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Research Fellows Directory

Sue Black


Research Fellow


University of Dundee

Research summary

The two areas of anatomy and forensic anthropology have been brought together for the research that is supported by the Royal Society. It has influenced the conviction of perpetrators of child sexual abuse by securing two life sentences and over 100 years of incarceration and further, over 80% of the cases presented to us now result in a change of plea to guilty. The impact is of significant financial benefit but is immeasurable to the victim and their family who are spared the trauma of a court room appearance and media reporting. This research was part of the successful nomination for the Queen's Anniversary Prize in 2013 and was shortlisted for the THE research project of the year 2014. We assess images, usually of child sexual abuse, in an attempt to identify the perpetrator, and sometimes the victim. Most images incorporate the back of the perpetrator’s hand and we were able to assess ‘uniqueness’ in hand morphology. A database was developed using images from police officers undergoing training and results revealed that no two hands are anatomically identical. This can be confirmed in the most simple of terms by looking at the backs of your own right and left hands and comparing the pattern of your veins, freckles or the position of scars. The next stage of the research is to automate the extraction of these anatomical features from images that are often of poor quality or where the lighting or position of the hand is not optimal.

Interests and expertise (Subject groups)

Grants awarded

The new biometric - your life in your hands.

Scheme: Wolfson Research Merit Awards

Dates: Jun 2014 - May 2019

Value: £25,000