The Identification and Classification of Sharp Force Trauma On Bone Using Low Power Microscopy

Tennick, Catherine Jayne (2012) The Identification and Classification of Sharp Force Trauma On Bone Using Low Power Microscopy. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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Cut mark analysis to date has been intermittently and superficially researched across a range of disciplines, despite its potential to significantly contribute to criminal investigation. The current study aims to elucidate cut mark analysis by proposing a novel classification system for the identification of knife cuts (kerfs) in bone. The system was devised, to record accurate and reliable information about cut marks and the criteria were tested for association with the knives that created them. Optical Microscopy was used to examine knife cuts on fleshed porcine bone. Incised cuts were made by a range of serrated, scalloped and fine-edged blades (n=9), by the author, and participants (n=23) were recruited to make marks on bone under the same force-measured conditions, using the Kistler force plate and a bespoke frame to control the level of height to which the knife can be raised above the bone prior to impact. Resultant kerfs were created by a single operator (n=86) and created by a range of individuals (n=186). The data suggests that consistent force was not achieved and the resultant marks on the bones made by the same knife had wide variation in their appearance and depth. The classification criteria tested did not provide discrete identification of knife blades from the assessment of kerf features; however, trends were identified from criteria including margin regularity, margin definition, floor width and wall gradient, which may form the basis for further investigation. Marks made by a single operator showed more significant associations (p<0.05) than group operators, and although kerfs from each share some trends, several significant relationships observed in marks made by a single operator are not shared by the participant group. Limitations of using optical microscopy included the inability to view all aspects of each mark, particularly when combined with variation in depth and angle produced by human operators. From the present results, it is suggested that the use of digital microscopy with a superior ability to build three dimensional images of indented marks would provide the necessary step forward to improve discrimination between knife classifications, based on the areas highlighted by the current research. This reinforces the need for further understanding of the mechanics of cut mark application in human individuals and their potential effects on kerf features.

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