Fingerprint technology may trace killer

CUTTING edge technology which enables police to retrieve fingerprints from bullet casings and bomb fragments could aid detectives investigating the murder of Jimoh Plunkett.

CUTTING edge technology which enables police to retrieve fingerprints from bullet casings and bomb fragments could aid detectives investigating the murder of Jimoh Plunkett.

The Evening Star has learnt that those leading the hunt for the 24-year-old's killer are considering asking the scientist behind the breakthrough, Dr John Bond, for his expert help.

Dr Bond's new method, which relies on subtle corrosion of metal surfaces, is already being applied for the first time anywhere in the world by two British police forces - the Met and Lincolnshire constabularies.

The patterns of corrosion remain even after the surface has been cleaned, heated to 600C or even painted over, meaning that traces of fingerprints stay on the metal long after the residue from a person's finger has gone.

Mr Plunkett, of south London, was gunned down inside Zest nightclub in Ipswich's Princes Street in December 2006 at a garage music event.

Despite a lengthy and costly investigation, his murderer has never been brought to justice.

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Today, Dr John Bond, of the University of Leicester and the Scientific Support Unit of Northamptonshire Police, said conventional police techniques required either physical or chemical interaction with the fingerprint residue.

However, his technique relies on permanent physical changes to the metal.

The chemical basis of the change is not yet clear, but Dr Bond believes it is corrosion by chloride ions from the salt in sweat. These produce lines of corrosion along the ridges of the fingerprint residue.

When the metal is heated, for example when a gun is fired, the chemical reaction actually speeds up and makes the corrosion more pronounced.

Detective superintendent David Cole, the officer hunting Mr Plunkett's killer, confirmed Suffolk police were interested in the technique.

He said: “We are aware of this development and are considering it.

“However, there are a number of other factors to be considered at this stage.”

Dr Bond's findings have been published in the latest issue of the Journal of Forensic Sciences, where he confirms it is possible to recover fingerprints from a bullet casing ejected when a pistol is fired.

He said: “As you are pushing the magazine in you are actually putting a thumb print on the bullet.

“That's the person you want. That's the guy who loaded the gun.”

What do you make of the development? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

Jimoh Plunkett

The 24-year-old south Londoner had travelled to Ipswich on December 8, 2006 to attend a garage music event at Zest nightclub in Princes Street.

A number of incidents of violence flared up during the evening before Mr Plunkett was fatally gunned down inside the venue in the early hours of December 9.

Three others suffered gun shot wounds, while another man was stabbed.

Since then, police have made numerous arrests and conducted thousands of inquiries but no one has yet been charged.

On the anniversary of Mr Plunkett's death, his sister, Sandra Obahor, told of her family's determination to see her brother's killer brought to justice.

“This has been a year of much grieving, much feeling of emptiness, pain and heartfelt memories of a son and a brother,” she said.

“We are not looking for revenge or pay-back - all we want to see is justice.”

Anyone with information on the shooting should call 01473 613500, text 07624 800174,or e-mail zest-shooting@suffolk.pnn.police.co.uk