Blood in Crime Scene Investigation

At the scene of a violent crime, the examining officer is likely to discover blood and traces of other bodily fluids. These can tell a lot about what occurred, not only about how the crime was committed, but also about the persons involved.

Nearly everyone knows their basic blood type, whether it is A, B, AB, or 0, and Rhesus negative or positive. This categorising of blood into types was first done by Austrian physiologist Karl Landsteiner at the end of the 19th century. In his experiments, he took small amounts of blood and separated the red cells from the liquid, called the serum. He did this by spinning the blood at high speed in a centrifuge. Then he took the serum and added red cells from different people. They behaved in two different ways: either the cells mixed with the serum, or they clumped together (clotted), which is called ‘agglutination’.

Numerous attempts at blood transfusion had been made in the past, but this observation explained for the first time why so many had failed. When the blood was not of the same type as that in the body, it produced agglutination, and the patient died. Quick tests of blood samples to discover whether agglutination will happen is now done before a transfusion is performed.

Red blood cells carry substances called antigens. These help make antibodies that fight infection and disease. Landsteiner suggested that his experiment showed the presence of two specific antigens, which he labelled A and B. The discovery of these antigens enabled him to divide human blood into 4 basic groups:

Group A: antigen A present; antigen B absent
Group B: antigen A absent; antigen B present
Group AB: both antigens A and B present
Group 0: both antigens absent

The specific blood group of each person depends on the genetic inheritance from both parents. Known as ABO typing, it has been used, for example, to help identify the biological father in a paternity case. How common each group is varies from one national population to another. In the United States, for example, the relative proportions of ABO groups are roughly 39 percent A, 13 percent B, 43 percent 0, and 5 percent AB.

In 1927, Landsteiner discovered two other antigen types, labelling their occurrence as M, N, and MN. In 1940, working in the United States, he and A.S. Wiener discovered the Rhesus factor, named after the Rhesus monkeys they used in their investigations. Since then, other researchers have introduced more than a dozen additional group systems. Different proteins and enzymes associated with specific blood groups have also been identified.

The ability to identify blood type is a powerful means to uncover important evidence in a forensic investigation. If, for example, a victim’s ABO type is O, and remains of blood of this type are found on clothing of a suspect whose type is A, there is a possibility that they have come from the victim.

Making use of the many other blood typing systems now available, this probability is increased greatly. If blood of type 0 occurs in 43 percent of the population, the substance haptoglobin-2 in 36% of these, and the enzyme PGM-2 in 5%, then the probability of an individual having these three blood types together is 43 x 36 x 5 = 7,740 in 1,000,000. In other words, around eight people in every thousand have this specific type of blood. It is still insufficient to obtain a conviction on this evidence alone, but it can help to reduce the group of suspects.

In 1925, another important discovery occurred. Around 80% of people are ‘secretors’. This means their saliva, urine, perspiration, and semen contain the same substances as their blood, and are able to be used for typing in a similar way. In 1940, two British researchers found it was possible to distinguish between female and male body cells, especially the white blood cells and those of the lining of the mouth. Blood typing has now become so precise that recently one scientist showed that he could distinguish between the blood of his twin daughters, who were genetically identical, because one had experienced chicken pox and the other had not.

At the scene of a violent homicidal attack, blood may be present in considerable quantities. Not only will it be on the victim, but also on the weapon and the surroundings. Indoors, the floors, walls, and even the ceilings may be splashed. Careful observation of these bloodstains can provide valuable clues about what took place. Bloodstains and splashes are classified into six basic types.

Round drops are found on horizontal surfaces; depending on the height from which they fell, they can spray out into a starlike shape. Splashes of blood are shaped like an exclamation mark; they show that blood has flown through the air and hit a surface at an angle. While a victim is still alive, spurts of blood result from the pumping action of the heart. A major artery can spray the blood a great distance.

Pools form around the body of the bleeding victim. If there is more than one pool, he either dragged himself, or was dragged, from one area to another before dying. Smears will also be found if this happens. Trails are left when a bloody corpse is moved. There will be drops if the body was carried, and smears if it was dragged.

If you are looking for a Sydney Criminal Lawyer, contact Go to Court. Our Sydney Criminal Lawyer is here to help. BS14082011SCL

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