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#100papers – Enhancing forensic investigation through the use of modern three-dimensional (3D) imaging technologies for crime scene reconstruction

Keywords: 3D Imaging, crime scene reconstruction, laser scan, forensic mapping

I’ve been neglecting these paper reviews of late merely due to the time of the academic calendar. We are in the middle of graduations, and I have had the pleasure of witnessing my first cohort of honors students cross the stage. Being a member of the council does have its perks.

Today’s review I wanted to focus on a new honors project which is sponsored by a small grant thanks to the National Institute of Forensic Science. While this grant is small in monetary value, it does represent a significant achievement for someone like myself who is yet to start an ECR position. The project focuses on exploring a comparative study between current generation laser scanners and modern computerised photogrammetry techniques for forensic reconstruction of crime scenes. An expert in this space is Domenic Raneri for the NSW police force.


I had the pleasure of meeting Domenic Raneri at the 2018 Australian New Zealand Forensic Science Society Symposium in Perth last year where we discussed 3D imaging and the rising issues surrounding additive manufactured firearms. Domenic has previously been featured in the media discussing the potential of this technology. Lateline ran a feature back in 2015 in the lead up to the cafe Lindt siege inquest.

Domenic has written several academic contributions in this space. Today I want to focus on one which documents the use of 3D imaging technologies by describing several case studies.

Domenic Raneri (2018) Enhancing forensic investigation through the use of modern three-dimensional (3D) imaging technologies for crime scene reconstruction, Australian Journal of Forensic Sciences, 50:6, 697-707, DOI: 10.1080/00450618.2018.1424245

The current focus of 3D technologies for crime scene reconstruction has mainly been aimed at the translational benefit of taking the tried and tested mapping technologies from the civil and mining industries and directly applying this to a forensic application. Sadly, much like most innovative and disruptive technologies, the practical benefits are being realised but, there is still significant work to be done from a research perspective to ensure it meets the rigours of the courtroom.

In the paper above, Domenic presents four case studies to show the innovative use of 3D imaging technologies in assisting crime scene reconstruction workflows. The case studies show the breadth of application for this technology including a police shooting, homicide, dangerous driving occasioning death and arson/homicide. In all cases, the scanning technology is not used in isolation but, instead, is used to complement other sources of evidence. Multiple sources of imaging evidence draw credence to my growing hypothesis that the benefit of 3D scanning technology will be in hybrid methodologies as opposed to the reliance on a single method to draw simplistic conclusions. This is something I have my honours students addressing in their current work.

A brief introduction of the history of mapping technology is given involving manual photogrammetry methodologies before introducing the case studies and concluding with the need for more specialist training, governing standards and more rigorous testing methodologies by scanner manufacturers which feature specifics for the forensic discipline. Overall Domenic acknowledges the importance of this evolving technology but stresses the need to “avoid all elements of conjecture or representation of what is not certain” due to the use of rules applied to a reconstruction to predict output as opposed to what is known.

Domenic’s article, while approaching 3 years in age, is still a relevant and timely piece to the forensic community and I look forward to reviewing more of his work in the future.

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