1892 – Fingerprinting Officially Adopted for the First Time

This week on our journey through significant events since 1817 to modern day, we find ourselves at the scene of a murder in 1892. But how was it solved?

The understanding that fingerprints are completely unique as well as investigating what they can tell us about an individual has been developed since the 17th century.

There have been some suggestions that have been disproved, such as fingerprints can determine the race of the person, but some that still stand today such as that your fingerprint does not change dramatically with age.

The curious case of Francisca Rojas

However in 1892 fingerprints were used for the first time to solve a crime.

In June of that year, in Nocochea, Argentina, Fancisca Rojas and her children were found badly injured in their home. The children later died of their injuries but Rojas was able to survive a cut throat.

Rojas claimed the perpetrator was a neighbour who was motivated by jealousy as he had previously been a suitor. The neighbour denied this when he was arrested and questioned, claiming he had been with friends at the time.

At this point police called upon Inspector Eduardo Alvérez who noticed a bloody fingerprint on the door. Aware of police analyst Juan Vucetich, who was well renowned at this time due to his Centre of Dactyloscopy and his ground-breaking work in using fingerprints as means of identification, Alvérez removed the door and took it to Vucetich for analysis.

Vucetich was able to successfully match the fingerprint, not to the accused neighbour, but to Rojas herself! When interrogated and presented with these findings Rojas confessed that she had lied about the neighbour and in fact it was her who had murdered her children and then cut her own throat to make her story fit. She had recently become involved with another man who wanted to marry her but did not want children. She was sentenced to life in prison for her crimes.

Argentina led the way

This conviction demonstrated the importance of fingerprinting as a means of identification in crime and therefore was adopted by the police from then on, making Argentina the pioneers and first country to set up a national Office of Identification holding both criminal and non-criminal fingerprint records.

Where they led many countries followed with our very own Scotland Yard beginning this in 1901.