T  H  E      D  E  T  A  I  L

The Detail Archives

Discuss This Issue

Subscribe to The Detail


Monday, May 6, 2002

BREAKING NEWz you can UzE...

Chicago Fingerprint Forum Adjourns  As you know, a group of latent print examiners from across the globe were invited to Chicago last week to discuss the best ways to address the recent challenges to the science of fingerprints.  A "Recommendations" document was drafted by the attendees, and is being finalized as we speak.  Naturally, it will be made available via the Detail as soon as it is officially released.

It's BidNow Week!  For our newcomers, the first Monday of every month we auction off a unique or cool fingerprint-related item on Ebay.  This week I found a neat 8 1/2 X 11 inch golden (from age) reproduction of the document (and text) that WIlliam Herschel had Rajyadhar Konai place his hand print on in 1858.  As we all know, Herschel's collection became the backbone of Sir Francis Galton's later studies of the permanence of friction ridge skin features.  This item would make a great framed display.  For more info and pics, visit the auction.

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 Dave Wade brought us an article entitled "Processing Tape with Titanium Dioxide (Tio2)."  If you missed it or would like to otherwise peruse past Details, they are available on the Detail Archives page.  This week we are updated by Airie Zeelenburg on current progress in Scotland.


Last Friday the 3rd of May, Michael Russell, a member of Scottish Parliament, sent the statement from international fingerprint experts regarding the erroneous identification in the McKie case to the Minister of Justice Mr. Jim Wallace.  The document was supported by 129 signatures from experts all over the world, including many notable ones.

In a radio interview Michael called it a very powerful document regarding a case that has become a  “cause celebre” in the fingerprint community.  The publication of the documents was covered by radio, TV news and some news papers.  Debate in parliament is scheduled for the 15th of May, and can be followed live on the internet via the BBC site.

Let us all share the hope of Michael Russell that this matter will now be concluded soon, otherwise it will continue to harm their victims in the first place.  In the end it will also discredit fingerprint evidence not only in Scotland but throughout the world.

On behalf of Shirley McKie, her family and Mike Russell we thank you, subscribers of the Detail, for your support!  Signatures are still coming in and will be published prior to the debate in parliament and long after if need be.

You can still join... mail your consent  to; dact.arie@12move.nl.

If you want images side by side just send a request to the same address and a package will be sent to you.

Hereafter you can find and/or download these published documents:
- the final statement
- a cover letter from Michael Russell addressed to the Minister of Justice (below)
- the list with signatures
- a list with notable signatures
- a list with quotes from subscribers. (below)

For other media publications you may look at;

An audio interview with Mike Russel on radio is available in real player format, or on the BBC article above, click on the "Scottish National Party" link in the <WATCH/LISTEN> area located in the right top corner.  Or try the below link...

The Daily Record

Arie Zeelenberg


The Rt Hon Jim Wallace QC MSP,                                                       
Minister for Justice,                                              
Scottish Executive,                                                                                          
St. Andrew’s House,
Regent Road,

2 May 2002


Please find attached a self explanatory statement in support of Shirley McKie signed by 130 fingerprint experts from across the world.

All the signatories have either examined the disputed marks on the original court productions or have viewed the photographs of those marks taken by fingerprint experts Pat Wertheim and David Grieve in person and/or on the Internet.

The relevant photographs and the Internet reproductions have been independently verified and are accepted by the world fingerprint community as being good quality reproductions of the disputed marks as found on the original court productions.

 The expert’s agreements to sign and their personal statements that they have viewed the disputed marks have been retained and are available for inspection.

This statement from the world fingerprint community is a powerful indictment of SCRO and its experts.

Of all their important conclusions one is absolutely critical:

‘It can be easily demonstrated and proven that the SCRO experts were clearly
   wrong in identifying the mark as Shirley McKie’s and this makes the SCRO    
                    defence that it is a matter of opinion false and untenable.’

It is clear from the unprecedented worldwide response that not only is SCRO being held up to ridicule but the whole Scottish System of Justice is losing credibility.

An even more worrying aspect is my understanding that most, if not all, of the experts have also viewed the disputed SCRO ‘identification’ in the David Asbury case and believe it to be equally wrong.

In view of this latest evidence I ask you to take early action to resolve this deteriorating situation.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Russell MSP

Encl: [petition list]


A selection of comments from fingerprint experts who have signed the statement to the Minister for Justice.

‘In a perverse way, we owe a debt to the intractable position of the SCRO.  Their decision to remain apart from the rest of the fingerprint community has done more to unite that community than anything I have encountered in my career.’    

·               ‘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.’

·               ‘I was present at the Fingerprint Society meeting in Liverpool when the attending SCRO supervisor rose in defence of this lunacy. That it continues and is apparently countenanced is nothing short of appalling.’    

·               ‘It seems increasingly unlikely that the SCRO will change their position, which is truly incredible. The only other option….. is that the remainder of the Fingerprint Identification community must disassociate ourselves from these blatant cowards with dispatch and certainty.’

·               ‘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 do not know. Experts may vary in knowing and not knowing, but experts cannot disagree on whose fingerprint it is. Physicians may disagree on a diagnosis when considering symptoms but one will be right and one will be wrong. Both will agree whether the patient is alive or dead.’ 

·               ‘Denying that errors occurred in the face of overwhelming conflicting opinions is not a statement of confidence in the four examiners, but arrogance.’

·               ‘The SCRO have done nothing to further the science of fingerprints and they have caused much confusion with their smokescreen of these identifications.’

·                ‘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.’

·               ‘The SCRO's latest moves to reinstate the examiners involved in the Shirley McKie case, taking no further action and to make the conclusion that fingerprint identification is only a matter of opinion and it is perfectly acceptable for different experts to express different opinions - is a travesty.’

·               ‘For the SCRO to try and justify their errant fingerprint “experts’” actions with the explanation that fingerprint identification is simply a matter of opinion is to make a mockery of the whole realm of forensic science.

·               ‘I felt powerless to help Shirley. The way I have described the feeling…… is that we are oppressed by one side and shunned by the other, we have no allies in this fight. Silence seems the only policy.’

·               ‘I can only shake my head in wonder and disbelief.’

UPDATES on CLPEX.com this week...

Updated the link bar on the home page to include
McKie Petition

As usual, the CLPEX chat board (http://www.clpex.com/phpBB/viewforum.php?f=2) is available this week for informal banter about the Weekly Detail, as is the onin.com forum (http://onin.com/fp/wwwbd/) 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!


The Detail Archives

Discuss This Issue

Subscribe to The Detail