Fingerprints betray cocaine users in new forensic technique

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The University of Surrey in cooperation with the Dutch Forensic Institute (NFI) have developed a new method to determine whether someone used cocaine that can give results with extreme accuracy. Fingerprints treated with a methanol solution are then analyzed by a mass spectrometer, and can positively identify a cocaine user, Sky News reported.

Traces of cocaine ingested by a person are later secreted out of the body. Elements of that secretion can then be found in fingerprints. The advantage of such a method is that it eliminates possibilities of either faking a negative result, or planting evidence, researchers from the NFI told the Volkskrant.

Using the method also excludes the need to analyse the suspect's blood and saliva.

The method can help in cases against drug traffickers. "If anyone says that the drugs were placed in their bag and they knew nothing, he has more to explain if we can prove that he indeed touched cocaine," said Marcel de Puit, a fingerprints expert at the NFI.

De Puit also pointed out that the new technique could allow investigators to determine if a suspect was under the influence of drugs when they committed a crime.