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Sierre buscrash

Posted By IFS

The Sierre coach crash occurred on 13 March 2012 near Sierre, Switzerland, when a coach carrying school teachers and pupils crashed into a wall in the Sierre Tunnel. Of the 52 people on board, 28 were killed in the crash, including both drivers, all four teachers, and 22 of the 46 children. The other 24 pupils, all aged between 10 and 12, were injured, including three who were hospitalised with severe brain and chest injuries.

The coach was one of three operated by the Aarschot-based Top Tours company and was transporting mostly Belgian school teachers and students from a skiing holiday in Val d’Anniviersback to their two schools in Belgium. It crashed at around 9.15 pm CET while travelling on the A9 motorway near Sierre, in the southern canton of Valais.

It was Switzerland’s second-worst road accident in history and the country’s worst in a motorway tunnel. The investigation into the crash initially closed inconclusively in May 2013, having ruled out a number of factors that had been the subject of media speculation but failing to identify a cause. A further public investigation, closing at the end of June 2014, attributed the crash to a non-criminal error on the part of the coach driver. Media speculation has continued.

The driver used an antidepressant and is suspected of having deliberately caused the accident to put an end to his life. The antidepressant in question, in combination with certain genetic disorders, would induce suicidal tendencies. The relatives want to know to what extent this has been mentioned.

IFS investigated this case and helped making a 3D reconstruction where it was found that the driver must have crashed the bus on purpose.

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Trent Forensics hosts Dutch scientists

IFS Articles

Trent Forensics hosts Dutch scientists

Posted By IFS

Trent Forensics Society Hosts Dutch Forensic Scientists, Richard and Sema Eikelenboom

The Trent Forensic Science Society had the pleasure of hosting a lecture from renowned international forensic scientists Selma and Richard Eikelenboom for the Trent and Peterborough community on Tuesday, February 26. The Eikelenbooms are the founders of Independent Forensic Services, a private company based in the Netherlands.

Selma Eikelenboom began the lecture from her background as a medical doctor and coroner, introducing wound identification and post mortem interval and analysis. She highlighted different types of common injuries and patterns from lacerations to chopping wounds. She also presented more unique cases with confounding evidence, inviting constant interaction from the audience.

Next, Richard Eikelenboom presented the more technical aspects of evidence analysis using DNA and blood pattern analysis. He focused on the different sources of DNA, and the advantages and challenges of DNA extraction from different cells. He also covered different techniques such as fluorescent lighting and luminol. He stressed the importance of effectively finding and using DNA in real cases to have the most weight in the judicial process.

The Eikelenbooms showed the differences and similarities of the investigation process across the world. They emphasized the importance of thinking like a criminal, despite the aversion, to effectively solve cases. Through the dynamic presentation of real cases, the lecture demanded unique thought and interaction from an eager audience. The Eikelenbooms also have an exceptional ability to keep such a heavy and potentially disturbing topic relatively light and interesting in an educational manner.

The Forensic Society is proud to have had the opportunity to offer such expert knowledge to the community. It is the goal of the Society to continue to foster a greater knowledge and appreciation for real forensic science from the perspective of those active in the field, as opposed to the accounts generally given by the media and entertainment industry.

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Post car killed Walsham

IFS Articles

Post car killed Walsham

Posted By IFS

Car killed Walsham, says forensic expert

A pedestrian crash test using a biomedical dummy. The dummy impacted the leading edge of the car, the head dented the bonnet, there was impact with the sunvisor and roof, and the dummy landed heavily on the road, then bounced along the road. In this test at 56kmh the body was projected “down range” 27 metres.
An international forensic expert says there has been a miscarriage of justice over the death of Phillip Walsham.

The injuries to his body were not consistent with a fall from a seven-metre high bridge, but with an impact with a car, says homicide investigator Dr Selma Schieveld.

She says she is convinced Mr Walsham was hit by a car travelling at high speed (“Is there a mystery hit-run driver out there?”, POST, 24/6).

“If you look at the injuries it’s a classic high velocity impact,” she said.

“The injuries are so extensive and so severe there is far more evidence for a high speed impact with a motor car accident than a fall from a seven-metre bridge.”

Three men are serving life sentences in jail for murder – throwing Mr Walsham off the footbridge at Stirling train station onto the road below eight years ago.

They are Jose Martinez (28), Sam Fazzari (27) and Carlos Perieiras (28).

“I really believe this is a miscarriage of justice,” Dr Schieveld said.

Her professional experience was challenged this week by senior police.

In happier times … Sam Fazzari (left) his girlfriend Mirella Scaramella, Carlos Pereiras and Jose Martinez – the men are now in jail serving life sentences.
In her home country, men had recently survived falls from eight and 10-metre structures, she said.

Dr Schieveld was a forensic medical examiner and coroner for the city of Amsterdam, examining hundreds of people involved in traffic crashes, pedestrian impacts with vehicles, falls and murder victims.

She visited complex crime scenes and studied blood pattern analysis and time of death and injury pattern recognition.

She now operates an independent forensic services company, and is on the board of the International Homicide Investi-gators’ Association.

Her statements on ABC television and radio this week about the Walsham case contradict much of the murder trial evidence of Dr Karin Margolius, a state pathologist, who conducted the autopsy.

Dr Margolius gave evidence at the trial of the three men this year that a bridge fall was the most likely scenario, and a car impact the least likely (POST, 24/6).

Dr Margolius said in court that she could see no primary vehicle impact site on Mr Walsham’s body.

Dr Schieveld said that after examining pathologist reports and post-mortem photographs, Mr Walsham’s multiple skull fractures were similar to those seen in severe motor vehicle accidents.

She said it was remarkable that there were three primary impact sites – the skull, pelvis and ribs.

There were severe injuries to the internal organs, including the liver and both lungs and bowel. Both legs were injured.

“They are on different sides of the body,” Dr Schieveld said. “They are far better explained with high velocity injury due to a car accident than from one fall from a seven-metre bridge.

“A fracture is good enough for me to call an impact site.

“Sometimes (in car impact) you do not see any (external) injuries at all.

“So the primary site is where he was hit by a car, the secondary where he either fell on the ground or rolled over the car, and the third where he hit the ground.”

She said there were internal injuries to both sides of Mr Walsham’s body – not possible from a fall from seven metres.

Dr Schieveld said that for Mr Walsham to receive his injuries from a fall, he would need to have fallen from 20-30 metres.

She said a person hit by a car was projected up and forward, like a billiard ball hit by another ball.

Two witnesses have told of seeing a man lying on the road uninjured, about 11 metres in front of where he was found fatally injured minutes later (POST, 24/6).

Mr Walsham was known for lying down on footpaths outside nightclubs after a late night out.

She said she was really surprised that it was not clear from the autopsy report whether muscles had been dissected to be absolutely sure there had not been a vehicle impact.

“You have to dissect to see if there is bleeding there,” she said.

Dr Schieveld said there was also a medical discrepancy in the fall scenario as described by witness Clare Pigliardo, then aged 19, who was in a car 92 metres away (POST, 18/3).

Miss Pigliardo gave evidence that she saw a body “backflip” off the footbridge, hit the road, then bounce up to a metre into the air.

But bodies dropped vertically didn’t bounce, Dr Schieveld said.

“Bodies, human bodies, are not rubber balls,” she said. “Once they’re down, they’re down.

“What could have happened, and that’s just a suggestion, is that he could have been hit by a car and thrown into the air, then go down again; that’s what happens.”

Dr Margolius told the murder trial Mr Walsham’s hands, head, and both sides of his body were severely injured when he bounced off the road after he fell from the bridge.

Scene of the tragedy … an aerial view of the Stirling Station footbridge.

Dr Schieveld said she was in Australia on holiday during the trial but was not called by the defence to give evidence.

The case officer for the murder inquiry, Inspector Scott Higgins, has publicly questioned why Dr Schieveld was not called to give evidence at the trial.

Dr Schieveld said that during the trial she had the opportunity for only a preliminary look at the forensic material and had submitted a draft report.

“I didn’t have very much time to go into it and do extensive research,” she said. “So I had to be very careful with my statement.

“That’s why I wrote that there was slightly more support for the hypothesis that he was hit by a car.”

She said that when she returned to Holland, studied the literature, spoke to pathologists and put more time into it “the more convinced I became it was a car accident than a fall from a bridge”.

Had photographs existed of the fresh scene, blood pattern analysis could also have shown for certain whether the incident was a fall or a car impact.

But a Division 79 police officer, who took photos of the body in situ, found there was no film in the camera used.

“The fact there hasn’t been a blood pattern analysis in the first instance means there is no clear evidence of what happened,” Dr Schieveld said. “And then you cannot hold it against the suspects.

“In this case there is no technical evidence to substantiate the accusations against these boys. So in my opinion this is a miscarriage of justice.”

Dr Schieveld agreed with Dr Margolius that a superficial wound below Mr Walsham’s left shoulder was at least six hours old at the time of his death – too old to have been inflicted with a tyre lever by the accused men, as the prosecution alleged.

“There is an inflammatory reaction that will take at least six hours,” Dr Schieveld said.

“So it looks like it’s not from the same time the other injuries were inflicted.”

She said the so-called C-shaped wound was not C-shaped.

“It is a-specific,” she said. “You can’t say anything about the object or weapon that caused it.

“There has been no good pathology done on it. There’s no histology done on the injuries.

“So you can’t even connect it properly to the time the other injuries were inflicted.

“There’s no good photography. So basically we can’t say anything about it.

“The fact that it played such a crucial role in the conviction is, in my opinion, incredible. It shouldn’t play any role at all.”

“If you write a forensic report, you should do it in such a way that any other scientist is able to form a good second opinion.

“It should be transparent, so they can conduct their own examination.

“What was submitted as evidence does not support the accusations.”

-Bret Christian

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Key questions linger in prominent cold case.

IFS Articles

Key questions linger in prominent cold case.

Posted By IFS

In the killing of Peggy Hettrick. Read the full tory here.20111217__hettrick3p1_200

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New technology solves 25 year cold case

Touch DNA

New technology solves 25 year cold case

Posted By IFS

Tuesday, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that he has written a letter to the head of the New York State Department of Health urging him to allow an advanced Dutch laboratory to perform a new DNA test, “touch DNA”, in the cold case of Kristin O’Connell, who was brutally murdered during a camping trip to Seneca County in 1985.

However, before the evidence can be used, the New York Department of Health must approve the use of an analysis from a foreign firm. Schumer said that while using an in-state lab was preferable, in cases where domestic firms don’t have the expertise in “touch DNA” technology, the health department should approve the use of a foreign analysis, especially from such a well respected firm.

“This is about justice for Kristin O’Connell, plain and simple,” Schumer said. “We must use every tool available to solve this case for the family, and to put the person who did this behind bars. If there is a technology out there that can solve this crime, then let’s stop the delays and let’s use it.”

Kristin O’Connell was a 20 year old Minnesota college student in 1985 when she visited a friend in New York’s Seneca County village of Ovid for a camping trip. O’Connell briefly left an evening party to go for a walk and get some air but she would never return from the walk. Two days later, she was found dead and brutally beaten in nearby cornfield. Since 1985, the O’Connell case has gone unsolved with few leads.

The Dutch laboratory offering to perform a new “touch DNA” test provides what may be the only opportunity to solve this tragedy. Ordinarily, investigations require the presence of substances such as blood or semen to perform a forensic examination, but the new technique allows forensic scientists to use outer-skin cells on pieces of evidence to identify a suspect. Although relatively new in scientific terms, the technique has been around for over five years and has been used in high profile cases like the JonBenet Ramsey murder case in Colorado.

Currently, the O’Connell family, prosecutors, state police and county investigators are all pushing for the new test, but the Department of Health has so far refused to sign off, thereby preventing this horrific crime from being more thoroughly investigated. Schumer is urging the New York Department of Health to allow the investigation to go forward so that justice may be served and the O’Connell family may finally receive closure after 25 years.

The full text of Senator Schumer’s letter to the New York Department of Health is below.

March 9, 2010

Dear Dr. Daines:
We write today strongly supporting the Seneca County District Attorney’s Office request for the use of a non-permitted forensic DNA testing laboratory in the investigation of the homicide case of Kristin M. O’Connell.

The case of Kristin M. O’Connell dates back to 1985. Kristin was a college student from Minnesota visiting a friend in Ovid, NY, when on the evening of August 14, 1985 at approximately 11 PM she went for a walk alone and did not return. Two days later, Kristin’s body was found in a cornfield by a search party. The crime scene was processed and evidence recovered. Items of evidence have been examined by various agencies over the past twenty-four years to little result.

Local prosecutors, law enforcement and the victim’s family believe that “touch DNA” analysis provides the best possibility of developing a DNA profile. Specifically, they argue that touch DNA specialists at Independent Forensic Services provide the best possibility of yielding case critical information. While other forensic laboratories work with this analysis, Independent Forensic Services has over 20 years experience in both locating and recovering biological traces, and has pioneered work with touch DNA since 1997.

While Independent Forensic Services, a Dutch lab, is not American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD LAB) accredited, its full ISO 17025 accreditation has been verified. Moreover, its work has been used in at least two trials before US courts and on numerous occasions in international courts.

Communities in New York and Minnesota have gone nearly a quarter of a century without closure. Allowing these forensic specialists access to the evidence of Kristin’s case provides the best opportunity for that justice. Therefore, we urge the New York State Department of Health to reconsider its denial of Seneca County’s request for the use of a non-permitted laboratory.

Thank you for your consideration and prompt attention to this matter.


Sen. Charles E. Schumer
Sen. Amy Klobuchar

(Information from the Office of New York Senator Charles Schumer)

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Expert witnesses for Casey Anthony comb over evidence. Few details are released

Touch DNA

Expert witnesses for Casey Anthony comb over evidence. Few details are released

Posted By IFS

The article below describes the viewing of the evidence by experts retained by Jose Baez in the case of the Casey Anthony. My wife Selma and me (Richard Eikelenboom) investigated the evidence for possible traces of DNA. Although the condition of most of the evidence was not good, it would have been possible to obtain DNA profiles from e.g. the duct tape which was placed on the body of Caylee and other items found at the crime scene. When the person who put the duct tape on the body of Caylee there is a big chance that quite a lot of DNA of this person sticks at the adhesive side of the tape. Samples could have been taken from the tape for touch DNA. We have had very good DNA results with duct tape. Unfortunately DA Ashton and the judge did not allow us to take samples. It was nice to work together with the other experts.  I will come back at the problem of truth finding, which seemed difficult for the DA’s in this case……

By Holly Bristow, FOX 35 News

ORLANDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) – Casey Anthony’s defense team and five of their expert witnesses spent all day at the Orange County Sheriffs Office Tuesday and plan on doing do the same Wednesday.

Jose Baez and Cheney Mason aren’t saying what evidence their team of experts is looking at today, just that there is quite a bit. “I think its close to 100,” said attorney Cheney Mason.

Mason told FOX 35 the team would mainly be focusing on evidence that crime scene investigators collected after a meter reader found Caylee Anthony’s remains on December 11, 2008. “Are you guys actually going to be able to test stuff today, take samples or just look at it?” asked FOX 35.

For the first time we saw the husband and wife forensics team flown in from Holland. They rolled in equipment they’ll be using to examine the evidence.

Dr. Richard Eikelenboom is know for his advances in touch DNA, a science where a few skin cells can be used to identify a suspect. His wife, Dr. Selma Eikelenboom is a coroner and forensic expert. She was brief when we asked what they’d be focusing on today.

“Just to look at some evidence. That’s it,” said Dr. Selma Eikelenboom.

World famous Dr. Henry Lee has worked on dozens of high profile cases like OJ Simpson and Jean Benet Ramsey. His specialty, finding the tiniest of clues. “Yes well look at evidence first. The evidence we have to examine thoroughly,” said Dr. Lee on his way into the sheriffs office this morning.

Criminalist and hair banding expert Nicholas Petraco and forensic entomologist Dr. Timothy Huntington arrived after lunch. According to Dr. Huntington’s website he is one of only 15 experts in the world certified in the use of insects as evidence in legal investigations.

Anthony’s murder trial is set to begin on May 9, 2011. She remains jailed on a charge of first-degree murder in the death of her daughter Caylee who was last seen in June of 2008, but she was not reported missing until a month later. Her remains were found in woods near the family’s home on December 11, 2008. Investigators say the toddler’s body was found with duct tape over her mouth.

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Touch DNA

Lawless clothing undergoes new DNA test: With a comment by Richard Eikelenboom

Posted By IFS

The Michelle Lawless case is a very difficult case top solve because it is a long time ago that it happened and there was no DNA awareness at the time. This causes DNA contamination of the evidence. However it is pretty sure that the perpetrator(s) had forceful physical contact with the victim. This means that they left DNA on the victim and probably more than the average person just touching the evidence. IFS performed investigations on touch DNA which could have been left by a perpetrator(s). Very complex DNA mixture were obtained but enough information was obtained for comparison with persons of interest. To be continued….

Below is an article written by Bridget DiCosmo.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

By Bridget DiCosmo ~ Southeast Missourian

Evidence in the 1992 homicide of Angela Mischelle Lawless is currently in Holland awaiting a relatively new form of forensic analysis known as touch DNA testing, said Scott County Sheriff Rick Walter.

Walter said the testing, the same type experts say cleared JonBenet Ramsey’s family of involvement in her murder, will be used on the clothing worn by Lawless the night of her murder.

The testing works by developing a genetic profile based on skin cells lifted from the surface of an object that someone has handled, even if no substantial genetic material, such as semen or blood, is left behind.

Lawless, a 19-year-old Southeast Missouri State University student, was discovered shot to death in her car during the early morning hours of Nov. 8, 1992.

She had suffered blunt force trauma to the head and three gunshot wounds to the head, back and face with a .380-caliber semiautomatic handgun.

Walter, a responding officer to the homicide, reopened the case in 2006, despite the 1994 conviction of Joshua C. Kezer for the crime.

Kezer was exonerated in February after a Cole County judge granted a motion acknowledging his wrongful conviction in the case.

In January 2008, touch DNA testing was instrumental in the exoneration of Timothy Masters, a Colorado man whose murder conviction was overturned after the new forensic evidence pointed to someone else in the 1987 murder of Peggy Hettrick.

Last month, Walter and Scott County Detective Branden Caid met with a multi-disciplinary panel of investigative experts in Colorado who worked on the Hettrick homicide case.

During the meeting, they used simulation techniques to narrow down the points at which Lawless’ killer or killer would have had to handle her body, thus coming into contact with her clothing, Walter said.

“Aside from wearing gloves, there’s no way someone didn’t transfer their DNA to her clothing,” Walter said.

Narrowing down the points of contact on the clothing will reduce the portions of material that need to be tested using the costly process, Walter said.

Walter said the evidence, consisting of a long-sleeved shirt, jeans and socks worn by Lawless, was sent to touch DNA experts Richard and Selma Eikelenboom of Holland instead of having it tested in state because they have the most experience using the technique.

“Why reinvent the wheel if we don’t have to?” he said.

Sending the evidence to Holland will also save time because the private lab will be able to get results within a few weeks, as opposed to waiting for potential backlogs in local labs, Walter said.

“A lot of time’s been wasted,” he said.

The lab in Holland marks the fifth forensics lab to perform testing on evidence in the case, but the first to try to lift a genetic profile from Lawless’ clothing.

A bank bag recovered from another unsolved Scott County case, the 1979 disappearance of Cheryl Ann Scherer from a Scott City service station, will also be sent to the Holland lab for touch testing, Caid said.

Although a handful of DNA samples taken from suspects and people who may have come into contact with Lawless will be sent along to Holland for comparison purposes, it’s possible none will match any genetic profile that may be gleaned from the clothing, Caid said.

In that case, the Missouri State Highway Patrol would need to enter that profile into CODIS, the national DNA database, in the hopes of getting a hit, Walter said.

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DNA pros cheer convict’s release

Touch DNA

DNA pros cheer convict’s release

Posted By IFS

Rockey Mountain News: DNA pros cheer convict’s release, Richard and Selma Eikelenboom

Dutch couple travel to see court free Tim Masters
By Kevin Vaughan, Rocky Mountain News (Contact)
Published January 22, 2008 at 12:30 a.m.

Investigator Linda Wheeler-Holloway and DNA experts Richard and Selma Eikelenboom look at a picture of Tim Masters on the Internet on Monday.

Investigator Linda Wheeler-Holloway and DNA experts Richard and Selma Eikelenboom look at a picture of Tim Masters on the Internet on Monday.
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Richard and Selma Eikelenboom always planned to travel to Colorado to watch Tim Masters be freed – they just never imagined it would happen this quickly.

The couple, who operate a DNA laboratory in Holland, made the first discovery of genetic material on the clothes of murder victim Peggy Hettrick that pointed the finger away from Masters, who is serving a life sentence for her killing.

So when they learned Friday that he was expected to walk out of court a free man today, they booked a flight to the United States.

“This is a very special moment, of course,” Richard Eikel enboom said Monday. “It is not that often that they release someone who was convicted for life.”

In recent years, a team of people who believed that Masters was innocent worked to win him a new trial. In 2005, the Eikelenbooms agreed to use techniques they developed in an effort to collect DNA from Hettrick’s clothing.

They first determined that none of Masters’ DNA was on her clothes. Then, more recently, they found that skin-cell DNA on the cuffs of Hettrick’s blouse matched the genetic fingerprint of a former boyfriend.

Investigators believe she was dragged by the wrists into the field where her body was found.

On Monday, the Eikelenbooms were shopping and preparing for the court hearing this morning at which Judge Joseph Weatherby is expected to order that Masters be released.

“I can imagine it was difficult for Tim Masters to believe he was going to be set free,” Richard Eikelenboom said. “But it was also difficult for us. We couldn’t believe it could go so fast after all the work to get him a new trial.”

The Eikelenbooms agreed to take on the case after a visit from former Fort Collins police detective Linda Wheeler-Holloway, who believes that Masters is innocent.

After hearing that presentation, Richard Eikelenboom said that he and his wife thought “there’s a good probability that this guy is innocent.”

They had been working in the DNA field for two decades and had developed new techniques for collecting samples from clothing. Collection is paramount.

“If you don’t find it, you never come to the process of DNA profiling,” Richard Eikelenboom said.

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