Northumbria University Centre for Forensic Science

The discrimination of (non-denim) blue cotton

R. Palmer, W. Hutchinson & V. Fryer. Science & Justice, 49(1), pp.12-18. Recipient of the PW Allen award for best published article in 2009. (2009)


This study was conducted to determine the degree of discrimination obtained between non-denim blue cotton fibres using visible-UV range microspectrophotometry alone. To this end, samples of fibres were taken from 100, nondenim, blue cotton, outer garments, including t-shirts, trousers and jumpers and subjected to analysis by both visible and UV range microspectrophotometry. The results obtained from the samples of each garment were compared to determine if they ‘matched’ or not. From an initial visual comparison of the garments it was possible to subdivide the samples into two populations consisting of 73 ‘dark blue’ garments and 27 ‘mid-blue’ garments. It was found that of the 73 ‘dark blue’ garments, 22 distinct sub-populations could be distinguished using visible range MSP, this figure being increased to 43 when the analysis was extended into the UVW range. In the case of the 27 ‘mid-blue’ garments, 9 distinct sub-populations were discriminated using visible range MSP, this figure being increased to 17 when the analysis was extended into the UV range. The discriminating power (i.e., the number of discriminated pairs divided by the number of possible pairs) of visible range microspectrophotometry was calculated as 0.89 for ‘mid-blue’ garments and 0.87 for ‘dark blue’ garments. Extending microspectrophotometry into the UV range increased discrimination by 7%, giving a discriminating power of 0.96 for both mid and dark blue cotton fibres which was similar to that reported by a previous study where this method was combined with light and fluorescence microscopy. Intra-garment variation was found to be negligible. The implications of this study for casework are discussed and a revised analytical pathway for the comparison of this fibre type/colour combination using microspectrophotometry as a primary screening tool, is proposed.

Tags: , Ray Palmer