The trick with hair comparison is not to worry about using a comparison microscope. Use the flip of a coin instead, it's much cheaper, easy to use both in the field and lab, and actually rather more accurate.

The error rate in assigning hairs by comparison microscopy, when checked using DNA profiling techniques, is so staggeringly high (at least in the UK) that, in my opinion, evidence of a link based on microscopic comparison of "ordinary" head hairs should never be presented in court as evidence.

Microscopy is fine for "some" eliminations. But if you want to establish a link, use it as a screening technique to decide which hairs you use for DNA tests.

Mark Webster
Forensic Science Consultancy

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