By Avril Eyewu-Edero
On an early Sunday morning, police officers responded to a double homicide scene where witnesses claim the suspect responsible for the homicide is a known thug who lives in the same area and was seen fleeing from the crime scene with what looks like a shotgun in his hands.
Neighbors were alarmed when they heard several gunshots from the house where the deceased was found.
The thug was arrested shortly, and a shotgun was recovered from his flat. The question is, how can the police prove that the gun found in his possession which he claims no one else has used in the past 48 hours was the weapon used to murder the victims. The answer is Forensic Ballistics.
Interesting right. This is a typical scenario here in Nigeria as many people that attack others with a gun usually do not discard the weapon.
READ ALSO: Why Forensics?
So, what is forensic Ballistics and how can we solve this case.
Forensic Ballistics is the analysis of evidence relating to firearms involved in a crime, this includes the effect and behavior of projectiles such as bullets and explosive devices.
A ballistics expert would match these evidence found at a crime scene (bullet, bullet fragments, explosion fragments) with the weapon found or belonging to the alleged suspect. A positive comparison would place the weapon at the scene of the incident.
A forensic ballistic expert helps the investigation and the court understand the type of weapon used in the crime by examining its behavior and pattern of injury.
It also helps to identify the firearm used in the crime by comparing unique markings called a striation mark on the bullets recovered from the scene to the striation marks of the gun recovered.
Because no two firearms, even those from the same model or maker have the same striation marks when fired and from their cartridge case, it makes it easy to conclude on whether or not a weapon was used in an incident.
Ballistic experts would usually fire bullets from the same gun recovered that is allegedly related to an incident into a water or cotton tank in a laboratory, recover it and compare for these unique markings using a comparison microscope.
Just like the scenario above, if the bullets recovered from the scene matches the bullet recovered from the bullets fired from the same gun by the ballistics experts, then the thug has questions to answer.
Forensic ballistics can also answer questions relating to the individual class of a firearm, range in which the gun was fired (e.g. in determining if it is suicide or a homicide case), direction that the gun was fired, identification of the shooter and other medicolegal issues.
Forensic ballistics is an important part of the criminal investigation process that could be applied in Nigeria, because many times, bullets are recovered from crime scenes and suspects are often in possession of their weapon. This would help with building up a good case.
Forensic ballistics can generally help the court answer if the injury to the victim was caused by a discharge from a firearm, the type of weapon used in the crime, the possible distance of firing, the possible direction that the shooting took place from and who the likely shooter is.
Forensic ballistics is an interesting aspect of science, although broad in questions it can answer but relatively less stressful to set up.
If this aspect of forensic science is embraced in Nigeria, it would help to increase successful legal proceedings of homicide cases in the country.
Back to the scenario above, do you think the thug alleged to have been involved in the double homicide in Lagos and apprehended with a gun would get away with the crime if we had a working forensic ballistics laboratory that can compare the bullet found at the scene to his gun and other factors?
The answer is here.