Rijksmuseum scanner to uncover trace evidence in Netherlands crimes

Forensic investigators at a crime scene
Forensic investigators at a crime scenePhoto: Politie

The painting scanner used by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam to analyze masterpieces may also help police detectives find trace evidence in present-day crime scenes. The investigators of the Dutch Forensic Institute (NFI) and the national art gallery of the Netherlands have formed a new collaboration to use the new technique to find bodily fluids.

Investigators explained to newspaper Volkskrant that, besides analyzing the layers of paint in paintings, the machine can also trace blood, saliva, urine, sweat and sperm. For example, since the museum's X-Ray Fluorescence scanner can detect zinc, which is present in sperm, it could discover DNA traceable evidence in a crime investigation. 

Scientists from the NFI, the University of Amsterdam, and the Technical University of Delft, published the results of research on the subject last week.

The innovation came from an idea of Arian van Asten, who works for NFI. "When I heard about what the XRF-scanner could do with paintings, immediately I thought: I would like to have a pair of jeans from a murder case set under that scanner," Van Asten told the paper. "Some of the materials detected in paintings, can be found for example also in gunshot residues". 

The NFI does not yet possess a scanner, because of the high costs of the machinery. Until then the newspaper says forensics won't hesitate to drop by the museum with possible evidence material.