Thursday, March 15, 2018

Shoe forensics: Shit happens !

The introduction of cheap canvas topped shoes in mid 19th century was specifically for rest & recreation for the working classes, but this was soon put to gainful employ by a group of unscrupulous villains. House burglars wore the new sand shoes, to scale walls and roofs with the ease of a cat, hence they became known as car burglars aided by their sneakers. Later, the shoes took on a style of their own and appealed to the delinquents and the association has continued ever since.

Now forensic scientists can not only identify the make of shoe from a footprint left behind at crime scene, but also the physical characteristics of the person wearing the shoes. So burglars beware. Taking off shoes does not really help the perpetrator either because feet and socks leave distinctive patterns behind for analysis. Skin prints from bare feet are unique, and if the burglar wears socks with holes in them, then all the easier to be identified. Finding sharp objects in the dark with the big toe is not only painful but can also leave tell-tale DNA at the scene of the crime.

Recently an armed robber was caught in Queensland, Australia because he had a clump of dog poo stuck on his shoe. Usually considered good luck, this time it was all the police needed to make a successful arrest. When officers examined a photo taken by the security camera there was a trail of tell-tale footprints into the bank. By good fortune, an off-duty detective was in the vicinity of the robbery and happened to smell something unpleasant prior to the hold-up. Instinctively he noted the number plate of the vehicle nearby which coincidently was the getaway car. Routine enquires soon found the robber and ‘a sniff test’ of his shoes, led to a swift arrest. The felon received a long custodial sentence, which will give him time to think about picking his steps more carefully in future. Shit happens!

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