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Pioneering forensics research into body fluids in sexual assaults

Kimberley Bexon Kimberley Bexon is playing a key role in a project that should be a major aid in the investigation of sex offences

Thu, 01 May 2014 10:55:00 BST

“...research to differentiate between seminal fluid and semen will support the hypothesis that sexual intercourse did occur, even if the DNA isn’t present...” 

RESEARCH student Kimberley Bexon’s passion for DNA analysis means she is playing a key role in a project at the University of Huddersfield that should be a major aid in the investigation of sex offences.  Now she is to receive financial backing from the Chartered Society of Forensic Science (previously known as the Forensic Science Society), which has awarded her a scholarship. 

Kimberley, aged 26, has embarked on PhD study, supervised by the forensic scientist Dr Graham Williams, who has pioneered new techniques for identifying body fluids – especially important in cases of alleged sexual assault. 

She first came to the University of Huddersfield to acquire her MSc degree in forensic science.  During undergraduate study she had developed a special fascination for DNA and realised that the Master’s course at Huddersfield was ideal. 

After completing the MSc she took a job in London as a DNA analyst for the world-leading forensics firm LGC.  But she maintained her link with the University of Huddersfield by joining study trips to Romania that are run by Dr Williams.  He suggested that she returned to embark on a PhD entitled Forensic microRNA analysis of body fluids relating to sexual assaults – RNA is a single-stranded equivalent to DNA. 

Kimberley is working on procedures to identify female menstrual blood and vaginal material at a crime scene and also to identify male fluids. 

Sperm “If a male doesn’t produce sperm, he doesn’t produce DNA so I am trying to differentiate between seminal fluid and semen so that I can strongly support the hypothesis that sexual intercourse did occur even if the DNA isn’t present,” she explained, adding that the ability to identify accurately the presence or absence of fluids at a crime scene could be vital to prove the innocence of an alleged offender – in cases of false accusation – as well as being an important prosecution tool. 

As she embarked on her PhD, Kimberley – who is from Bristol – made a detailed application for one of the coveted research scholarships awarded by the Chartered Society of Forensic Science. She was successful and receives £3,000, which could be renewed for a further two years when she demonstrates progress. 

She is delighted to have embarked on important research in her favourite field.  “I have always loved science and DNA is so fascinating!”

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