Perfume Traces Could Be Used To Help Solve Crimes

Perfume is designed to be absorbed by skin and clothes. Dzmitry Kliapitski/Shutterstock

Josh Davis 24 Aug 2016, 13:45

We’re used to the image of a detective walking into a crime scene and using specks of blood found on clothes to pin the crime on a suspect. Yet even traces of single fibers or certain insects can be used to give away that someone was involved with a crime, as forensics have become far more refined.

Now, a new study has shown that in addition to this, even perfume can be transferred and subsequently detected, and could indicate that there has been close physical contact even hours after the event has taken place. While so far this is just proof of concept and is yet to be employed in a real life scenario, the researchers think that it could prove to be a valuable tool in establishing whether two people had been close to each other, and when.

“We thought there was a lot of potential with perfume because a lot of people use it. We know about 90 percent of women and 60 percent of men use perfume on a regular basis,” University College London’s Simona Gherghel, lead author of the study published in Science and Justice, told BBC News.

The novel use of fragrance worn by those involved in a crime is perhaps not that surprising. Perfumes are volatile components by their very nature, designed to be easily absorbed by the skin and clothing through direct application, from other objects, or even from the air, and so the idea that they could then transfer and be detected on other people is not that farfetched.

To test how reliably fragrances were passed from one piece of clothing to another, the researchers pressed pieced of material together for varying amounts of time, and then tested to see how many of the chemical components from the perfume were transferred. These components are often unique to the fragrance, as they give them their distinctive smells and qualities. After just one minute of contact, they found that 15 out of 44 elements were transferred, and this upped to around 18 after a period of 10 minutes.

They then looked at how long the traces persisted in a second experiment and found that five minutes after a piece of cloth had been in contact with a perfumed piece of fabric an impressive 24 out of the 44 components could be detected, and after a full six hours, this drops to 12. While this is only proof of concept, it could prove to be useful in cases involving sexual assault, but only if it were in conjunction with other evidence, as it could never hold up as evidence purely on its own.

[H/T: BBC News]

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