DNA fingerprinting has proven to be an important asset to the criminal justice system as it has assisted in many criminal cases around the world linking the suspect with the victim as well as the crime scene.
The first DNA fingerprinting test was used in 1986 in a murder and rape case and is still in large use for any suspicion in any case. Recent developments have made it much more effective, cheap, and reliable to be used in the court as a piece of admissible evidence.
Discovery of DNA fingerprinting
In 1984, Alec Jeffrey an English geneticist was studying hereditary diseases in families. He was focusing on strategies to unravel paternity and immigration disputes via demonstrating the genetic links between individuals. Jeffreys used Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism (RFLP) to analyze Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA).
Dr. Jeffreys discovered that repetitive patterns of DNA, regarded as Variable Number of Tandem Repeats (VNTRs), had been present in all human beings but that they varied in size for each individual. He soon realized that this variant could be used to establish the identification of a character and he named his technique genetic fingerprinting.
Dr. Jeffreys proved that a genetic fingerprint is particular to every person and the pattern does now not belong to any other character on earth except for the same twins.
After publishing an academic paper on his discovery, Jeffrey had been requested to assist with a range of cases in which adolescents have been being denied British citizenship because immigration officers have been disputing that they had been the offspring of British parents.
But DNA fingerprinting had yet to be used in a crook investigation. When Jeffreys gave his first talk about his discovery and counseled that it ought to be used to apprehend criminals, some in the audience had laughed out loud.
Narborough Double murder case
In November 1983 Lynda Mann (15-year-old) of Narborough village left her home to babysit at a friend’s house which wasn’t far away from her house. When she didn’t return back home in 24 hours, her parents called the police and filed her missing.
The next morning, Lynda was found naked near Black Pad where was supposedly kidnapped, raped, and murdered by strangulation. No evidence was left to be found there except semen. With the use of semen, police could only identify the blood groups of the suspects which wasn’t enough.
The black pad where the body was found was near a mental hospital and thus, everyone considered that one of them committed the crime yet no evidence supported the allegations.
Police investigated many people regarding this case but found no leads. Time went by and the case grew old. Suddenly, In July 1986, Dawn Ashworth of Enderby (a nearby village of Narborough) went missing after leaving from her job to home but never arrived.
Two days later, Dawn was found in a nearby field (less than a mile from the black pad) naked covered in bushes. She was also strangulated to death after being raped. Apart from this, she had several bite marks, defense wounds, and semen on her body.
The body of Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth had many similarities between them forcing police to consider a single suspect in both cases. The people of both villages were in shock after the death of two young girls fearing a serial killer among them.
Police again started an investigation and found a lead in the form of a suspect named Richard Buckland, who had a learning disability and worked in mental hospital’s kitchen but was found near both crime scenes by some witnesses. So, the police took him in custody for further interrogation.
In the interrogation, police learned that he knew a lot about those murders including the details not known to the media or public. A few hours later he confessed to the murder of Dawn Ashworth but strongly refused to kill Lynda Mann. Since police suspected both the murders to be convicted by the same person, they needed some evidence to link him to both crimes.
At that time Alec Jeffrey had made a discovery of DNA fingerprinting at the University of Leicester which was not far away from Narborough. Since Alec had been using DNA fingerprinting in assisting to determine the paternity of several children who were being denied British citizenship.
Narborough police went to his lab asking if his technique could assist in matching the DNA from a semen sample to a suspect. Jeffrey responded positively. Alec took the DNA samples from semen and matched them with the DNA of Richard Buckland which was found to be negative.
However, DNA fingerprinting tests concluded that both the murders were concluded by the same person also making Richard the first person to be relieved from the charge of murder.
The police then tried playing a gamble in which they sent out letters to every person aged between 18 to 36 who had lived in the area at the time of murders to volunteer and submit a blood sample for DNA testing also bringing their passport to identify themselves.
There were 3 possibilities of gamble i.e.,
- Killer not understanding the DNA, and submitting the sample and ultimately caught.
- Killer refusing the test, raising suspicion.
- Killer tries to interfere with the test.
Within 2 months of the letters passed out, police had received more than 5500 samples but none matched the killer.
Then, In August 1987 some friends were having drinks and chatting at a pub in Leicester. Somehow, the topic changed to Colin Pitchfork and one friend among them namely IAN KELLY confessed that he posed as Colin pitchfork for the DNA testing in Narborough with a forged passport.
A woman who overheard Kelly in the Pub later called the police with the information. Kelly was then interrogated and soon was Colin brought into custody for interrogation and he confessed to his crimes.
In 1988, Pitchfork was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of 30 years on account of charges of 2 counts of murder, rape, indecent assault, and one count of conspiring to pervert the justice of the court.
Although, DNA fingerprinting was not required to match the DNA sample of the pitchfork with the semen sample as he confessed voluntarily, yet its importance was significantly noted by the police.