International Journal of Legal Medicine

, Volume 129, Issue 4, pp 819–824 | Cite as

Assets and pitfalls of chemical and microscopic analyses on gunshot residues in skeletonized bodies: a report of five cases

  • Alberto Amadasi
  • Daniele Gibelli
  • Debora Mazzarelli
  • Davide Porta
  • Daniel Gaudio
  • Dominic Salsarola
  • Alberto Brandone
  • Agostino Rizzi
  • Cristina Cattaneo
Case Report


In case of gunshot wounds, forensic anthropologists and pathologists have many tools at hand, and the assistance that chemical and microscopic investigations can provide in such scenarios is often valuable and crucial. However, the results of such analyses in the search of gunshot residues (GSR) ought not to be acritically considered. We report five cases where chemical (sodium rhodizonate) and microscopic (scanning electron microscopy-energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDX)) analyses were performed for the search of GSR. Four cases concerned the forensic field and analyses on buried, charred, or submerged remains, whereas one case concerned the historical remains of a soldier of the First World War. In every case, the search for GSR with these techniques showed their persistence even after long periods and preservation in peculiar environments. However, chemical analyses provided their contribution, but in two cases, anthropological analyses provided crucial and solving results. The five cases show the indisputable usefulness of chemical and microscopic analyses in the search of GSR in gunshot wounds and especially how such residues may survive in time and in adverse environmental conditions. However, experts should always be dubious about some pitfalls (such as contamination) one can frequently find in these scenarios.


Forensic science Gunshot wounds Gunshot residues Skeletonized bodies Chemical analysis 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alberto Amadasi
    • 1
  • Daniele Gibelli
    • 1
  • Debora Mazzarelli
    • 1
  • Davide Porta
    • 1
  • Daniel Gaudio
    • 1
  • Dominic Salsarola
    • 2
  • Alberto Brandone
    • 3
  • Agostino Rizzi
    • 4
  • Cristina Cattaneo
    • 1
  1. 1.LABANOF, Laboratorio di Antropologia ed Odontologia ForenseIstituto di Medicina Legale e delle Assicurazioni–V. Mangiagalli 37–Università degli Studi di MilanoMilanItaly
  2. 2.Società Lombarda di Archeologia (SLA)MilanItaly
  3. 3.Dipartimento di Chimica–Viale Taramelli 12Università di PaviaPaviaItaly
  4. 4.CNR, Dipartimento di GeologiaUniversità degli Studi di MilanoMilanItaly

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