Horatio Caine of island Hvar

5 minute read

Argentinian connection

In June 1892, the Argentine town of Necochea was horrified by a gruesome yet unusual criminal case. It involved the murder of a six-year-old boy and his four-year-old sister. The mother, Francisca Rojas, had a knife wound on her neck and claimed that her former lover was responsible for the attack.

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However, he denied the guilt and presented an alibi to the police that seemed convincing. The case was complex, so soon a young inspector from the central police office in La Plata, Eduardo Alvarez, arrived to assist the local police. While meticulously searching the crime scene, he noticed a bloody fingerprint on the door. Usporedbom otiska na vratima i majčinih otisaka, otkriveno je da je ljubavnik nevin, a da je majka bila ubojica vlastite djece. Taj otisak prsta zauvijek je promijenio forenziku i uspostavio metode razotkrivanja zločina kakve danas poznajemo. Mladi Alvarez pripadao je malobrojnoj grupi suradnika Ivana Vučetića, doseljenika s otoka Hvara, koji je prvi na svijetu uspostavio metodu uspoređivanja otisaka prstiju.

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Who was Ivan Vučetić?

Ivan was born in the summer of 1858 on the island of Hvar as the first of eleven children of cooper Viktor Vucetich and his wife Vincenza. He received his education from the renowned Franciscan friar and teacher Bonagracio Marojević while also assisting his father in barrel production. Ivan was diligent and intelligent, quickly learning to read and write in Italian and German. From a young age, he had a love for music.

Nakon 4 godine vojnog roka u mornarici u Puli otišao je – po tradiciji siromašnog stanovništva dalmatinskog otočja – u svijet, i 28 veljače 1884. stiže u Argentinu. Bio je tada star 26 godina.

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In Trieste, he clandestinely boarded a ship bound for Argentina. He hid in the coal compartment and arrived in Buenos Aires. There, he worked for four years in a state company responsible for managing the sewage system before relocating to the newly established city of La Plata.

There, he found employment as an apprentice in the central police office. While working in the police force, he became interested in anthropometric research, which he read about in various languages. Eventually, his sergeant entrusted him with the establishment of a Service for the Application of Bertillon’s Anthropometry, the existing method for solving cases developed in France.

Dactyloscopy, the science of fingerprint identification

Vučetić began researching Galton’s model of fingerprint recognition. The English scientist had determined that fingerprints are unchanging, unique, and diverse. Vučetić recognized the limitations of Bertillon’s methods and decided to continue Galton’s work. He developed his own technique for taking fingerprints, called the dactyloscopic “fiche” (card or document). He constructed a wooden device with ten finger openings into which personal cards were inserted, aiding him in the classification of collected fingerprints

He was awarded numerous accolades, and he became an honorary member of many global scientific academies and institutions. In Argentina, he was bestowed with the title of “Expert in Daktiloskopija,” a name coined by Vučetić himself.

J.KUZMICIC // Town Hvar

He visited his birthplace only once, during his retirement. In fact, his retirement pension of 25,000 Argentine pesos allowed him to fulfill a long-cherished dream – traveling around the world. During his global tour, he visited 18 countries and 43 cities, sharing his experiences along the way.

During that time, he also visited his hometown of Hvar and his family. He was welcomed by the Hvar Town Band, which he had conducted in his youth, performing his own compositions. Recently, a newly opened interpretive Museum of Mystery, dedicated to Ivan Vučetić was opened in Hvar town. Be sure to drop by and find out more about this fascinating man.

Fun Fact: In addition to his signature, Ivan Vučetić also left the imprint of his right index finger alongside it.

This story was written by Dino Jerković, and we are passing it on to you.

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