Ear Identification

As soon as scene of crime officers started to look for earprints the number of cases involving earprints increased. This tendency to the finding of earprints took place in many police regions. In Amsterdam, Rotterdam and other smaller places in that area there was an enormous increase in the amount of earprints found. It was bound to happen that suspects would be manifest.

Nevertheless was my first case in the Netherlands an earprint found in a small village in the province of Limburg. The print was found on the kitchen window pane of a detached house that had a wall around it. The suspect denied ever having committed a burglary. The earprint found and a test print of the ears of the suspect were put at my disposal. I identified the print found at the place of the burglary, as equal to the earprint of the suspect. In court the suspect kept denying the burglary. When the judge asked about the earprint found at the scene of the crime, the suspect reacted by saying, that he could remember having listened at the window pane on the request of a friend, to hear if the inhabitants were at home. However, after that he had left the premises and did not commit burglary. Nevertheless the judge in Maastricht convicted the accused of the burglary.

After this cases followed in quick succession. In a series of burglaries in the neighborhood of Rotterdam I involved besides the prints also the height of findings in my research. On the grounds of the before mentioned research, I could, according to the height of the earprint found, establish the body length of the offender. This length had to be between 161/half and 165 centimeters. The average height appeared to be 163 cm. The offender appeared to have a body length of exactly 163 centimeters. Also in these cases a conviction was made by the court.

An other case concerned a series of burglaries in the agglomeration of cities in the western part of the Netherlands, the area between Amsterdam, Utrecht, Rotterdam and The Hague. On the grounds of an ear investigation carried out, I could indicate a suspect arrested in Amsterdam on suspicion of house burglaries as the offender of seven cases. A fellow suspect who was arrested could be pointed out as the offender in twelve cases. This second suspect confessed all the cases he was charged with. The first suspect denied two cases, he was charged with, in which earprints were the only technical proof against him having committed the crimes. He even said that one place was unknown to him and he had never been in the other one.

Up till now, two courts (the court of justice in first instance and the higher court in appeal) have dealt with the cases and the suspect was convicted both times on grounds of the ear identification. In both cases I gave evidence in court as an expert to explain ear identification. The council for the defendant appealed to the highest court in the Netherlands, the Supreme Court. Only a couple of days before time ran out the council for the defendant withdrew the appeal. With this the sentence has become irrevocable.

Concerning the burglaries there are, regarding the offenders, an obvious group to indicate. In the Netherlands these are mainly Algerians, Maroccans, Israelites, Turks and people from former Yugoslavia. Roughly spoken people from the area around the Mediterranean.

For the searching and securing of prints we use the normal methods in the Netherlands, as they count for fingerprint identification. I prefer the use of grey fingerprint identification powder (special silver or concentrated silver) to make the prints visible, whereby the trace is taken off with a black gelatine foil.

The trace is authenticated on the spot, the height of the findings of the trace will also be noted down, whereas for my length research I take the place of the tragus as a starting – point to establish the body length. For comparison purposes I need at least three standards or test-prints from a suspect. I prefer that the suspect listens himself at a smooth surface. Every time the pressure has to be different. The first time the pressure applied has to be gentle, the second print has to be done with normal pressure and the third print is taken by applying much more pressure. This way of taking prints will be used for the right as well as the left ear. In all cases a photograph of the right and the left ear will be taken, whereby the camera is held at an angle of 90 degrees corresponding to the head.

For non-co-operating suspects five prints of each ear must be made, whereby the prints have to be taken by putting variable pressure on the ear. Therefore it is necessary to prevent that one part of the ear (upper, lower, front or back side) getting extra pressure, because this will give an extra deformation of that part of the ear.

For the identification of the prints the following issues have to be taken into consideration:

1. General anatomical features the purpose is to make clear , which parts / features the ear has and which parts / features are visible on the found trace.

2. Make a comparison of the features of the found trace with the test trace the purpose is to mention the mutual characteristic features (pressure points) and the measuring of the prints.

In the framework of this lecture it would take too long to relate in detail the process of identification. However, I would like to explain that the method, followed by me in the first instance, is based on a resemblance between the pressure points, caused through the tragus, the antitragus, the crus of helix and the form of the anti-helix. After that a consideration of the possible other characteristic features of the ear follows.