Scholarly article on topic 'Individualizing characteristics of footprints in Malaysian Malays for person identification from a forensic perspective'

Individualizing characteristics of footprints in Malaysian Malays for person identification from a forensic perspective Academic research paper on "Biological sciences"

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Academic research paper on topic "Individualizing characteristics of footprints in Malaysian Malays for person identification from a forensic perspective"

Egyptian Journal of Forensic Sciences (2014) xxx, xxx-xxx

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Egyptian Journal of Forensic Sciences

journal homepage: www.ejfs.org

Egyptian Journal of Forensic sciences

Individualizing characteristics of footprints in Malaysian Malays for person identification in forensic perspective

T. Nataraja Moorthy a *, Siti Fatimah Binti Sulaiman b

a Management and Science University, Shah Alam, Malaysia

b Forensic Science Program, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Health Campus, Kubang Kerian, Kelantan, Malaysia Received 18 December 2013; revised 26 April 2014; accepted 29 April 2014

KEYWORDS

Forensic science; Forensic anthropology; Footprint; Individualizing characteristics; Person identification; Malaysian Malays

Abstract One of the valuable physical evidence that a suspect leaves unintentionally at a crime scene is likely to include footprint. Physical evidence needs to be able to express individual characteristics. Very keen analysis of footprints can provide useful information to establish personal identity and ease the crime investigation. The present study aims to analyze and describe the individual characteristics of footprints in Malaysian Malays in forensic perspective in a sample of 400 adult Malay participants consisting of 200 males and 200 females. The footprints were collected using an inkless shoe print kit (Carolina, USA). Various features of the toes, humps in the toe line, phalange marks, flatfoot condition, pits, cracks, corns, etc., were investigated. Frequency of these characteristics was recorded. The frequency of the fibularis-type foot is the highest, followed by tibialis-type, then intermediate-type and midularis-type is found to be the least frequent in both the sexes. This sequence is found to be different from the sequence observed in north Indian population. Two humps have been found most often in male footprints followed by three humps and zero hump is found to be the least while in female footprints, three humps have been found most often, followed by two humps and zero hump is found to be the least frequent. Other identifying features are also highlighted with illustrations. The trait shows bilateral variation. The morphological length of toes and some other features in this study are found to be different from footprints in Indian Tamils, North Indian Gujjars and Thailand population.

© 2014 Production and hosting by Elsevier B.V. on behalf of Forensic Medicine Authority.

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +60 129224610. E-mail address: natrajamoorthy@rediffmail.com (T. Nataraja Moorthy).

Peer review under responsibility of Forensic Medicine Authority.

1. Introduction

The use of bare footprints has been considered for many years as a means of identification.1

Footprint is similar to finger print in their uniqueness. Both have individual characteristics that are capable of proving positive identification. Like finger prints, no two people have the same palm print or footprint. The task involved in

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2090-536X © 2014 Production and hosting by Elsevier B.V. on behalf of Forensic Medicine Authority. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ejfs.2014.04.003

identification from bare footprints is firstly that of describing the footprints under consideration, then of comparing known and unknown footprints together. Footprint can be encountered at the crime scenes and analysis of footprint helps in the estimation of stature,2-4 weight,5'6 sex,7'8 holding weight,9 number of individuals present,10 the direction in which an individual was moving,10 the speed at which they were moving10 and whether they were carrying anything heavy.10 Similarly, length and width dimensions of the toes, toe pads, toe "stems", and angles of declination from toe 1 to 5 and from the ball to its juncture with the arch aid in distinguishing the footprint of one individual from another.11 Dimensional or morphological similarities may occur in the footprints of members from the same family, but significant morphological differences still are present in one or more regions of the footprint. Evidence of scuffs or dragging of feet can tell an alert investigator about the activities of individuals at the crime scene, even unique habitual or temporary patterns of the gait at that time. The present investigation aims to study about toes, humps, creases, cracks, pits etc., in the footprints of Malaysian Malays so as to draw conclusion for individualizing characteristics. Also, the occurrence or frequency of some of the footprint characteristics was recorded in the population under study.

2. Materials and methods

The present cross-sectional study was conducted on 400 adult Malaysian Malays consisting of 200 males and 200 females ranging in age from 18 to 60 years. Malays are an ethnic group who predominantly inhabit the Malay Peninsula, the east coast of Sumatra and the coast of Borneo and who speak a Malayo-Polynesian language, which is a member of the Austronesian family.12 The participants were confirmed to be descent from three generations of Malays to ensure no genetic variation within races that can disrupt the results as characteristics of footprint can be affected by not only environment but also genetic makeup. Information such as name of subject and place of origin was recorded. Informed consent was obtained from all participants, and followed the procedures in accordance with the ethical standards of Research Ethics Committee

(Human), Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM). A total of 800 bilateral footprints were obtained from Malay participants. All the participants included in the study were healthy and free from any apparent symptomatic deformity of the foot. The participants were advised to wash their feet with soap solution and remove the moisture using a cotton cloth. The footprints were collected using an inkless shoe print kit (Carolina, USA). Toes inter-distance is the distance measured between the most lateral points on adjacent toes, i.e. between most lateral point on toe 1 and most lateral point on toe 2 and similarly between toe 2 and toe 3, toe 3 and toe 4, and toe 4 and toe 5 (Fig 3). It is the least distance between the most lateral points on adjacent toes that can be measured using digital cal-iper. The toes inter-distance measurements between toe 1 and toe 2 were repeated to get concordant values and similarly for other toes inter-distance and recorded. The toes inter-distances vary since it depends on the shape, size and contact of toes on the ground.

The procured data was compiled, organized and analyzed statistically. The descriptive results of individualizing characteristic features were presented as table using frequency and percentage. In the present investigation, various individual characteristic features in Malaysian Malay footprints viz. missing toes, toes inter-distance, relative lengths of the toes, humps, phalange marks and multiple phalange marks were analyzed statistically and calculated their frequencies and percentages and presented (Table 1-6).

3. Results

3.1. Morphological/individualizing characteristics offootprints

Bare footprint is a representative of the plantar portion of the foot, not the size of the actual foot.

Footprints from different sources are never identical. The variation in footprints is due to variations in shapes, size, inter-distances of toes, ball lines, heels, creases, accidental damage to the feet etc. From the analysis of footprints, definitive information on many physical characteristics of the individuals who made them was retrieved. The information

Table 1 Frequency and percentage distribution of missing toes in the footprints of Malaysian Malays (N = 400).

Missing toes Male (N = 200) Female (N = 200)

Right Left Right Left

Frequency % Frequency % Frequency % Frequency %

Toe 2 0 0 3 1.5 2 1 2 1

Toe 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0.5

Toe 5 11 5.5 10 5 10 5 7 3.5

Table 2 Percentage distribution of toes inter-distance (cm) in the footprints of Malaysian Malays (N = 400).

Sex First inter-distance (%) Second inter-distance (%) Third inter-distance (%) Fourth inter-distance (%)

(between toe 1 and toe2) (between toe 2 and toe 3) (between toe 3 and toe 4) (between toe 4 and toe 5)

Narrow Medium Wide Narrow Medium Wide Narrow Medium Wide Narrow Medium Wide

Male (N = 200) 12.5 80.5 7.0 59.5 40.5 0.0 36.5 63.5 0.0 14.5 80.5 5.0

Female (N = 200) 28.0 68.5 3.5 51.0 48.5 0.5 33.5 66.5 0.0 16.0 81.5 2.5

Table 3 Frequency and percentage distribution of relative lengths of the toes in the footprints of Malaysian Malays (N = 400).

Types Male (N = 200) Female (N = 200)

Right Left Right Left

Frequency % Frequency % Frequency % Frequency %

T1 > T2 (T-type) 32.0 16.0 46.0 23.0 77 38.5 73 36.5

T2 > T1 (F-type) 119.0 59.5 109.0 54.5 92 46.0 86 43.0

T3 > T1 and T2 (M type) 21.0 10.5 21.0 10.5 9 4.5 11 5.5

T1 = T2 = T3 (O-type) 28.0 14.0 24.0 12.0 22 11.0 30 15.0

Table 4 Frequency and percentage distribution of humps in the footprints of Malaysian Malays (N = 400).

No. of humps present Male (N = 200) Female (N = 200)

Right Left Right Left

Frequency % Frequency % Frequency % Frequency %

0 23 11.5 28 14.0 15 7.5 8 4.0

2 116 58.0 110 55.0 91 45.5 87 43.5

3 61 30.5 62 31 94 47.0 105 52.5

Table 5 Frequency and percentage distribution of phalange marks in the footprints of Malaysian Malays (N = 400).

Phalange mark (toe stem) created by various toes Male (N = 200) Female (N = 200)

Right Left Right Left

Frequency % Frequency % Frequency % Frequency %

Phalange mark by toe 1 134 67.0 124 62.0 127 63.5 127 63.5

Phalange mark by toe 2 7 3.5 12 6.0 14 7.0 14 7.0

Phalange mark by toe 3 14 7.0 13 6.5 18 9.0 18 9.0

Phalange mark by toe 4 8 4.0 7 3.5 8 4.0 7 3.5

Phalange mark by toe 5 37 18.5 44 22.0 33 16.5 34 17.0

on footprint morphology is especially significant because it elucidates the individuality of each person's footprints. A footprint may be normal, flat, curved, broken bridge or one of the infinite variations in between the main types. Missing toes, unilateral and bilateral flat foot condition, broken bridge, abnormal heel and many intermediate variations are seen in the present population.

3.2. Features of the toes

The variations in footprints in the toe region are due to variation in shape, size and inter-distances of toes (Fig. 1). The shape of toe prints may be oval, round, pear-shaped or asymmetrical. The shape of the toe line may be straight, curved, stair-cased or irregular. Any accident marks on the toes, due to cuts, cracks and other damage, confer individuality to the toe pattern.13 Sometimes, toe impressions (especially from little toe) may be found missing.14-17 Even though all toes were found in the individuals, the missing of toes occurred because some of the toes did not make contact with the ground during footprint development process. Sometimes riding toes also do not register their marks when there is less space between the adjoining toes. The salient feature observed in the present investigation is that in addition to missing of 5th toe, some of the participants' second and fourth toes were

also found missing (Fig. 2) with varying frequency as shown in Table 1.

Spacing of the toes inter se gives a characteristic pattern. They may be touching one another or there may be some distances in between. The inter-distances vary.14 The Malaysian Malay footprints show characteristic features of toes inter-distance (Fig. 3). No two footprints have exactly the identical toes inter-distance even left to right footprint of the same individual. In the present population study, the toes inter-distance can be classified into three types viz.

(a) Narrow, when the toes inter-distance is 60.50 cm,

(b) Medium, when the toes inter-distance is between 0.51 and 1.50 cm,

(c) Wide, when the toes inter-distance is >1.51 cm.

The percentage of medium toes inter-distance is found to be comparatively higher followed by narrow and wide in both the sexes. The prevalence of toes inter-distance in the footprints of Malaysian Malays is as shown in Table 2.

The footprint can be classified into four types on the basis of the relative morphological lengths of the first, second and third toes.13 Following Philip,18 these four types have been denoted as T-type (the tibialis-type), F-type (the fibularis-type), M-type (the midularis-type) and O-type (the intermediate-type) as shown below:

Table 6 Frequency and percentage distribution of multiple phalange marks in the footprints of Malaysian Malays (N = 400).

Pattern of multiple phalange marks in a footprint Male (N = 200) Female (N = 200)

Right Left Right Left

Frequency % Frequency % Frequency % Frequency %

Phalange mark in one toe only (one toe stem) 124 62 108 54 116 58 105 52.5

Phalange marks in two toes (two toe stems) 46 23 54 27 45 22.5 51 25.5

Phalange marks in three toes (three toe stems) 7 3.5 12 6 11 5.5 10 5

Phalange marks in four toes (four toe stems) 4 2.0 3 1.5 6 3 9 4.5

Phalange marks in all five toes (five toe stems) 1 0.5 0 0 2 1 4 2

Absence of phalange marks (no or zero toe stem) 18 9 23 11.5 20 10 21 10.5

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mm w MËL 0. stijl

Figure 1 Illustrative examples of toe region showing individualizing features in Malaysian Malays.

Figure 2 Illustrative examples showing the missing second, fourth and fifth toes in the footprints of Malaysian Malays.

Figure 3 Illustrative examples showing narrow, medium and wide toes inter-distance in the footprints of Malaysian Malays.

(a) When the T1 > T2 T-type (the tibialis-type),

(b) When the T2 > T1 F-type (the fibularis-type),

(c) When the T3 > T1 and T2 M-type (the midularis-type),

(d) When the T1 = T2 = T3 O-type (the intermediate-type).

Table 3 shows the frequency distribution of the relative toe lengths of the first, second and third toes. The result shows that among males, the frequency of F-type is the highest (left-54.5%, right-59.5%) followed by T-type (left 23%, right 16%), O-type (left 12%, right 14%) and the least frequent M-type (left & right 10.5%). Similarly, among females the frequency of F-type is the highest (left 43%, right 46%) followed by T-type (left 36.5%, right 38.5%), O-type (left 15%, right 11%) and the least frequent M-type (left 5.5%, right 4.5%). Hence in Malaysian Malay population, the relative frequency of these types are in the order of F type > T type > O type > M type in the left and right footprints of both the genders.

3.3. Feature of humps

A hump may be defined as a protruding curvature in the ball line.13 The presence of humps is an important characteristic feature that can help during elimination process. The toe line can have one, two, more or no humps (zero hump). The footprints of Malaysian Malays are showing the presence and absence of humps as shown in Fig. 4.The present investigation shows the presence of zero or no hump, 2 and 3 humps among Malaysian Malays and the Table 4 presents the frequency of humps on footprints in the population under study.

The result of male footprints shows that two humps are found more often (right - 58% and left - 55%), followed by three humps (right - 30.5% and left - 31%), and zero hump (right - 11.5% and left - 14.0%). But in females, the sequence differs i.e. the presence of three humps are found more often (right - 47% and left - 52.5%), followed by two humps (right - 45.5% and left - 43.5%) and then by zero hump (right - 7.5% and left - 4%). Thus the values on the left and right sides of males and females indicate that the number of humps

present in the two feet of an individual is not the same thus showing bilateral variation.

3.4. Phalange marks

Phalange marks are also of evidentiary value that are created by the phalanges of the toes and are imprinted in the form of toe stems. Their shape, size and positions are highly characteristic and permit individualization of the toe pattern. The presence of phalange marks is often noticed in toe 1 marks14 whereas, phalanges of the toes 2-5 are usually absent in footprint impressions unless the footprint is made in a very soft soil.13 The salient feature observed in the investigation is that some footprint samples show phalange marks by all toes and some samples did not register any phalange mark or zero phalange mark (Fig. 5). Table 5 shows the incidence of phalange marks in the footprints of Malaysian Malays. The present study shows that the phalange marks are created not only by toe 1 but also by other four toes in varying frequency. Another interesting feature observed is the existence of multiple phalange marks in a footprint (Fig. 6). Table 6 presents the prevalence of multiple phalange marks created in the footprints of Malaysian Malays. This finding is forensically important to include or exclude the suspects in real crime scenarios.

3.5. Crease marks

Creases occur on the plantar surface with distinct features of their own. Crease marks or lines are caused by skin folds of the plantar surface of the foot. Crease traits like dermatoglyphic traits are controlled by polygenic factors and stand a chance to be used in the study of ethnic and geographic distribution.19 With the accumulation of records for many ethnic series, it is now assured that racial differences in creases are real. A systematic analysis of an individual crease in relation to adjacent dermal ridges can provide practical and infallible means of personal identifica-tion.19. The Malaysian Malay population shows a variety of creases viz. horizontal, vertical (Fig. 7) or crossed.

Figure 5 Illustrative examples showing the absence and presence of phalange mark by all toes in the footprints of Malaysian Malays.

Figure 6 Illustrative examples showing the different types of multiple phalange marks (toe stems) in the footprints of Malaysian Malays.

The present study shows that numerous crease marks are found more often in female footprints (left 37.0%, right 39.5%) when compared to male footprints (left 5.5%, right 7%). The male footprints mostly show just one or two or almost zero crease marks in their footprints (Fig. 8). Thus the crease marks in the footprints of the present study show a significant gender difference, an important identifying feature forensically. The prevalence of vertical crease mark is found to be comparatively higher in females than males.

3.6. Pes planus or Flat foot condition

It is the condition in which the arch of the foot collapses, with entire sole of the foot coming into complete or near-complete contact with the ground. This pes planus condition of the foot is reflected in the footprint. It is an individual characteristic for person identification since it is rare. There are two types of pes

planus i.e. unilateral and bilateral. The present study shows the existence of unilateral and bilateral footprints (Fig. 9). The presence of unilateral footprints is higher on the left side (male-3.5%, female-4.0%) than on the right side (male-2.5%, female-1.5%). The study shows that unilateral flat footprint is slightly higher in males (3.0%) than in females (2.75%). Similarly the frequency of bilateral flat foot condition is slightly higher in males (3.5%) than in females (3.0) in the population. Flat foot shows gender difference in terms of crease mark. The female flat footprint shows numerous crease marks compared to male (Fig. 10) as shown by normal footprints.

3.7. Pits, corns, deformity and crack marks

The presence of damages in the feet viz. pits, corns, crack marks and deformity is reflected in the footprints. These marks are individualistic lead to definite person identification in

Figure 7 Formation of vertical, horizontal (transverse) and crossed crease marks in the footprints of Malaysian Malays.

forensic investigation even though some of these marks may not be permanent sometimes (Fig. 11).

4. Discussion

Dr. Michael Nirenberg, a forensic podiatrist stated that a footprint tells you more than a fingerprint.20 The present study highlights some of the individualizing characteristics of footprints in Malaysian Malays for person identification. The detailed analysis of the characteristics like phalange marks, feature of toes, humps, crease marks, flatfoot condition, pits, corns, and crack marks can be used as valuable evidence to link the crime and the perpetrators. These characteristic features can be used for inclusion or exclusion of suspects even in the preliminary scientific investigation

and then subsequent identification. Similar studies were conducted on Gujjars of north India population,13 north-west Indian population,21 and Thailand population.22 Regarding the morphological lengths of the first, second and third toes in males, the present study shows that the frequency of the F-type is the highest, followed by T-type, O-type and M-type. On the contrary, male Gujjars population study shows that the frequency of the T-type is the highest, followed by F-type, O-type and M-type. However, Thailand population study shows that the frequency of the F-type is the highest, followed by T-type and O-type. The finding in Thailand population is concordant with the present investigation. But the Thailand study did not mention about M-type and M-type is the least frequent in adult male Malaysian Malays and Gujjars of north India.

Figure 9 Pesplanus unilateral footprints and bilateral footprints of Malaysian Malays.

Figure 10 Flat foot showing crease marks in female (numerous) and male (less or almost zero) footprints of Malaysian Malays.

The presence of humps in footprints is an important characteristic feature in person identification. The present investigation shows the presence of three types of hump viz. no hump or zero hump, two humps and three humps with varying frequencies. The present study shows that the frequency of two humps is the highest, followed by three humps and the least frequent zero hump. But the north Indian Gujjar population showed six types of hump viz. zero hump, one hump, two humps, three humps, four humps and five humps. The frequency of three humps is the highest followed by two humps, four humps, five humps, one hump and zero hump in the least frequency. The Thailand study showed the presence of five types of hump viz. one hump, two humps, three humps, four

humps and five humps. The frequency of three humps is the highest and five humps is the least in the population. Laskow-ski et al. concluded that the number of humps in their study ranged from zero to seven in the LA population in US.23 The comparative analysis of humps indicates that people from different regions and races bear different morphological features of feet and foot prints.

The phalanges of the toes are imprinted in the form of toe stems. The presence of phalange marks is often noticed in big toe marks. Phalange marks are also of great evidentiary value.14 The present study shows the formation of phalange marks not only by toe 1 but also by toes 3, 4 and 5 in the samples with varying frequencies. Also phalanges of the toes are totally absent in footprint impression of some of the participants in the study. The prevalence of phalange mark by toe 1 is the highest, followed by toe 2, 3, 4 and 5. Another important feature observed is the presence of multiple phalange marks in a footprint. Regarding multiple phalange marks, the frequency is highest by toes 1 & 5 followed by toes 1 & 2 and 1 & 3 and 1, 3-5 and 1-3 and toes 3 & 5 is the least frequent. The north Indian male Gujjar's study showed the phalange mark by toe 1 only, whereas, phalanges of the toes 2-5 are absent. The study on Thailand male participants indicated the presence of phalange mark by toes 1,2,3,4 and 5, respectively. The frequency by toe 1 is the highest, followed by toe 2, toe 3, toe 4 and toe 5 being the least frequent.

Pes planus is a condition in which there is loss of the longitudinal arch of the foot. The alternative names are flat foot, pes planovalgus, fallen arches and foot pronation.24 The present study shows the prevalence of both unilateral and bilateral flatfeet in both genders. The frequency of the unilateral flatfoot condition is comparatively higher on the left side (male-3.5% and female 4.0%) than on the right side (male-2.5% and female-1.5%). Thus, the frequency of the unilateral flatfoot is higher in males. A Nigerian population study indicated that the frequency of unilateral flatfoot condition is found to be higher in females (2.2%) than males (1.97%).25 In adult male Gujjars of north India, the frequency of the unilateral flatfoot

condition is found to be more on the left side (1.54%) than on the right side (1.05%). This finding is consistent with the present study. The study on Thailand male participants concluded that the unilateral flatfoot condition is same on both feet (6.67%). Regarding the bilateral flatfoot condition, the results of the present study show that the frequency of bilateral flat-foot is more in males (3.5%) than in females (3.0). But the Nigerian study showed that the frequency of bilateral flatfoot condition is found to be more in females (0.75%) than in males (0.44%). The study on male north Indian Gujjars indicated that the prevalence bilateral flatfoot condition is 1.05% in the population.

5. Conclusion

The present study highlights some of the individualizing characteristics of the footprints in Malaysian Malays viz. investigation of toe features, phalange marks, crease marks, unilateral

and bilateral flatfoot condition, humps, cracks, corns and deformity for person identification. In some cases, only a small portion of the sole print of the foot may be sufficient to establish identity of the person. Thus, in the aspect of human friendliness footprint based recognition can be a promising method. Therefore the researchers are encouraged to conduct similar studies indifferent ethnics living in different parts of the world so that the effect of genetic and environment can be investigated in forensic terms.

Funding

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflict of interest to declare.

Acknowledgements

The authors are thankful to the participants who took part in

the strenuous research voluntarily.

Thanks are due to the Universiti Sains Malaysia for the support (STG No. 304/PPSK/61312040) to conduct this research.

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