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Drug dealer’s ultimate WhatsApp fail

A BRITISH drug dealer will have to explain to his mates why they’re in handcuffs after a photo he shared on WhatsApp accidentally led to their arrest thanks to a technique being hailed as the future of policing.

Police in Wales used the partial fingerprint of a suspect that appeared in a photo on a mobile phone seized by police to connect the dots and help secure 11 convictions.

After making an arrest in Bridgend, west of Cardiff, police discovered a photo in a WhatsApp thread which showed a man holding ecstasy tablets in the palm of his hand.

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The picture was sent to a scientific support unit for police in South Wales where they able to analyse it enough to help the investigation.

Only parts of the middle and bottom of a finger were visible in the photo so it wasn’t able to be matched with fingerprints in any national databases.

However other evidence meant officers had an idea who they believed was behind the drug operation, the BBC reported. And the small part of the fingerprint was enough to complete the puzzle.

“While the scale and quality of the photograph proved a challenge, the small bits were enough to prove he was the dealer,” said Dave Thomas from the scientific support unit, who described the photo’s use as “groundbreaking”.

According to the BBC, the arrests are believed to be the first convictions in Wales from fingerprints taken from a photograph — but police are now expecting it to happen more often.

Following the picture analysis, police raided a house and found large quantities of cannabis and made a number of arrests.

Mr Thomas said officers were now looking more closely at photos on phones seized for potential evidence.

The offender was “not thinking it showed part of his hand and there was potentially a fingerprint,” he said.

“It has now opened the floodgates and when there is part of a hand on a photograph, officers are sending them in.”

The WhatsApp messaging service is encrypted from end-to-end meaning it is extremely difficult for the content of the messages to be viewed by hacking into the platform. But despite its robust security protocol, the case highlights the outcome of sharing any potentially incriminating evidence on digital platforms.

Mr Thomas described the greater use of social media content by police during investigations, saying authorities can “download and enhance” video footage to potentially find clues such as the one used in this case.

“These are all advancements in the digital world — they provide lots of questions we need to provide answers for.”

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