Ballistic Expert Report

This document will analyse "ANNEX 7" attached to Indian documents filed at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in Hamburg on 6 August, 2015

   Ballistic Expert Report No B1-1001/FSL/2012, 4 April 2012

A due premise

Carabinieri from Scientific Investigation Unit in Kochi
The Carabinieri from Scientific Investigation Unit Major Luca Flebus and Major Paolo Fratini in Kochi.

This document should not even be discussed. The Kollam Court ruled on 29 February 2012 that the Defence Technical Consultants (DTC), two Carabinieri officers in their capacity as Police ballistics experts, were not admitted to the Ballistic Examination.

And so this document produced without the technical defence is judicially "NULL AND VOID", in a court it would be challenged by the defence counsel and the Ballistic Report would be repeated in compliance with the defendants’ rights.

After over six and a half years from the incident this is obviously no longer possible: the St.Antony was first sunk and then sheltered in an open ground open to all, the weapons stayed in the exclusive possession of Indian investigators who may have done whatever they wished. A criminal trial comes with its own rules and by demanding their respect a defence counsel practises a right and fulfils a duty.

The label "Carabinieri - Reparto Investigazioni Scientifiche" (Carabinieri - Scientific Investigation Unit) found in the document does not show, as they meant us to believe, that the Carabinieri (Italian military police) participated in this Ballistic examination.

These official labels relate to the seizure documents listing weapons and materials (26 February 2012) and perhaps to the "fire test" where weapons fired shots into the water or into a ballistics gelatine block to recover bullets intact.

The procedure behind the creation of the 'report' (1/2)
The procedure behind the creation of the 'report' (1/2).

Such bullets were then to be "compared" with the bullet exhibits found on the victims or in the crime scene (the fishing boat).

The procedure behind the creation of the 'report' (2/2)
The procedure behind the creation of the 'report' (2/2).

But in this last phase, which led then to the actual ballistic examination, the Italian DTC (Carabinieri Military Police) have been excluded.

So the legal value of this document amounts to "nil".

   Click if you need more details about 'fire test' and 'bullet comparison'.

If a weapon, suspected of being used in a crime, is recovered, ballistic experts can fire that weapon in a special laboratory, and compare the striations to those on the bullet from the crime scene.

Every firearm leaves a unique set of markings on a bullet fired from that weapon. These markings are called striations. These are unique to every weapon, as are fingerprints to humans. If there is a match, they can positively identify the weapon used in the crime.

Another point to make is that this document is not a forensic ballistic report since it lacks all the parts that constitute such a report: photographs, weights, dimensions, microscope comparison matches, gas chromatography, mass spectrometry, etc.

Alas, the term “report” here is only a heading.

Failing actual recognised international standards, the science laboratories of the main Police forces nevertheless prepare their "expert reports" in compliance with the recommendations issued by SWGGun (Guidelines for the documentation of the examination of ammunition and ammunition components) and the IAI.

They require a documentation that is far more comprehensive that what came to us from Kerala.

SWGGun Guidelines
SWGGun Guidelines.

But this Ballistic Report must be examined anyway since on 04 August 2015 it was filed at the ITLOS in Hamburg as an attachment to a written Indian document. Such document insists peremptorily, with the support of 56 attachments including this one, on the guilt of the two Italian military and on their responsibility for the death of two fishermen aboard the St.Antony fishing boat.

As a matter of fact this document wades openly into the Indian prosecution against the two Italian military.

Analysis of Ballistic Expert Report

This 36-page document includes:

  • - descriptions of exhibits from the corpses such as bullets, t-shirts, gauzes, skin and nail clippings;
  • - weapons, ammunition, body armours and spare barrels, seized on the Enrica Lexie;
  • - bullet shrapnel found on the St.Antony fishing boat.

How many weapons actually fired

To avoid any misunderstanding or inference due to a superficial reading, the first point to clarify is: how many weapons actually fired.

The text reads as follows: "presence of the nitrite compound detected on the barrel washings collected from items no. 6, 11, 13, 14 and 15.1".

So residues of gunpowder were detected on four rifles (out of six) and on one spare barrel. Which is quite obvious, in the case of weapons or parts of weapons, as they may have been fired during exercise or operative sessions, even at times long before their examinations.

A hypothesis for the two remaining guns, found not to have fired, is that they could even have brand new barrels The above assessment was made on the barrels (barrel washing). Had it been made on the shutters possibly all six might have been found to have fired.

During the incident Riflemen Latorre and Girone were on guard duty, they admitted they fired and that was confirmed by the unequivocal witnesses present.

Unnecessary elements in this report

This analysis excludes a series of unnecessary elements: gauzes, skin, nails, t-shirts, ammunition, body armours, magazines, etc.

The only elements of interest are the traces of "copper" on some exhibits which will be discussed later.

Let us get to the heart of a possible interpretive disagreement: we must determine whether the bullets, found in the two corpses, may or may not belong to the lot the Italian military team were equipped with.

Bullets correspondence checks

Valentine Jelestine

According to this Ballistic Report, the rifle item 11 (Beretta SC 70/90 B18584H) fired the bullet found during the autopsy inside the body of Valentine Jelestine.

As you can easily see from the image below, it should be noted how glaring a contradiction this is since the dimensions of the bullet, examined during V. Jelestine’s post-mortem, are completely different from those of a 5.56mm calibre bullet available to the Italian military (see Annex 4).

Bullet #1
Bullet #1

The measurements describe a bullet which is much larger than the ones available to the Italian military. They correspond, despite minor differences, to the bullet from cartridge 7.62x54R;

Dimensional comparison between different projectiles
Dimensional comparison between different projectiles

Moreover, the bullet is referred to here as "disfigured", whereas in V. Jelestine’s post-mortem nowhere is the retrieved bullet defined as "disfigured".

Since it is grossly evident and it cannot be argued that a 7.62mm calibre bullet may pass through the barrel of a calibre 5.56mm rifle, the only possible hypothesis is that the bullet under examination was not the exhibit retrieved during the post-mortem.

Conclusions for Valentine Jalestine

The bullet retrieved during the autopsy is not the one identified as such in the Ballistic Report.

The evidence is macroscopic.

Jaees Pinku

As reported by the Ballistic Report, rifle item 14 (a Beretta SC 70/90 B18896H) fired the bullet retrieved inside A. Pinku’s body during the autopsy. Let us examine again the bullet dimensions found inside the corpse (see Annex 4):

"A metallic bullet of length 2,4cm and maximum circunference 1,9cm with a point tapering was found in the spleen covered by blood clot. - The bullet was found compressed at the base and the base measured 0,7x0,4cm"

Bullet #2
Bullet #2

We are therefore faced with a bullet compressed and deformed by the impact, against bones that are obviously very strong, as confirmed by the following passage:

"The coastal cartilage was found fractured an fragmented and the following organs transfixed in that order..."

Also, the size of the tear due to the bullet entry is incompatible with the entry hole left by a 5.56mm calibre bullet.

"Lacerated penetrating wound of entrance 2,7x1,6cm"

Discussions

It is obvious that, if the bullet was found to be 24mm in length and compressed at the base by the autopsy, was also found to be disfigured by the ballistic report, then the original bullet length most likely was greater than 24mm.

The bullet from a 5.56x45mm cartridge, as supplied to the Italian military, is 23mm long and, should it be “compressed” by an impact, its length would be shorter than nominal, not greater.

Conclusions for Jaees Pinku

The bullet retrieved during the autopsy is not the one identified as such in the Ballistic Report.

Details Linking a 5.56mm Bullet to The Ones from the Two Corpses as per Ballistic Report (page 33 of 36)


Annex 7 page 33
Quote from Annex 7, page 33

Please note:

  1. the autopsy bullets were contained in items no. 1.4 (Pinku) and item no. 2.3 (Jelestine) respectively;
  2. two rounds of ordinary and tracer ammunitions of items 22.1 and 22.2 were dismantled in the laboratory and both were 5.56x45mm rounds;
  3. their physical parameters, the measurements, were found approximately similar to the bullets of the autopsies
Of course, they were bullets anyway! Then, when comparing a Ferrari to a city car, this Forensic Science Laboratory could just say they both are cars anyway!


It is clear that "approximately similar" is no sufficient claim to arrest or condemn anyone, and a defence technical expert would find it very hard to avoid uttering disrespectful comments.

In its conclusions this Ballistic Report declares categorically that the bullets, found inside the bodies of the two victims, are fired from the firearm of the two Italian military.

Actually, since they are only "approximately similar" that practically means "they are not". One should recall how Courts rely on positive certainties and "approximate similarities" are neither probative nor circumstantial evidence for the case.

Analysis Relevant to Fragmented Bullet Exhibits from St.Antony Fishing Boat

During the inspection, carried out on the St.Antony boat by Ms NISHA (same signatory of the Ballistic Report) on 17.02.2012, the holes on the wooden parts were examined, some bullet fragments were recovered, it was concluded that those bullets were of 5.56mm calibre, and that lead to the arrest two days later of the two Italian military.

After examining the report "Scene examination report No. B1-873 / FSL / 2012, 19 April 2012" (see Annex 8), provided by ITLOS on 27.08.2015, it became clear that the Scientific Assistant , with her naked eye, could not measure hundredths of a millimetre nor could she do that with a tape measure. Hence her conclusions on the bullet calibre were "far-fetched" to say the least. But these conclusions made it possible to arrest the two Italian military.

Let us now examine and verify the results of the Ballistic Expert Report (Annex 7) i.e. whether the bullet fragments, found there and then, were factors which could justify the conclusion that the bullets which landed on the St.Antony were of a 5.56mm calibre.

Item 31.1 – Bullet Fragment Retrieved From The Roof (Rear of The Boat)


Annex 7 page 35
Quote from Annex 7, page 35

We are referring to a bullet outer jacket, a few tenths of a millimetre thick, or rather to "fragments of an outer jacket"

fragments of external coating
fragments of external coating

And now let us see what fragments we are dealing with.

Quote from Annex 7, page 34
Quote from Annex 7, page 34

Discussion

It seems clear that, during the inspection on the fishing boat St.Antony and out of such a tiny piece of jacket, you could not determine that the bullets were of a 5.56mm calibre.

full metal jacket (FMJ) bullet
full metal jacket (FMJ) bullet.

Also, the examination done in this Ballistic Report cannot determine whether this fragment was fired by one of the weapons seized, it merely states a condition of "similarity" with the jacket of the 5.56mm calibre bullets that were seized

It is only reasonable to clarify that "similar" does not mean anything. A great many military bullets have virtually identical jackets, made of similar or identical metal alloys.

A simple look at the picture on the side is enough to realise how claiming a similarity in this comparison cannot demonstrate anything.

Back in April 2012 a piece of news from an Indian source caused a sensation in Italy. It mentioned a "rifle groove compatibility" between the bullets found on the scene and those of the weapons seized and that was interpreted by many as a "proof of guilt" against the two defendants.

MARINES, THE BALLISTIC REPORT FINDS WEAPONS COMPATIBLE. THOSE GUNS KILLED THE FISHERMEN
(La Stampa on 10.04.2012)

(...) On the phone with the Italian ANSA, the Ballistics Assistant Director Ms NG Nisha has confirmed the results of tests conducted on eight weapons (i.e. the six Beretta rifles and the two Belgian-made FN Minimi light machine guns) and stated that the report on the shooting tests, ballistics and fingerprints was delivered to the magistrate. "After examining the bullets recovered from the victims’ bodies we have established that they are compatible with the barrel grooves of two rifles", she said.

Since the only reference to rifling grooves in the Ballistic Report is this fragment 31.1, it helps if we verify whether this "groove compatibility" was realistic or it may instead be a mistake or whatever.

Let us examine the fragment description again:

Quote from Annex 7, page 34
Quote from Annex 7, page 34

The land impressions formed on the bullet upon firing
The land impressions formed on the bullet upon firing.

Since rifle Beretta SC 70/90 of calibre 5.56mm does have a barrel with 6 right-handed grooves and a 178mm twist rate, when superficially assessed the news appears well-founded: jacket item 31.1 has 6 groove impressions and the Italian rifle barrel has 6 grooves!

In fact if we turn the circumference of a calibre 5.56mm bullet into a line, the line we get is 17.5mm long. The bullet fragment 31.1 with 6 grooves is 13.7mm in length and therefore smaller (see the size differences in the image below)

Bullet Jacket development to a plane with calibre 5.56 (Blue-Green) compared to exhibit 31.1 (Red-Violet)
Bullet Jacket development to a plane with calibre 5.56 (Blue-Green) compared to exhibit 31.1 (Red-Violet)

BLUE-GREEN drawing shows the development plan of a calibre 5.56mm bullet jacket; RED-VIOLET drawing shows item 31.1. RIFLING Obviously both show impressions for 6 lands and 6 grooves. But even after a cursory examination, of the fragment as described and as mentioned in item 31.1, it is obvious that:

  1. its lands and grooves cannot be compatible with those of rifle Beretta SC 70/90;
  2. that fragment cannot belong to a calibre 5.56mm bullet.
Jacket Cross Sections compared for 5.56 Bullet (Blue) and Item 31.1 (Red)
Jacket Cross Sections compared for 5.56 Bullet (Blue) and Item 31.1 (Red)

The above image shows with the same proportion (excluding lands and grooves for greater clarity) the cross sections of: - Left: a cal.5.56mm bullet fired through a rifle barrel (blue) - Right: the bullet that should have originated the jacket of item 31.1 (red)

The diameter measurements refer to the nominal rifle calibre for greater clarity (deviations of a few hundredths of a millimetre may occur):

  • BLUE: it shows the outer diameter of the projectile, the angle of lands and grooves each at 30° (from 180°/12)
  • RED: it shows a 13.7mm arc corresponding in size to the longest side of fragment 31.1 spanning over a 282.35° angle (360° - 77.65°)

It can be well understood that the 13.7mm arc, with its “six numbers of lands and grooves” as described in the Ballistic Report, shows an angle mean measurement of 23.53°, completely different from the 30° for the grooves of rifle Beretta SC 70/90.

3D Jacket Comparison for a 5.56 Bullet (Blue) and Exhibit 31.1 (Red)
3D Jacket Comparison for a 5.56 Bullet (Blue) and Exhibit 31.1 (Red)

Seeing things in 3D helps to understand what has been previously described.

Conclusions from analysis of fragment 31.1

  1. Fragment 31.1, as described by the Ballistic Report, demonstrates that it cannot come from a 5.56mm calibre bullet: the groove mean angles are completely different;
  2. There are no "matching lands and grooves" with a Beretta AR 70/90 rifle;
  3. Fragment 31.1, as described by the Ballistic Report, demonstrates that the shots that reached the St.Antony were not fired by the Italian military.

Voce 31.2 - Bullet fragment exhibits from the gas Cylinder area of St.Antony


Quote from Annex 7, page 34
Quote from Annex 7, page 34

Different types of 5,56x45 rounds and some types of steel cores
Different types of 5,56x45 rounds and some types of steel cores.

The metallic piece of item 31.2 is the "steel core" of an ordinary bullet.

The "steel core" is placed inside a bullet to enhance its capacity to penetrate "hard targets" (steel helmets, body armour, etc).

Virtually every military bullet has various versions (ordinary, tracer, blanks, FM jacket, ... etc). The image below shows various versions of a 5.56x45mm round.

In fact the same Ballistic Report indicates that “it is not possible to opine” on a match between the retrieved steel core and the one from a dismantled ordinary bullet, out of the seized ones.

Quote from Annex 7, page 35
Quote from Annex 7, page 35

The trace of "Copper"

Traces of Copper have been found on some exhibits hit by bullets, probably as a result of the impact of the same bullets.

Most firearm bullets are enclosed by jackets in metal alloys that contain copper. This finding about "copper" is irrelevant for the investigation.

Conclusions

The Ballistic Report, which caused quite a sensation in Italy back in April 2012 when some excerpts were released by the media, is a contradictory document since it contains "conclusions" as well as their exact contrary.

The technical examination is non-existent: after the tinsel is discarded nothing remains but the peremptory statement that the two bullets, retrieved from the two victims, were fired by two rifles seized from the Italian soldiers, but that is refuted by the statement “approximately similar” (on page 33). But, of course, all bullets are similar!

As to the broken jacket of item 31.1, retrieved from the fishing boat, the attempt to fit 6 grooves in a 13.7mm space, whereas those same 6 grooves require 17.5mm on a Beretta barrel, could even elicit laughter. But, of course, still bullets they are!

Therefore the Ballistic Report is irrelevant from a judicial viewpoint owing to:

  • - its legal nullity as created in spite of defendants’ rights;
  • - clear contradictions between its conclusions and what is argued in the document itself.

Now, in the opinion of the undersigned, the NIA may well bring even half a million witnesses ready to swear they identified, from the Kerala coastline, Latorre and Girone aboard tanker Enrica Lexie when they fired at the St.Antony fishing boat.

But that will never change the size of the bullet exhibits as recorded during the autopsy.

Italian and Indian media may well write that a "new report" (i.e. the Ballistic Report) refutes the "old report" (i.e. the post-mortem report!) thereby demonstrating an "Italian guilt”, but this does not change that "approximately similar" which indirectly confirms what is stated in the autopsy.

The fact remains that the Ballistic Report (ANNEX 7), as well as the inspection on the St.Antony boat (ANNEX 8), meant to lend a scientific aura to a prejudice of guilt thereby permitting the charging and the arrest of the two Italian military, who should instead have been acquitted just after having read the relevant reports and checked the calibre of their weapons, or even on the same day of the autopsies.