Inside QUT, Issue 157, February 1997
Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia
by Tony Wilson


Collaboration may help nab crims


QUT chemistry lecturer Dr Serge Kokot watches as visiting Austrian forensic specialist Dr Friederike Blümelhuber examines minute fibres under a microscope.
Criminals the world over may prove easier to catch thanks to a research collaboration between QUT and one of Austria's leading forensic scientists.

Dr Friederike Blümelhuber, the owner and director of the Kriminaltechnisches Privatinstitut in the Austrian city of Linz, and QUT senior chemistry lecturer Dr Serge Kokot are working on a way to match wool fibres to their source garments.

The technique, which involved analysis of trace elements in the fibres, could be applied by forensic scientists to gather evidence against alleged criminals, Dr Kokot said.

"Police, for example, would be able to say that fibres belonging to a garment worn by a suspect had been found at a crime scene," he said.

The Austrian forensic specialist visitet QUT's School of Chemistry in January, presenting seminars and workgroups to postgraduate students and scientists from Queensland Health Scientific Service (Forensic Section) and the Scientific Section of Queensland Police Force.

Dr Kokot, who organised the visit, said Dr Blümelhuber was a trainer of crime scene investigators, magistrates, judges and prosecutors in Austria.

"Her laboratory specialises in fibre and hair examination, illicit drugs, toxic substances - including narcotics and bee and snake venom - and analysing and (confirming the age of) ink on documents," he said.

In addition to working with him, Dr Kokot said his Austrian colleague would be an associate supervisor to a QUT masters student who was researching black wool fibres - the hardest to match - using infrared spectrography, he said.

Not only an accomplished scientist of international repute, Dr Blümelhuber was also an excellent role model for the school´┐Żs large contingent of female postgraduates, Dr Kokot said.

Dr Blümelhuber owns and runs her own forensic laboratory and is an accredited court witness in the Austrian judicial system, which draws expert testimony from impartial court-appointed sources", he said.

"This is different from our country where, in the main, forensic scientists operate separately and remotely from the crime scene personnel, who are usually drawn from the police force."

BILD: QUT chemistry lecturer Dr Serge Kokot watches as visiting Austrian forensic specialist Dr Friederike Blümelhuber examines minute fibres under a microscope.

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