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Monday, 14 October, 2002, 16:46 GMT 17:46 UK
Q&A: Bali forensic challenge
Teams of forensics experts have begun combing the ruins of buildings devastated by the bomb blast in Bali.

Their mission is two-fold - to find clues which could lead to the bombers, and to identify badly mutilated victims.

Brian Caddy, Emeritus Professor of Forensic Science at Strathclyde University, was involved in the investigation into the Oklahoma bombing in the United States in 1995.

In that attack, as in Bali, a vehicle packed with explosives caused massive devastation and loss of life.

What methods will be employed in this investigation?

At the crime scene all items possible will be recovered - that is all the debris and any material that in any way may be associated with the bomb itself.

This will be sieved for particles of different sizes and hopefully among those there will be things like timing mechanisms and fuses. There may be traces of explosives as well.

It is important that the people who do this are properly equipped so that they don't contaminate the items.

Why is it so important to discover the type of explosives that were used?

For two reasons. One, if you've got the mechanism that was used, there may be records in industry of how these materials were purchased and the route of purchase can be traced. So you have a potential route to identify who came into possession of the timing devices.

Secondly, if you are able to identify what type of explosive is there, again you can track down perhaps what the potential sources of that explosive material might have been in the first place.

What similarities are there between the Oklahoma bombing investigation and this one in Bali ?

Most bombing investigations follow the normal routine and the Oklahoma bombing was no exception.

In fact many tons of material of course were removed from the site of the Oklahoma bombing and transferred to an appropriate area by the FBI and the items were then searched.

If you do have a suspect, it may be well be that having identified the trace explosives you want to see if traces of that explosive are on the premises of those you suspect of being involved.

What about the investigation into identifying all the victims? How difficult is that going to be?

That depends on where the victims come from. In a Western society - and most of these, I understand, are Australian - I would expect there to be dental records. So they should be identified fairly straightforwardly.

If that's not the case, then the chances are that they will have to refer to DNA. But only if there is no other means of identification, such as a personal items or tattoos.

If you go to the DNA, you may have to take samples from the relatives to link them. But you may be lucky enough to be able to take samples of the original material from the persons who died, for example, on hairbrushes or on tooth brushes.

How much help are the Indonesians going to need from outside?

They will probably need considerable help. Although they have some experience - and they do have a new laboratory in Jakarta - I think they are still not of the ability that we would expect in Western society.

They still need considerable help and support. I think they will be only too glad to accept it.

Who are the leaders in this field?

The United Kingdom is very far advanced in this.

Fort Halstead has a big centre for bomb investigation, and of course we have the laboratory in Northern Ireland which is very familiar with this type of activity.

The FBI has similar facilities as well as the American tobacco and firearms organisations - they investigate bombings too.

So these organisations can also add very well to the sort of support that they need in Indonesia at the moment.

How hopeful would you be that the investigation can identify the culprits and also identify positively all of the victims?

I would be very surprised if they can't identify the victims from Western countries. Whether they will be able to do the same with the indigenous population, I really wouldn't like to say.

But in terms of identifying who is responsible, while they may be able to recover and identify items from the scene, it doesn't necessarily mean they will be able to link them satisfactorily to those responsible for this atrocity.


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