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Knickers study may help in rape cases

19:14 Tue Apr 3 2012

Analysing the way knickers rip could help forensic scientists with rape and sexual abuse cases, an Otago University scientist says.

University scientists used a machine which pulled both ends of three different types of material made of fabrics most commonly found in women's underwear - cotton, a cotton/elastane blend and modal/elastane blend.

Results showing how the fabrics tear could be used by criminal investigators to compare with material torn in rape and sexual abuse cases.

"Understanding damage to apparel is important to support criminal investigations," the report says.

"Identifying a fictitious sexual assault claim is difficult, and often damage to apparel is the only form of forensic evidence."

Researcher Rachael Laing told NZ Newswire results of the research found the fabrics tore in differently depending on the stitching angle and type of fabric.

It was the first time research had been carried out on fabric of this type and the report says the results confirm there is a need to better understand the actual tearing behaviour of knicker fabrics.

Ms Laing hopes it will lead to more understanding of materials which will help solve criminal cases.

"I would like to see this replicated using other types of fabrics because the more photographic evidence you have the better it would be to take something from a particular case and see if it matches up."