November 22, 1963: President John F Kennedy was riding in his motorcade through Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas when he was hit by two bullets, one in his back, and one in his head. The wounds were grievous and he was declared dead at a hospital just 30 minutes later. The day marks a black one in the country's history and Kennedy still holds the dubious honor of being the last sitting president to have been assassinated.
Also, read: JFK secret files: 10 government secrets that caused an uproar after being made public
A quick investigation found that it was Lee Harvey Oswald who fired the bullets from the Texas School Book Depository and he was apprehended by the authorities. But because he was killed just two days after his capture and could never be prosecuted, conspiracy theories have been abounding on the sequence of events that took place that day, some even contending that Oswald was not the lone killer — a 2003 NBC poll found that 70% of Americans believe JFK was the victim of a much larger plot; this despite the fact that both the FBI and the Warren Commission, set up to investigate the assassination, came to the conclusion that Oswald had acted on his own.
This past October, President Donald Trump authorized the release of 2,800 previously classified documents relating to Kennedy's assassination from the national archives, with a few hundred remaining hidden and redacted 'because of the national security, law enforcement, and foreign affairs concerns.'
Even this did little to quench these tinfoil hatters' thirst, with the newly-released information used to fuel more ludicrous theories.
One such popular conspiracy theory is the single bullet theory, which claims that Kennedy was shot by the same bullet that also injured Texas Governor John Connally, who sat in the front seat of the presidential limousine. While the merits of the theory are still hotly debated, there should be little confusion on who shot that bullet.
A British technological firm claim they have developed a method to prove once and for all that it was Lee Harvey Oswald who pulled the trigger that day. West Technology Forensics say their development makes it possible to obtain fingerprints to from bullets and shell casings at a much higher accuracy. The intense heat and pressure generated when a bullet is fired meant that previous tech could successfully glean fingerprints at only a 1% success rate. West Technology Forensics say their initial tests have had a success rate of 69%, which looks very promising indeed.
Their success was down to a process known as Vacuum Metal Deposition (VMD), which has been used by both, the police and the scientific community, for several decades, but which West Technology Forensics claim to have perfected and made their own.
They say that the fingermarks developed by their technique of VMD are of a much higher definition and have a superior contrast compared to those previously used.
The general process involved is simple. The evidence is placed in a vacuum chamber and tiny amounts of a metal such as gold or zinc are heated and vaporized alongside it. The metallic vapors generated latch on to the evidence and make any previously invisible latent fingerprint visible to the naked eye.
West Technology Forensics have previously assisted law enforcement and forensics laboratories in the UK, as well as across the Atlantic in Los Angeles and New York, and boast a stellar record. The research at the organization which may put the Kennedy assassination at rest once and for all has been led by Eleigh Brewer, who, in the past year, has had great success in extracting fingerprints from fired bullets.
Commenting on the recent developments, managing director Ian Harris was hopeful of the tech having the potential to solve thousands of unsolved crimes: "Until now, it has been accepted wisdom by police and forensic scientists across the world that it is pretty much impossible to recover fingerprints from fired ammunition."
"We have been working on different VMD processes since last March and are delighted with the results when we used silver and sterling silver. Investigators do not have to be experts to be able to use the system thanks to the way it has been designed and manufactured."
While many thought that the development of technology that could successfully process DNA evidence from a crime scene would render fingerprint evidence in the courtroom obsolete, it has been quite the opposite. DNA evidence is still prone to tampering, contamination, and human error, while the latter is still largely foolproof and remains the most reliable form of evidence in a courtroom.
Developed in the 70s and 80s in response to the Irish Republican Army's (IRA) relentless bombing and terrorism campaigns, VMD has since assisted law enforcement organizations across the world in closing seemingly impossible cases. Initially used to recover fingerprints from paper, plastics, and fabrics, the technology has sufficiently evolved to now be put to the test for other materials as well.
The technology was popularly used to capture and convict serial killer and sex offender Peter Tobin. Currently serving three sentences of life imprisonment for committing three murders and a certified psychopath, Tobin was apprehended b authorities after VMD was used to recover his fingerprints from a bin bag he used to dispose of the body of one of his victims.
Researchers will hope that besides the Kennedy assassination, the new developments can also bring a much-needed conclusion to the murder of Metropolitan Police officer Yvonne Fletcher. Fletcher was shot and killed by a bullet fired from the Libyan embassy on St. James's Square in London by an unknown gunman. Despite investigations continuing into 2017, the killer was never found and convicted.
A video of the VMD process from West Technology:
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