“The murderer is a tall man, left-handed, limps with the right leg, wears thick-soled shooting boots…”
Sherlock Holmes’s evidence in The ‘Boscombe Valley Mystery” helped establish Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s hero as fiction’s first forensic scientist.
Holmes went further, declaring that “there is no branch of detective science which is so important and so much neglected as the art of tracing footsteps”.
Fast forward to the present day, and shoeprints are still an important tool in the forensic crime detection kit.
ESR Senior Scientist Ruben Miller says shoes often have a story to tell.
“Where you’ve got a lot of detail being taken up over the life of the shoe – such as the small nicks, the particular type of wear – and so on - it starts to build up a picture where it’s possible to generate a match.
“The difference from finger prints is that a shoe is not inextricably linked to a person, but if you can also establish a link to the shoeprint, you can have strong evidence.”
Mr Miller recalls how shoeprints played an important role in a robbery case where about six individuals had allegedly gone into a house.
“One of the suspects could be put into the house by virtue of a DNA profile on a broken plant pot that he’d picked up and smashed into the face of the person who opened the door.
“But the rest were put into the house by shoe prints on the kitchen and dining room floors.”
He says their defence was that they’d waited in the car.
“But their shoes said otherwise”.
Another ESR forensic Senior Scientist, Mark Connor, says shoe printing can be very useful.
He says shoeprints should be searched for at every crime scene – “They should, in theory, always be at a crime scene.”
Mark Connor explains two of the methods ESR uses to collect 2D and 3D impressions of shoeprints.
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