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Monday, April 22, 2002
(updated on the web on May 6, 2002 to include the statement and petition)

BREAKING NEWz you can UzE...

Tragic Death of Loyd Courtney, "World's Oldest Living Fingerprint Expert"  A strange and odd story from the headlines of the Texas Star Telegram.  A fingerprint examiner and his wife found slain... suspicions turn from a criminal's act of revenge to their 48-year-old Daughter.

RSW Next Week!   If you have some last minute training $ to spend and want to polish up your comparison skills, the Ridgeology Science Workshop in Norfolk Virginia, Next Week!... April 29 - May 3, is the course to attend.  This promises to be a great time of improved efficiency and preparation for certification.  There are still seats available, so contact FITS today! (Bonnie@foridents.com)

Good morning via the "Detail," a weekly e-mail newsletter that greets latent print examiners around the globe every Monday morning. The purpose of the Detail is to help keep you informed of the current state of affairs in the latent print community, to provide an avenue to circulate original fingerprint-related articles, and to announce important events as they happen in our field.

Last week, we saw a statement of support and were offered an opportunity to endorse a petition to be used very soon in the SCRO / McKie situation.  This week, we see further communication emphasizing the importance of acting in support of this petition now... 


Last week we asked your support in the case of a police woman in Scotland named Shirley McKie. This appeal was on behalf of Shirley, her family and Mike Russell, a member of the Scottish parliament. {This appeal is supported by David Grieve, Pat & Kasey Wertheim Allan Bayle and myself.}

You may have reacted already, we thank you on behalf of Shirley and justice.
You may have given us an extra quote with moral support.  We like that and it gives us more energy to continue, thanks even more.
Did you inform your colleague by the way?

On the other hand;
You may be very busy with other things, like an overbearing backlog or case load.
You may dislike the disturbance of the international brotherhood of the police.
You may be telling yourself it is not your daughter or your wife it happened to.
You may think it is none of your business.

But you are wrong.

It may not have been your business BEFORE the final decision of the Scottish authorities that implies that the identification was no mistake.

But it IS your business since then.  It is literally your business… the business of fingerprint examination that calls for your support.

There is one thing more important than the bond between policemen, one thing that justifies to break the ranks;   JUSTICE!
We are in this profession in order to serve society in finding the truth, that is the ONLY goal
of the science of fingerprints.

It is clear that the majority of experts in Great Britain are silent.
There can only be one logical reason, it is a mistake but they don't want to admit to it.

Let us give the Scottish Parliament a direction to go. They have to decide in what is seemingly a battle of the experts. If we are silent they have no choice.
If we speak loudly and massively but with dignity we might convince them that the whole matter is caused by a mistake, and they can correct the wrong.

Remember that it requires only one honest senior fingerprint bureau head in Britain to stop the agony.
Remember Shirley was a police officer until her own organisation acted upon an opinion of  fellows in fingerprints.

We appeal to your professional judgment, integrity and ethics.

Act accordingly, and offer your name on the petition in support of the following statement:


We, the undersigned, forensic experts in the field of fingerprint identification are writing to express our extreme concern about a matter we consider to have serious implications for our profession.

We have learned about an identification of a latent print in a murder case, allegedly coming from a police officer named Ms. Shirley McKie.

We have studied the latent and the comparison print from the left thumb from Ms. McKie.

On every level of detail investigated the two prints show so many differences that we are convinced that the latent does not originate from her left thumb.

The number and quality of the differences we have observed can be easily demonstrated to anyone and can only happen in comparing fingerprints from completely different sources.

It is clear that Ms. McKie should have been definitively excluded as a possible donor at an early stage of the comparison process.

We are astonished that any qualified or even non-qualified expert could deliver a conclusion that they were identical.

We are deeply concerned that fingerprint techniques that have proved dependable for so many years and have served the judicial process so well for over a century have now been  badly tainted.

We are also concerned that the victim was a police officer acting in the line of duty, that her accusers were expert witnesses working for the Crown Office and that such an injustice could happen again.

To continue to excuse such a gross mistake as a ‘matter of opinion’ harms the credibility of fingerprint evidence, the Scottish judicial system and the position and credibility of the SCRO.

This statement expresses our personal view as experts who are bound to their professional and ethical obligation to expose mistakes and ascertain the truth without fear or favour.

We appeal to you to use your authority and power to correct this mistake, stop injustice and prevent such a situation ever arising again.


PETITION TO RETURN TO ALAN BAYLE AllanB8077@aol.com, or ARIE ZEELENBERG dact.arie@12move.nl.

I have studied the prints in the McKie case and it is my expert conclusion that to identify these prints is a mistake.

I have read and I support the content of the statement about the McKie case.

I herewith give consent to list my name under the statement and to publish it.

I accept that the lay out and wordings of the final letter may differ slightly from the draft as long as the principal content stays the same.

I accept that a shorter version may be provided to the media.

   ___________________   _____________________   ___________________

                 Name                         Title                                        Organization                      

  Country: _____________________


___I prefer to be listed anonymous because I am under threat of disciplinary action. 



Please take a few minutes to review the prints in the McKie case and offer your support to this worthy cause.

It was mentioned that further comment is appreciated… Here is an example that I was given permission to share with you.  I am sure this note reflects what many of you are thinking, but have not yet expressed.  Perhaps this will be the inspiration to drop a note to the leaders of this fight for justice and give your two cents worth.


April 15, 2001

Allan Bayle
77 Great North Way
London, NW4 1PT

Dear Mr. Bayle:

I have been familiar with the McKie case since it first erupted and I
continue to be amazed at the obstinacy of the SCRO.  I was present at the
Fingerprint Society meeting in Liverpool when the attending SCRO supervisor
rose in defense of this lunacy. That it continues at this writing, and that
it is apparently countenanced in some quarters, is nothing short of

This business needs to be hauled into the antiseptic of  daylight and
denounced by every professional fingerprint and scientific organization
extant.  If the SCRO demands to be 'hoist on its own petard,' let them. Let
them enjoy the fame and celebrity currently enjoyed by all members of the
Flat Earth Society and the various apostles of crop circles, alien autopsies
in New Mexico and those who profess to communicate with the dead.

It is a pity that Winston Churchill has gone to his reward. I strongly
suspect that he would have paraphrased his Battle of Britain speech in
denouncing the SCRO. "If the Empire were to last a thousand years, people
will still look back and say.' Where did we get these cretins?' "

I await further developments in this case with the same fascination enjoyed
by queued ticket holders at a circus freak show.  Should the SCRO remain in
the ascendancy, leading SCRO officials will certainly be invited to lecture
on alchemy, phrenology and this case by the Iowa Division of the
International Association for Identification.

Wishing you the best of luck in rectifying this mess, I remain

Sincerely yours,
Sgt. Christopher J. Kauffman  CLPE
Bettendorf Police Department
1609 State Street
Bettendorf, IA  52722  USA


We will end this week's Detail with a letter from Dave Grieve addressing the Scottish Parliament:

An Open Letter to the Members of Parliament:

I am one of the American fingerprint examiners who gave evidence in the perjury trial of Shirley McKie during May, 1999.  I am writing to you in the hope that this letter will be read by many of you because I believe what I may offer has direct bearing in the issues before you.  What began as the local matter of the homicide investigation of Marion Ross has now achieved such international notoriety that law enforcement personnel throughout the world anxiously await your decision.  That decision will not be an easy one to determine, for the aftermath of the McKie trial has spawned waves of rhetoric containing accusations, innuendos, excuses, rationalizations and unfortunate hyperbole.  In the end, however, someone is right and someone is wrong, and that you must decide.

My testimony in criminal court is a matter of public record and one in which I provided my qualifications.  As I have stated I have been a fingerprint examiner for 37 years.  For the last 20 years, I have instructed nearly 100 examiners how to perform this specialized skill properly for the Illinois State Police, the third largest forensic laboratory in the world.  As an instructor, I teach those techniques and procedures which enable a competent individual to determine when identity by fingerprint can or cannot be conclusively established.  As most of you are fully aware, a fingerprint identification is often the most compelling evidence presented in a criminal proceeding.  In spite of recent legal challenges to fingerprint methods throughout the world, the public continues to have confidence in the reliability of fingerprint evidence, as well they should.  Public acceptance of fingerprint accuracy has been earned and maintained simply because most practitioners understand just how much influence they may have over another’s liberty or life.  Therefore, I also teach my students about personal integrity and individual responsibility, about what is the basis for certainty as opposed to arrogance, and about the dire consequences which may result from their failure to meet the highest standards of our profession.  In short, I teach the concept of justice.  I also inform my students they must acknowledge they are human beings who are quite capable of making mistakes.  That is why we have put in place thorough quality control measures which are designed to prevent abuse or misuse of public trust.  These are not limited to review of identifications made by others, but measures which ensure professional growth.

I also participated in the inquiry conducted by HMIC during which I was interviewed by Scottish police officers who were at all times competent and professional.  I have read the full HMIC report on this investigation and concur with all findings.  If enacted, the recommendations proposed offered an excellent opportunity to restore the credibility and dignity to SCRO and would greatly assist in repairing SCRO’s severely damaged reputation.  During this inquiry, I was asked what constitutes differing expert opinion.  The question was legitimate, but the explanations offered recently are not.  There are three possible conclusions to any examination, that is, I know whose fingerprint it is, I know whose fingerprint it isn’t or I simply don’t know.  Experts may vary in knowing and not knowing, but experts cannot disagree in whose fingerprint it is.  Expert opinion has inherent limitations.  Two physicians may disagree on a diagnosis when considering symptoms, but one will be right and the other wrong.  Both will agree whether the patient is alive or dead.

The substance of the ACPOS report defies the HMIC investigation and wishes to dismiss the matter as merely a difference among experts.  This is naive, for someone touched the door frame inside the Ross home and the biscuit tin.  Either SCRO is right or SCRO is wrong, and world opinion states the SCRO is wrong.  Outside SCRO, no examiner of merit has supported the identifications in the Ross homicide.  Simply put, the mark found inside the Ross home was not put there by Shirley McKie, and the mark recovered on the biscuit tin was not put there by Marion Ross while she lived.  Thanks to the internet, these fingerprints have been examined by experts throughout the globe and no one has supported the SCRO’s claim.  From the perspective of quality management, two errors made by the same four people in one case is an intolerable situation and requires strong remedy.  These errors reveal not only technical failure which caused their commission, but in the continuing omission by SCRO that they are, indeed, errors, they offer insight into collective integrity and responsibility in which the public has trust.  Denying that errors occurred in the face of overwhelming conflicting opinions is not a statement of confidence in the four examiners, but arrogance.  Denial of wrongdoing disregards the dire consequences of their actions and reveals a concept of justice that only despots could admire.

I took no pleasure in stating to the court that an error had been made by SCRO in the McKie case, but as a man guided by principle, I really had no other option.  I happen to believe that no society can call itself free without an unwavering devotion to justice, no matter how obscure and elusive that treasure may sometimes be.  Justice is the key thread that holds the cloth of freedom together, and as such, it must be fiercely protected by each and every one of us.  I came to Scotland to testify because I realized that if justice was denied to Shirley McKie, someone else would be next, perhaps I, perhaps you.  After all, Scotland and America have far more in common than they are different.  For me, my concept of justice was inherited from my grandfather, a simple man from Fife but as true a Scot as anyone who ever walked the streets of Leven.  As a young man, he had seen first hand what happened when justice had become merely lofty platitudes without fair practice for all.  Were he still alive, I fear he would believe a similar time is upon you once again, and he would ask you, first and foremost, to display allegiance to the noble words of David Hume.  You have before you the issue of whether you, as representatives of the Scottish people, will assist in adding to Hume’s great wall of justice or, instead, you will be party to its further destruction.  I urge you to honor the good citizens of Scotland.

David L. Grieve



UPDATES on CLPEX.com this week...

Updated the CLPEX.com Latent Print Examiner Bookstore... sold several books this week and received a rare copy of 1943 Cummins and Midlo, "Fingerprints Palms, and Soles," currently the only copy I have.  Last time I got one in it sold the next week.  Check out the bookstore!

Updated the Training page, adding ALFRC. 

As usual, the CLPEX chat board is available this week for informal banter about the Weekly Detail, as is the onin.com forum for other discussion.  

Feel free to pass the link to The Detail along to other examiners. This is a free service FOR latent print examiners, BY latent print examiners. There are no copyrights on The Detail, and the website is open for all to visit.

If you have not yet signed up to receive the Weekly Detail in YOUR e-mail inbox, go ahead and join the list now so you don't miss out! 

Until next Monday morning, don't work too hard or too little.

Have a GREAT week!


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