The Hand Detectives


2019102220191028 (R4)

“At the end of the day, with DNA, we have difficulty in the forensic arena of separating identical twins, we can do it with a hand no problem at all.” - Professor Dame Sue Black

In 2006 the Metropolitan Police came to Professor Sue Black with an image. An infrared snapshot of a man’s arm, taken from a computer camera in the middle of the night. They wanted to know if she, as one of the world’s most respected forensic anatomists, could find any details that could match the limb in the picture, to a potential child abuse suspect.

That case sparked the development of a new kind of forensic science - Hand Identification. A science that in the past 13 years has aided in securing convictions in some of the most high profile child abuse cases in the UK.

In this programme we explore how Sue and her teams in Dundee and Lancaster University have developed the science of Hand Identification, how it can be used in conjunction with digital forensic techniques to identify offenders, and how by creating a library of hands, Artificial Intelligence can be developed to quickly and accurately assess hands and link child abuse cases around the globe - protecting not just children, but the investigators who put their own mental health at risk as they work to protect the most vulnerable.

Produced by Elizabeth Ann Duffy
Illustration by Seonaid MacKay

How the forensic science of hand identification is being used to investigate crime.