He was the first person convicted of rape and murder using DNA profiling.
DNA testing was first used by the police 33 years ago.
In November 1983, a 15-year-old girl named Lynda Mann disappeared in Leicestershire, England. Linda had left the house to meet her friend. The ten pound line was missing. The family, locals and the police started searching. Two days later, her body was found brutally tortured and murdered. The police searched for the culprit but to no avail.
Three years later, in July 1986, 15-year-old Dawn Ashworth went missing in Leicestershire. Don also went missing on a ten pound line while traveling from a friend’s house to his own house. Her dead body was found the next day after being brutally tortured and killed.
Two girls were killed in the same way in England and became a big news and discussion. The police smelled the presence of a serial killer. The conclusion was supported by the fact that the manner of removing Linda’s and Don’s clothes and suffocating them with a scarf were identical. The sperm sample obtained from the bodies of both the girls belonged to the same person. It was confirmed that the local man, who knew the girls and had local knowledge, would be the killer. Fear spread in nearby villages.
The media wrote editorials saying ‘Kolayali in our midst’. The locals were worried that our daughter would be next. There was a protest against the government. The police, unable to catch Linda’s murderer, arrested a man after Don’s death.
Seventeen-year-old Richard Buckland, who has a learning disability, was arrested. Richard, who knew Dawn, testified that he killed her. But Linda’s murder was not accepted. The police was of the position that both the girls were killed by one person. They said Richard was lying. A lack of eyewitnesses and evidence stumped the police. When Richard repeated in the court that he was not involved in Linda’s murder, the police could not stop.
It was around this time, five miles from the village of Narborough where the girls died, that a British geneticist named Alec Geoffrey coincidentally introduced DNA profiling.
Alec Jeffrey came up with the idea that children who are denied British citizenship could use his technology to prove their family’s genetic heritage. It is claimed that it can be used in criminal investigations. When Richard was not caught in Linda’s murder, the police sought Jeffrey’s help. The police asked Geoffrey if it could be established through a DNA test that Richard had committed both the murders. Jeffrey returns to his lab to collect the sperm from the girls’ bodies and Richard’s blood. The inspection revealed two things.
The police are right; The girls were raped and killed by one person. The DNA of the sperm samples confirms this.
The second finding was startling. The DNA of the arrested Richard and the DNA of the sperm sample on the girls body do not match!
Geoffrey reported to the police that both murders were committed by one person and not Richard. The DNA result given by Geoffrey was that the conclusion of the police was correct and the arrested ‘suspect’ was innocent. Shocked to hear this, the police did not believe Geoffrey at first. Jeffrey repeated the DNA tests three times. All three times the result was the same.
When the information came out, the police was greatly embarrassed. After being found innocent, Richard was released after three months in custody.
Later, when Richard revealed that he confessed to being the killer due to the pressure of the police, the British police were unable to raise their heads.
Who is the killer who is out and about?
The police came again to seek Jeffrey’s help in finding the brutal killer. Geoffrey’s order was to collect the DNA of all the men in the crime scene. Police sent notices to all males born between 1953 and 1970. This includes people who lived and worked in Narborough during this period. Two labs have been set up. Blood samples were collected three days a week in the morning and evening. Most people volunteered to donate blood. A few people refused to donate blood, saying that they were afraid of needles and did not like the police. When they realized the importance of the case, their minds changed.
As society automatically pressured everyone to donate blood to find the culprit, no one could stay away. Human rights organizations have filed a complaint against the police action in the UK. It was also demanded that the Parliament should examine the mass collection of blood samples. The protests cooled as a section of the people and the media took a position that the safety of the community was more important than the rights of the individual.
After eight months of Yajna, 5511 men donated blood.
The test showed that 5511 DNAs did not match the sperm DNA of the girls. The police were disappointed.
The investigation was extended to find those who evaded the blood test. That’s how the police came looking for a twenty-seven-year-old named Colin Pitchfork.
Pitchfolk is a bakery worker and father of two children. Three years ago, he was interrogated for allegedly being found in the area when Linda died. The inquisitors were satisfied that he had gone down to look after his young son and released Pitchfolk. According to the records, although he had come for the blood test, it was indicated that someone else had impersonated him. A year after Don’s murder, in August 1987, a colleague of Pitchfork’s, Kelly, leaked valuable information to the police.
Kelly, who opened up to friends while drinking at a nearby pub, confessed that he had been at the lab instead of Pitchfork during the blood test. Pitchfolk’s request to help cover up a mistake made in his youth was obeyed. The fake document was created by changing the photo in the passport and pasting Kelly’s. Kelly’s words were that it was Pitchfolk who drove him to and from the school where the inspection was taking place. A man who overheard the confessional conversation told a police friend about it six weeks later. Kelly was arrested. The police questioned Kelly and soon arrested Pitchfork.
Pitchfolk admitted during interrogation that he had tortured and killed the two girls. Two other cases of sexual harassment were also disclosed. When asked why the torture was done, he said, ‘There was an opportunity. She was there at the time and so was I!’ was Pitchfolk’s reply.
A DNA test confirmed that Pitchfork was the killer. The court found that the defendant was a psychopath and a danger to society and sentenced Pitchfolk to life in prison.
This is the first case where DNA testing was used in a criminal investigation. DNA test not only brought the hidden criminal behind bars, but also saved the innocent who had to be punished for a crime he did not commit. Since then, millions of DNA tests have been conducted in many cases and incidents around the world.
Hiding for four and a half years, now caught
In February 2019, it was confirmed that the 11-year-old girl who disappeared 45 years ago in California was murdered and the accused was arrested. The accused was identified through DNA testing.
Linda Ann O’Keefe, a native of California, disappeared in 1973. Later, the body was found strangled to death.
The girl went missing while returning home from summer school. Some saw the child talking to a stranger who arrived in the van. But he could not be identified or found later.
The investigation focused on the DNA sample of the unidentified person collected from Linda’s body. Citizens provided DNA samples to the data bank to obtain information about their ancestors. The accused’s DNA was identified from the genealogy data released last January. The DNA obtained from Linda’s body was also compatible with the DNA of James Neil (72), a native of Colorado who was respected in the family and society. After a four-and-a-half-decade long investigation, Newport Beach police arrested Neal.
32 years in hiding, stuck in a napkin
It was in June 2018 that the suspect in the murder that took place 32 years ago was caught from a paper napkin thrown away after washing his hands in the hotel.
The incident took place in the US.
Gary Charles Hartman (67), who raped and killed twelve-year-old Michela in 1986, was caught after more than three decades through scientific research.
Michelle Welch was found dead on March 26, 1986. Michela had gone to play with her two sisters at the park in Tacoma that morning. At 11 o’clock she went to a nearby house on her bicycle to take lunch. At this time the sisters went to the washroom. When they came back, they did not see Chechi. But the children continued to play. After a while, the children saw Michela’s bicycle and lunch lying in the distance. Didn’t see Michela.
The children informed their mother. And to my mother. The family called the police when they realized that one of the children was missing. During the investigation, the dead body was found near the deserted cliff at night. The police confirmed that the child was tortured and killed. Despite searching for a long time, no information about the accused was found. A DNA profile was prepared, but it did not match the DNA samples in the police collection. The investigation continued years later. In 2016, he sought the help of a genetic genealogist. This expert conducted a study to see if the criminal’s DNA obtained from Michela’s body could be used to identify the family of the unknown criminal. The available DNA samples were tested for the same. At the end of this research, two possible culprits were identified. They were brothers. The police started watching them. When one of them went to the hotel, the police detective followed. After eating at the hotel, this detective secretly took the napkin that he used to wash his hands.
DNA was extracted from the sweat on the napkin. Lab tests showed that it matched the DNA recovered from Michelle’s body. When the police arrived with irrefutable scientific evidence, Gary Charles Hartman had no choice but to surrender.
DNA is not just a dummy, what is DNA?
DNA is the abbreviation of Deoxyribonucleic acid, the basic building block of living organisms. Every human’s DNA is different. It is science that no two people have the same DNA. A criminal’s DNA can be extracted from gloves, masks, hair, saliva, clothing, etc. recovered from the crime scene. Currently, fingerprints are considered as scientific evidence to confirm the culprit. Finding the fingerprints of a criminal from a crime scene can be difficult. With the advent of forensic labs, dummies were only in movies. DNA test information obtained from the hair fiber or cigarette butt at the crime scene often brings the suspect to the police. Ameerul Islam was implicated in the late Jisha murder case and Govindachami in the Soumya murder case through DNA tests. Mitochondrial DNA testing is the most scientific and accurate way to identify cremated corpses when they are exhumed and examined. The test was done by collecting samples from the bones in a criminal case where body cells have been lost due to old age. Of the six killed in Koodatai, the body tissues of four were not available. Only bones could be excavated. This is where mitochondrial DNA testing comes in handy.
Children can find connection through mother. The first step is to match DNA samples collected from bones with samples from living relatives.
In the Koodatai case, it is necessary to prove the relationship between Annamma and her children, who died 17 years ago. Other evidence in the murder case will be valid only if their relationship can be confirmed scientifically. The relationship between Annamma and her brother Mathew among those killed can be proved in this way.
Children of the same mother will all have the same mitochondrial DNA. This is how the biological existence of the six dead people can be discovered. But there is no correlation between the DNA test and the cyanide test, which is believed to be the cause of death. Recent criminal investigations have shown that it is possible to detect the presence of poisons that have thinned out due to age through very careful tests.
Final Updates The double child killer and rapist Colin Pitchfork has been arrested and recalled to prison two months after he was released, the Ministry of Justice has said. It is understood he was returned to custody on Friday over a breach of his licence conditions – which he had agreed to observe on his release – and his rerelease will be a matter for the Parole Board. It is understood his behaviour was a cause for concern for probation officers who were monitoring him under a strict regime. Pitchfork, now in his early 60s, was the first man convicted of murder on the basis of DNA evidence in 1988 when he confessed to the rape and murder of two schoolgirls. He received a life sentence for raping and killing Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth, both 15, in Leicestershire in 1983 and 1986. A Probation Service spokesperson said: “Protecting the public is our No 1 priority so when offenders breach the conditions of their release and potentially pose an increased risk, we don’t hesitate to return them to custody.” There was an outcry when Pitchfork was released from prison in September following an unsuccessful campaign to keep him behind bars. It is understood the breach of his licence conditions did not involve a fresh criminal act and nor did it require police to become involved, other than to arrest him so he could be returned to prison. Officials declined to say what the concerning behaviour was and it is understood the families of his victims were being contacted to be briefed. Typical licence conditions for a serious offender such as Pitchfork include regular reporting to police and probation, restrictions on where they can go and declaring all electronic devices in their possession. At the time of his release, Dawn’s mother, Barbara Ashworth, spoke out against the decision to free him, saying: “Life should have meant life.” On Friday, she told the PA Media news agency: “I’m pleased that he’s been put away and women and girls are safe and protected from him now. It’s a safer place when he’s behind bars and I won’t have to worry about other people being hurt by him for the time being. But there’s always the worry that he might get out again, he seems to have a lot of people on his side who give him the benefit of the doubt. But for now, I have to be pleased about the news.” Pitchfork was caught after the world’s first mass screening for DNA, when 5,000 men in three villages were asked to volunteer blood or saliva samples, although he initially evaded justice by getting a colleague to take the test for him. The Parole Board ruled he was “suitable for release” at a hearing in March despite this being denied in 2016 and 2018. He was placed on the sex offender register and was subject to other licence conditions. In July the Parole Board rejected calls from the government to reconsider the decision. Robert Buckland, the then justice secretary, had formally asked it to reconsider the move on the grounds there was an arguable case the decision was “irrational”. The government plans to overhaul the parole system, with the findings of a review expected later this year. It has also sought to change legislation so child killers face life behind bars without parole.