THE JFK assassination could finally be solved after a British firm developed ground-breaking technology which allows fingerprints to be obtained from bullets for the first time.
West Technology Forensics revolutionary breakthrough could be used by police forces across the world to help solve thousands of unsolved gun crimes.
These might include the 1963 killing of US President John F Kennedy, which is the subject of countless conspiracy theories, and the 1984 murder of WPC Yvonne Fletcher outside the Libyan Embassy in London.
As a result of the heat and pressure created when guns are fired there is just a one per cent chance of recovering fingerprints from used bullet or shotgun casings using current techniques.
But the newly developed process, which is already attracting the interest of forensic scientists and police forces worldwide, has shown an initial 68 per cent success rate for some casings.
The technology behind the process, Vacuum Metal Deposition (VMD), has been used by the forensic science and police communities for several decades.
VMD was key in gathering the crucial evidence to convict a number of high profile murderers including the infamous Scottish serial killer Peter Tobin.
Tobin was convicted after the VMD technique was used to recover his fingerprints from a bin bag he used when he disposed of the body of one of his victims Vicky Hamilton.
The VMD process is simple to use – evidence is placed in a vacuum chamber and then tiny amounts of metal, traditionally gold and zinc, are heated and vaporised.
These metallic vapours, then attach on to the evidence and make any invisible or latent fingerprints become visible to the naked eye.
The VMD process was originally developed as a result of the IRA's bombing campaign in the 1970s and '80s.
Until now it has been used to recover fingerprints from various evidence materials including paper, plastics and fabrics.
Eleigh Brewer, a forensic scientist at West Technology based in Bristol, has been carrying out research on fired bullets for just under a year with remarkable success.
The elite scientist has been using different metals in her research and discovered that silver or sterling silver yielded the best results for developing fingerprints on fired bullets and shotgun casings.
West Technology work with police and forensic science laboratories around the world and customers include the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, NYPD and several major UK police forces.
Their system was recently used to solve a knife murder in Austria even though the blade had been wiped clean after the killing.
Despite the emergence of DNA evidence, fingerprints are still considered in courtrooms as the most reliable form of evidence when it comes to successfully obtaining convictions.
DNA material can be vulnerable to contamination and human error but fingerprint evidence is still seen as the best way to connect a suspect to a specific location or prove they have handled a piece of evidence.
Ian Harris, the managing director of West Technology, is convinced his company has come up with technology which has the potential to clear up thousands of unsolved gun crimes.
He said: "Until now it has been accepted wisdom by police forces and forensic scientists across the world that it is pretty much impossible to recover fingerprints from fired ammunition.
"We have been working on different VMD processes since last March and are delighted with the results when we used silver and sterling silver."
Investigators do not have to be experts to be able to use the system thanks to the way it has been designed and manufactured.
Mr Harris added: "When fingerprints are recovered from used bullet casings then there is the potential to clear up crimes as soon as the evidence is recovered.”
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