Friday, February 25, 2011

Nuclear forensic science to catch criminals, trace mastermind behind terror incidents

By Syed Akbar
Visakhapatnam, Feb 24:  Hi-tech criminals and terrorists beware! Thanks to recent advancement in nuclear forensic science in India, law-enforcing agencies in the country can now easily catch terror and hi-tech criminal groups, even while tracing the real mastermind behind terror incidents.
According to Dr Rukmani Krishnamurthy, technical adviser, Institute of Forensic Science, Mumbai, recent research in nuclear forensic science at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre will not only help in tackling incidents of illicit trafficking, but also effectively meet the threat of nuclear terrorism.
“The neutron activation analysis method now increasingly being adopted in forensic sciences provides hints on the origin of the material, and thus on the perpetrator. Unlike conventional methods like truth serum and lie-detector tests, forensic results obtained through neutron activation analysis at Barc serve as evidence in a court of law. It is as concrete a proof in a court of law as any DNA fingerprinting analysis,” Dr Rukmani told this correspondent.
Dr Rukmani is one of the nuclear forensic science experts participating in the ongoing 10th biennial symposium on nuclear and radiochemistry (Nucar – 2011) at GITAM University here. She said nuclear forensic science had emerged as the ultimate solution to the grave problem of techno-crime detection in the country.
Using Neutron activation analysis methods, one can determine in case of gunshot residues whether a hole is really due to the passage of a bullet. Analysis of firearm discharge residue in the hands of a suspect shooter will help differentiate homicide from suicide, besides identifying the shooter. “We can also estimate the range of firing and differentiate entry and exit shot hole and match the bullet specimen with metal piece 
obtained from the scene of the crime,” Dr Rukmani pointed out.
Analysis of biological material will help confirm toxic metals in poisoning cases. Experts will also know whether a particular case was of slow or acute poisoning. The availability of high neutron flux reactor at Barc has made hi-tech crime detection quite easier.
According to her, the most important advantage of NAA technique apart from its unparallel sensitivity, specificity and accuracy, is the simultaneous multi element determination capability without destroying the sample in the process. “Thus NAA allows re-examination of exhibits, archival preservation and presentation of the evidence material in court of law, if necessary,” she said.
It will also help in obtaining clues on the origin and on the intended use of the material seized from terror groups or hi-tech criminals.
“Nuclear forensics has reached a high degree of maturity in the country and it is highly relevant in the areas of non-proliferation and of nuclear security. Criminals use the latest technology to commit hi-tech crimes. Crimes are no more localized. They are organised globally. Terrorist activity and the information technology related crimes are the latest trends in the crime scenario,” Dr Rukmani observed, elaborating how NAA 
technique will bust complicated crimes indulged in by international terror groups.
According to her, the application of micro analytical techniques enables investigators to study even individual particles of only a few micrometres in size. This will fix terror groups and hi-tech criminals from escaping the long arms of law.

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