Forensic examination of Australian papers using isotope ratio mass spectrometry

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Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry (IRMS) has been shown to be a useful tool in the comparison of materials that are chemically identical or have been naturally produced. Based on this, and noting the capability gaps within the Forensic Document Examination field, the measurement of carbon and oxygen isotopic abundance values using IRMS has been developed as a technique for the examination of document papers. Through validation of the inter- and intra-ream variability of papers, appropriate guidelines for comparison and discrimination have been constructed, to ensure the technique is robust and accurate. Through the measurement of a background population of 125 papers, 89% of samples collected from within Australia and New Zealand were discriminated using pair-wise comparisons. The IRMS results were placed in a broader context, through the use of a range of light, physical and chemical techniques. Based on these results, an examination and interpretation protocol was defined and tested through the use of a range of scenarios in a blind trial. All results within the blind trials were correct, demonstrating that the examination, comparison and reporting structure defined was accurate, robust and fit for purpose. As a result of this project, a paper examination protocol which is operationally relevant to Australian law enforcement has been developed and validated and is ready for use in forensic casework examinations.
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