Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

Perfume could soon be used to help solve sexual assault cases

perfume-solve-sexual-assault-crime.jpg

The suspicious wife sniffing her husband for the scent of another woman’s perfume on his shirt: it’s an old Hollywood cliché, but it’s got forensic science behind it.

That’s according to a group of scientists in London, who have discovered that a fragrance’s chemical components can easily transfer from one person’s clothing to another – and linger there for days.

But rather than using their discovery to sniff out adultery, the team say that this research could help detectives solve violent crimes, including sexual assaults.

The results of the study suggest that perfumes have the potential to be used as “trace evidence”: the tiny pieces of forensic evidence, such as hair, soil or flecks of blood, which are often left behind at the scene of a physical crime.

Writing in the journal Science and Justice, the scientists say that analysing fragrances could be useful in cases such as sexual assaults where there has been close physical contact, the BBC reports.

“We thought there was a lot of potential with perfume because a lot of people use it,” says lead researcher Simona Gherghel, from University College London. “We know about 90% of women and 60% of men use perfume on a regular basis.”

She adds that while lots of forensic research has been done on other kinds of “transfers – for example, the transfer of fibres or the transfer of gun-shot residue” – this is the first piece of research into the transfer of perfumes. 

perfume-solve-crime

Chemical compounds from perfume can linger on fabric for days, scientists have discovered.

A crucial part of the study involved the scientists pinpointing when fragrances were transferred from one piece of fabric to another, meaning that detectives may later be able to link criminals to the time of the crime as well as the scene.

“We’ve shown that first, perfume does transfer, and second, we can identify when that transfer has happened,” says Dr Ruth Morgan, director of the UCL Centre for the Forensic Sciences.

“In the future there could well be situations where contact between two individuals is made and this is a way of discerning what kind of contact is made and when it was made.”

However, the team stressed that more research needs to be done before fragrance will be used in forensic investigations – adding that perfume is unlikely to make or break a criminal investigation.

“It is not going to be a one-stop indicator,” says Dr Morgan. “In most investigations we would be hopeful that there would be multiple lines of investigation. We wouldn’t want it to just be DNA or just a fingerprint or just perfume.

“But in combination, with other forms of evidence, that’s the way it builds up into a very compelling picture.”

Images: iStock

Related

david becker.png

Outcry after teen rapist in US avoids jail so he can go to college

iStock_85829745_MEDIUM.jpg

Female journalists share their stories of sexual harassment

outdoors.jpg

Why we should all spend more time outdoors, according to science

kalari.JPG

Meet the sword-fighting granny teaching girls the art of self-defence

yes no consent.jpg

A woman on Twitter has explained sexual consent in the best way

tattoo-drunk.jpg

These tattoos tell your smartphone how drunk you are

iStock_67177271_LARGE.jpg

Book lovers, rejoice: the best news ever for reading addicts

gigi hadid.jpg

Are men better at making up after a fight?

mary karr.jpg

Best-selling author pens epic response to man who assaulted her

Comments

More

At last - Britain's first gravy bar is coming

Finally, a proper way to enjoy chips

by Anna Pollitt
27 Mar 2017

“When are you going to get hitched?” How to tackle intrusive questions

Useful responses for the most annoying of questions

27 Mar 2017

Oh, happy day: a live Sister Act show is coming to London

Featuring a 35-piece gospel choir and full band

by Moya Crockett
27 Mar 2017

Westworld creators answer one of the big questions about Maeve

And star Thandie Newton addresses the show’s violence toward women

by Amy Swales
27 Mar 2017

Women link hands on Westminster Bridge to honour victims

Many wore blue as a symbol of hope and peace

by Anna Pollitt
27 Mar 2017

New report: endometriosis symptoms often “dismissed” by doctors

42% of women said they were “not treated with dignity and respect” by doctors

by Amy Swales
27 Mar 2017

Airline defends decision to ban girls from flight for wearing leggings

The incident was “sexist and sexualised young girls”, according to an observer.

by Moya Crockett
27 Mar 2017

Deliveroo is giving away free ice cream to make your Monday better

That's your lunch break sorted.

by Hayley Spencer
27 Mar 2017

Muslim witness of Westminster attack responds to Islamophobic trolls

A picture of the woman walking on Westminster Bridge has been shared widely

by Nicola Colyer
24 Mar 2017

Bright, beautiful and bold Easter cake inspiration

Stylish bake ideas to nick and claim as your own

by Amy Swales
24 Mar 2017