by Sarah Rosenstein
What would you do if your pen ran out of ink? Get a new pen, right? Unfortunately for Trish Vickers, when her pen ran out of ink, she kept writing. After Vickers lost her eyesight to diabetes in 2005, she began writing poetry which escalated to writing her first novel titled Grannifer’s Legacy. After reading some of her manuscript her son had to give her the unlucky news that 26 pages that Vicker’s thought she wrote were completely blank, with only the impressions left from her pen. Not knowing what to do, they finally called a nearby police department who offered their forensic document examiners to help them with their dilemma. Using specialized light to enhance the indented writing, the questioned document team recovered the lost writing after five months.
The use of light being held at oblique angles towards a document is one of the simpler methods of examining indented writing. In Vickers case it was an effective method of identifying what she wrote. In forensic cases, examiners may want to look for indentation caused from pages several sheets above the original document, which calls for a much more sensitive device. An electrostatic detection device (EDD) is a piece of equipment that is used to find impressions left on a questioned document. The device is about the size of a standard home printer and its basic components include a grounded plate and thin piece of film. After a questioned document is placed in between the plate and the film, an electrostatic charge is passed through the paper. Special toner is added to the device and is attracted areas of indentation, which have a higher charge.
While Vicker’s case called for a simple method of identifying indented writing and did not require specialized equipment, EDD has been helpful in visualizing writing in pages that are several sheets above the original document. This type of sensitivity may be very helpful in determining who wrote a document or where it may have came from, such as kidnapping cases that involve ransom notes.
Check out all our entries about forensic techniques