst stormy weather conditions a rib (rigid inflatable boat) capsized off the coast of West Cork at Dunlough Bay. Subsequent investigation led to the recovery of 61 bales of white powder and the arrest of a number of men. The bales were transported to the Forensic Science Lab for analysis. Each bale contained 25 tape packages of white powder. A further bale was recovered from the sea on the 27th of November 2007.

It was estimated that the 62 bales contained 1550 packages of white powder - an approximate weight of 1,500 kilograms. Random sampling proved the packages to contain cocaine ranging in purity from 73 – 79%.

Three men faced trial and in July 2008 and were unanimously found guilty of possessing drugs for sale/supply. Judge Ó Donnabháin made legal history when he handed down thirty-year sentences to two of the men, along with a twenty-five-year sentence to the third man. The sentences handed down were the longest ever delivered by a judge in an Irish court for drug offences.

Stab Cut
Stab cuts in fabric (Pic A)
Death in Mountjoy Prison

A fight broke out between two prisoners during which one prisoner fatally stabbed the other. A knife was seen fall to the floor. There was a delay in getting the prison wing locked down and as a result the knife was picked up and concealed. The suspect offender also had time to change his clothes.

Following a search of the prison wing a bloodstained knife was found in the toilets and a set of bloodstained clothes were found in one of the cells.

Eyewitness accounts say that the prisoner who was fatally stabbed was stabbed first. They say after he was stabbed he removed the knife from his own chest and attempted to stab the other prisoner. The suspect offender says that he was stabbed first in the left chest and that he stabbed the other prisoner in self-defence.

On examination of a bloodstained football jersey found in a cell there was a single stab cut to the upper left chest and three small stab cuts on the lower centre front (Pic A). The stab cuts were examined under the microscope and two were found to have discrete bloodstains around the edges. This type of bloodstaining can occur when a knife with a wet bloodstained blade penetrates fabric.

DNA profiling was carried out on the bloodstains around the cuts. There was a mixed DNA profile obtained that matched the profiles of both prisoners. The stab cut on the sweatshirt of the deceased was DNA profiled. A single DNA profile matching his own DNA profile was obtained.

This result indicates that the prisoner was fatally stabbed before the suspect offender, as the deceased’s DNA profile was obtained from the blood on the suspect offenders jersey having been transferred there by a bloodstained knife.

The presence of the stab cuts with the associated blood staining and the matching DNA profiles suggest that the version of events as proposed by the eye witnesses is more likely rather than the version proposed by the suspect offender.

The suspect was later convicted of murder.

Cocaine Jeans
Quasar 100 light examination (Pic A)
A novel method of cocaine smuggling

Cocaine smuggling is a common occurrence and has been attempted by a variety of novel methods including concealment in wax, in canned liquid, and in baseball caps. The “body packer” method where the cocaine is concealed within the body by swallowing small packages of cocaine is quite common but has led to many fatalities when the packages burst inside the smuggler. Smuggling cocaine using clothing impregnated with the drug is not common and we encountered an unusual case of cocaine in clothing in 2002.

In June 2002 a Brazilian woman was stopped in Dublin Airport getting off a flight from Sao Paolo (Brazil) via Madrid (Spain). Included in her luggage were six pairs of jeans, which had a stiff appearance. The suspicions of the Customs Officer were aroused by the smell of “moth balls”. The strong smelling “moth balls” are frequently used to reduce the likelihood of detection of drugs by dogs. The articles were submitted to the FSL for examination. Analysis showed each garment to contain cocaine.

Cocaine impregnated jeansThe jeans were visually examined to determine if there was any evidence of uneven distribution and some areas were found which appeared to have a less stiff appearance. In order to determine the exact distribution pattern, the jeans were subjected to a high intensity light source fitted with various filters. The Quasar 100 light source used is frequently used in fingerprint examination. It can be seen from (Pic A) that some areas are brighter than other areas. The darker areas corresponded with the areas which were less stiff to touch. It can be reasonably assumed that these areas had not been exposed to cocaine. This was confirmed by examining, using the same light source patches, which we knew to contain cocaine and these, had the same dark appearance.

The darker areas of the jeans included the outside pocket, waistband, belt flaps and along the seams. This led to the question of how the cocaine was put onto the jeans. It was initially presumed that the jeans were immersed in a liquid containing cocaine and then allowed to dry, however this would not account for the absence of cocaine on the areas outlined above.

It is clear that the jeans were initially turned inside out, and the liquid (containing cocaine) was poured onto the garment with the garment effectively acting as a vessel with the seams and waistband as the outer rims of the container.

The total weight of the garments was 6221 grams. We extracted the powder from the 6 pairs of jeans and the average yield of powder based was 13.9% thus giving an estimated 864.7grams of powder in the six garments. The average purity of the cocaine was 80%.

Murder by the Boyne River

A German tourist went missing while walking the 8 km from Drogheda to visit the Neolithic site at Newgrange in the Boyne Valley in Co. Meath. Three weeks later her body was discovered hidden in undergrowth near the road she would have walked.

On the 17th of October 2001 a scientist from the laboratory attended the scene in Donore, Co. Meath. The woman's body was in an advanced state of decay. She was lying on her back and an attempt had been made to hide the body by covering it in vegetation .Her upper body was fully clothed in a blue Gore-Tex rain jacket. She was naked from the waist down except for panties, which were around her knees.

A number of men were working on road construction not far from where the body was found. The woman would have walked past these works on the day she disappeared. One of the workers had a prior conviction for the manslaughter of an elderly woman for which he had spent time in prison; he soon emerged as a suspect in the case.

At the post mortem, various samples were taken from the body including vaginal swabs. In the laboratory these swabs were found to contain semen. The semen on the internal vaginal swabs was, surprisingly, still in good condition despite the advanced state of decay of the body. DNA profiling was carried out on these swabs and it was found that the semen matched the DNA profile of the suspect.

On examination of the woman's clothes, a distinctive smell, similar to that of Jeyes Fluid, was evident above the expected smell of decay.

Meanwhile, items of lower clothing, which matched the description of those worn by the deceased, were found in a skip beside the church in Donore. This included a pair of distinctive red shoes. There were small pieces of leather missing from the shoes. Unlike the clothing taken from the body, there was no smell of decaying body fluids or disinfectant on these clothes. This suggested that the items were not on the body when it was decaying. However small pieces of red leather, which appeared to have been nibbled at by animals, were found beside the body. These matched the red leather in the shoes found in the skip. This would suggest that the shoes were at the scene long enough for an animal to begin gnawing at them and were taken from the scene to the skip some hours or days after the murder. It is likely that the killer went back to the scene some time after the murder, and collected the clothing and shoes, which he then dumped.

The location where the clothes were found was close to a wooden electricity pole and there was a suggestion that the wood had recently been treated with creosote as a preservative. A bottle of Jeyes Fluid was also reportedly found in a rubbish skip nearby. These were possible sources of the smell from the clothing from the body.

The panties were analysed in the Chemistry section to see whether the source of the smell could be identified. The chemist agreed that there was a distinctive tarry smell from the item.

The panties were placed in a nylon bag to retain any volatile materials that might be present. On heating the bag and its contents, a sample of air removed and analysed using gas chromatography. Gas chromatography is an analytical and comparative technique that separates mixtures into their component parts; it is a versatile technique routinely used in the analysis of drug and fire cases.

A distinctive pattern of peaks was visible in the chromatogram of the air from the bag. This was compared with chromatograms of reference samples of Jeyes Fluid and of creosote from the scene. The similarity to the Jeyes Fluid chromatogram and difference from that of creosote was evident. This led the scientist to conclude that the results provided support for the view that the smell from the panties was Jeyes Fluid rather than creosote.

The container found in the rubbish skip turned out to be a disinfectant with a lemon perfume, which was quite different from Jeyes Fluid.

In the subsequent trial it transpired that the accused had bought Jeyes Fluid around that time, stating that it was to clean out dog kennels. It is likely that he went back to the scene and poured the Jeyes Fluid over the body some time after the murder, at the same time collecting the clothing which he placed in the skip.

Forensic Evidence was central to the investigation and subsequent prosecution. The suspect was charged, tried and convicted of murder. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Victim's Jumper
Victim's Jumper (Pic A)
Suspect's Gloves
Suspect's Gloves (Pic B)
Unusual trace evidence in an attempted robbery

The transfer of trace evidence from clothes and textiles is not always in the form of fibres, as many can have portions made from other materials. This case describes an attempted robbery involving a pair of work-style gloves, which had areas made from a rubber-type polymer.

In this instance, the robber forced entry through a back window of the countryside premises and waited for the elderly proprietor. On arrival, a struggle ensued in the front doorway of the premises. A passing car slowed down and contacted the police with details of the incident and that of a van parked near the scene.

The passing car disturbed the robber and he left the scene. The suspect was traced through the van details and was arrested an hour later.

A number of items were submitted to the lab including the victim's and suspect's clothing, items discarded on the escape route and items from the suspects van. The victim's jumper (Pic A) was a good source of target fibres. It was mainly navy in colour, with the navy portion made of a mixture of black acrylic fibres, blue acrylic fibres and purple wool fibres. There was a pattern on the front of the jumper with green, red, turquoise and brown areas.

There was a doubt as to whether or not the suspect had changed his clothes. A preliminary search of items from the suspect for fibres matching the victim's jumper was carried out and fibres were not found. Gloves from the suspect’s van were examined and potential fibres were found. Further analysis revealed twenty-four fibres matching the control fibres of the victim’s jumper. Ten black acrylic fibres, seven blue acrylic fibres and three purple wool fibres matching the navy area of the victim’s jumper were found. Two green acrylic fibres and two turquoise acrylic fibres matching the patterned area of the jumper were found.

The gloves from the suspect’s (Pic B)van were a pair of pale yellow gloves with the palms and fingers covered in green rubber-type material. The fibres of the pale yellow areas were not suitable as target fibres. Also, the contact areas were covered with the green rubber-type material. The following pictures show the gloves and a magnified view of the green rubber-type material. This had a very textured, rough surface and shed tiny fragments of green polymeric material.