Thursday 27 October 2016

DNA technicians link burglar to 14 crime scenes

Wednesday 16 December 2015. Forensic Lab, Garda HQ, Phoenix Park. Conor Feehan talks to Dr. Sheila Willis. DNA Swab pack for Gardaí.
Wednesday 16 December 2015. Forensic Lab, Garda HQ, Phoenix Park. Conor Feehan talks to Dr. Sheila Willis. DNA Swab pack for Gardaí.

A single burglar has been linked to 14 different crime scenes over a five-year period thanks to the new DNA Database.

The powerful tool in the battle against crime has also linked a man suspected of theft at a building site with an alleged rape at a later date.

Massive advances in how evidence can be collected at crime scenes, combined with the DNA Database, mean suspects are being linked to several crime scenes in a way that has never happened before.

Technicians at Forensic Science Ireland (FSI), which was previously known as the Forensic Science Laboratory, can now extract DNA from blood, semen, saliva, sweat and even areas where skin has touched a surface, and they need only a microscopic amount of material to identify a profile.

It means gardai can collect evidence from surfaces at crime scenes and from cigarette butts, drink cans and clothing and send them to Garda HQ in the Phoenix Park where they are profiled and the information stored in the database.

With a few taps on a keyboard, the software can check one sample against the entire database to see if it is linked to other samples from different locations.

"The database only went live on November 20 and already we have identified crime clusters," said FSI's Dr Dyan Daly.

"It is extremely satisfying when you see the links forming between information from one crime scene and others, and that chain of information can help investigators narrow down a list of suspects from the details of the combined crimes.


"If someone is arrested as a suspect, the gardai take a DNA sample from that person and if it matches with what is on the database then they can begin building a case."

The technology uses 17 areas of comparison on a person's DNA profile when comparing samples.

This means that the chances of a DNA profile being shared by somebody else is around one in a billion, which is strong enough evidence in any court.

More than 1,600 DNA profiles from crime scenes have been uploaded to the database, and samples from two dozen people have been inputed which can be used to cross-reference against other samples.

The database will come into its own as more and more samples are added.

"It is already paying dividends in recognising clusters, and a number of serious crimes have been linked," said Dr Daly.

"The database will become increasingly important as more and more samples are added to it, and will greatly improve the efficiency of garda investigations."

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