Page last updated at 01:48 GMT, Saturday, 19 July 2008 02:48 UK

Smart dye helps to beat criminals

By Natalie Hancock
BBC News

Money dyed with SmartWater
SmartWater stays on cash and provides a chemical link to crimes
In a UK first, a man has been convicted of robbery thanks to forensic evidence from a special dye which carries a unique chemical signature linking him to his crimes.

BBC News looks at the claims being made for SmartWater.

When a cash box from a security van is stolen and opened it triggers a dye-bomb inside the box which covers the thief and his haul.

But when found, it can be hard to tell where it was taken from, or if the money is the product of more than one crime.

SmartWater provides that link. The brainchild of former policemen Phil Cleary and his chemist brother Mike, it is invisible to the naked eye but when put under UV light it glows green.


Smartwater can link thieves to the crime by permanently marking them

It stays on cash and clothes indefinitely and each dye-bomb has a unique chemical fingerprint which can identify it.

This may have been something Ali Lwanga was not aware of.

The 21-year-old's speciality was cash in transit robberies.

He and his gang targeted security guards delivering money to banks and a retail park in east London.

Officers found dye-stained clothing in a wheelie bin near his home. Money was also found under his mattress when his bedroom was searched.

Under examination the dye showed the cash was part of a 25,000 haul stolen in a cash-in-transit robbery outside a Barclays bank in January and a similar incident at Opal Money Transfer in the previous December.

Ali Lwanga
Ali Lwanga was convicted due to forensic evidence from SmartWater

Traces found on his clothes and a glove also linked him to another two robberies totalling more than 100,000.

He was convicted of conspiracy to rob at Wood Green Crown Court and now faces a lengthy jail sentence.

Four youths, aged 14, 15, and two aged 16, had previously pleaded guilty to the charge.

Described as "an extremely valuable tool" by police, SmartWater is being used by police more and more to identify burglars and thieves.

Many custody suites are kitted out with UV lights to identify participants in crimes even months after the fact.

Church roofs are sprayed with it to prevent lead from being stolen, as is expensive copper railway cabling.

It is also used as an indelible marker to identify belongings such as cars, computers or TVs.

It has the potential to be used right across different sectors -to mark property, protect assets and deter crime - the sky's the limit
Dave Reynolds, SmartWater

DC Laurie Bays from the Met's Flying Squad said: "We hope this conviction will serve as a warning to other potential criminals.

"We are achieving a 65% detection rate for cash-in-transit robberies, which means there is better than a one in two chance of being caught.

"The introduction of SmartWater can only improve that statistic and ensure criminals are convicted and punished when arrested."

Dave Reynolds from SmartWater said: "We want this to deter people and stop them from committing the crime in the first place, as there is a greater risk of being caught.

"It has the potential to be used right across different sectors -to mark property, protect assets and deter crime - the sky's the limit."

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