Despite the advent of DNA profiling, fingerprints still play an important role in suspect identification. However, if single crime scene marks may be challenging to identify, overlapping fingermarks, understandably, pose an even greater challenge. In the last decade, mass spectrometry-imaging methods have provided a possible solution to the separation of fingermarks from two or more donors, based on the differential chemical composition. However, there are no studies attempting to separate overlapping marks from the same donor. This is important in relation to fingermark deposition at different times, which could be critical, for example, to ascertain legitimate access to the scene. In the work presented here, we investigate whether Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption Ionisation Mass Spectrometry Imaging can separate the same donor's fingermarks deposited at different times based on intra-donor fingermark composition variability. Additionally, the hypothesis that the different times of deposition could be also determined was investigated in the view of linking the suspect at the scene at different times; the dating window of MALDI MSI within the selected molecular range was explored. Results show that it is possible to separate overlapping fingermarks from the same donor in most cases, even from natural marks. Fresh marks (0 days) could be separated from those of fourteen days of age, though the latter could not be distinguished from the set aged for seven days. Due to the use of only one donor, these are to be considered preliminary data, though findings are interesting enough to warrant further investigation of the capabilities and limitations of this approach using a larger cohort of donors.
Keywords: MALDI MSI; age; fingermarks; overlapping.