Ear Identification

In may 1996 a man was arrested who was suspected to be the offender. He denied and told the police that he had never been in the house. Since the earprint was the only piece of evidence, the prosecutor wanted to take this into account. That’s were the council for the defense asked for a FRYE-hearing. In this type of hearing the judge has to decide whether or not the earprint may be used and shown to the jury. In this trial there were a number of questions to be answered.

For instance:

  • Are ears unique?
  • Is earprint comparison generally excepted by the forensic science community?
  • Is the comparison method generally excepted?

After five-and-a-half day of interrogation of several forensic experts of various disciplines  including me, the judge allowed the prosecutor to use the earprint in court. After this hearing I have seen the original evidence for the first time and I was asked to do the comparison in the case. Besides the earprint which is in my opinion equal to the test prints that were made from the suspect, a piece of the cheek and the hairline are visible.

I made my report for the prosecutor and have been cross-examined by the defense. The process has been delayed twice up till now and will start in the beginning of July  I will have to testify on July 7 1997.

The English case concerned a murder-case as well. This case took place in may 1996. On the windowpane on the outside of the house prints of a left ear were found as well as purple fibers on the curtain inside the house. Other traces pointing in the direction of a suspect are not available. This ear comparison which includes 12 possible offenders is carried out by Peter Vanezis, professor of medicine of the university of Glasgow, John Kennerley, head of the fingerprint department of the Lancashire Constabulary and myself.

During a visit in november 1996 the windowpane that had been secured was shown to me. I discovered a earprint of a right ear that had not been seen up till then. In this case one of the twelve suspects could be identified as the one that left both right and left prints behind.

That is where I come to the last part:

The future: I expect for the ear investigation and the possibilities (from a criminalistic point of view) to identify persons on the hand of their earprints quite good possibilities. Besides fingerprints and DNA investigation the mutual ear investigation can give a possibility to identify a person.

For a broad support of the possibilities of ear investigation it is in my opinion necessary to do further research, to work together and to reject on an international scale. At this moment our Dutch College has made arrangement for co-operation with the National Training Centre for Scientific Support to Crime Scene Investigation in Durham. It’s our aim to start a international course on earprint identification in 1998.

Besides that it is in my opinion necessary to agree on international directives for the collection, classification and storing of earprints. Also international directives for the collection of test prints of suspects must be framed. Hereby I want to point at the Forensic Technical Standards, that have been developed since some years in the Netherlands. These standards are eventually made to improve the communication and the investigation possibilities of materials in relation between the investigator on the place of the offence and the forensic laboratory, but have become generally accepted standards for the scene of crime officers and other people, involved in the investigation, to carry out certain activities.

This steering committee is a co-operation with between the Forensic Laboratory, the Dutch College for Criminal Investigation and Crime Control and the National Contact of scene of crime officers. These days, also the Police Traffic Institute and the Criminal Investigation Department, section fingerprint identification, take part. I think that the making of international standards can make a contribution to a standard process for the collection of test prints.

Finally it is important to make international directives and appointments for the mutual investigation of earprints, whereby also attention should be paid to a standard way of reporting. In the Netherlands we are open for international co-operation and we invite everybody to contribute his mite.

I thank you for your attention.

Mr. Cor van der Lugt
tel: +31-575-590200
fax: +31-575-590235
Voorsterallee 25
7203 DN Zutphen
The Netherlands

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