Ear Identification

That is where I come to the second part of my lecture:
Ear research in the Netherlands: In the Netherlands, on the 23d of december 1985, at the technical investigation of a raid on a banker and his wife in Oostvoorne -a small village in the area of Rotterdam- the print of a left and a right ear were found on a door. This door, leading from the house to the garden, was forced by the hostagetaker. The offenders were two men who ran off with a considerable amount of money and equipment. Besides the earprints small artificial pieces of the butt of an alarm pistol were found.

Almost a month later the police were investigating the house of a suspect in relation to armed robberies, when they found besides firearms also a gas alarm pistol with a damaged butt. In association with the television programme “Crime watch” both cases were connected and the artificial pieces, previously found, appeared to fit the damaged butt. The suspect, confronted with these matters during the interrogation, denied the raid on the banker and his wife and said that he had bought the alarm pistol some days before at a bar in Rotterdam from an unknown person.

Now the earprints are the only traces that can lead to the identity of offender. The suspect cooperates in a comparison investigation and produces some prints of the left as well as the right ear. The investigation that follows was carries out by the scene-of-crime officers Nico Dubois and Frand de Groen. They involved throat/nose and ear doctors as well. The investigation leads to the conclusion that the prints are identical to those that were found at the place of the raid.

At the investigations hundreds of prints of right and left ears, put at police disposal by employees of the police forces in the neighbourhood of Dordrecht were also used. The conclusion in relation to those prints was, that none of the prints were identical or showed strong similarities with the prints found on the place of the offence. This was brought up before the court in Dordrecht, after which a conviction of the suspect (who kept denying) was obtained on grounds of the earprints.

The suspect appealed at a higher court in The Hague. This court also made a conviction, but mostly on the grounds of the small artificial part of the gas alarm pistol. The higher court found the explanation given by the suspect, that he bought the pistol some days before his house search incredible.

With my appointment to the branch section techniques at the Dutch College for Criminal Investigation and Crime Control in Zutphen, I had to teach in four courses for scene of crime officers. Apart from that I received instruction to study everything concerning the metrical and morphological aspects of the human body, especially those pointing towards identification possibilities. In my orientation, pointed in first instance to literature research, I came rather quickly to the conclusion that there are different parts in which a further study and qualification can lead to more possibilities to identify an offender according to the traces left behind.

From here I will limit myself to what has been developed in the field of earprints. In literature research I found, that amongst others, Fritz Hirschi, a Swiss researcher in the Bern police force (I mentioned him before), had investigated the relationship between the height of appearance of an earprint and the length of the offender. Besides other studies, at first instance I threw myself into this research.

During a period, that eventually lasted three years, I made photographs of both ears from students, co-operators and visitors and noted down the sizes concerning the length of the body, the distance between the upper side of the skull and the middle of the auditory canal. I also researched the extent to which people bent forward in order to listen at a window or door. The outcome of this research will give, in my opinion, a possibility to support, under certain circumstances, the mutual research about earprints and will give during the investigation perhaps a direction which must or can be followed.

In this research I collected many earprints and an investigation was carried out on form abnormalities of the ears and the changes, that take place in the form of the ears by putting them under pressure. The photographs of the ear (about 1200) were a good help in the study for the uniqueness of an ear. After some years of research I started to make known the possibilities of ear-research and the possibilities of ear-identification.

In one of the courses at our College time was taken to give information over comparative researches to body aspect, in which earprints took most of the time. Some months later people began to send me earprints. It appeared that earprints at the place of the offence were more often found than was previously thought. Especially at burglaries in flats and houses with portico’s, where crimes were committed mostly in broad daylight in the afternoon and in which the front door was broken into or was opened with the aid of a plastic card, it turned out that, besides the well known fingerprints and toolmark traces, earprints were found.