The first case solved using DNA fingerprinting contains more twists than an average Hollywood thriller.
In 1983, 15-year old Lynda Mann was raped and murdered in the Narborough area near Leicester, in England.
The forensic experts called to examine the evidence could reveal only that the murderer had type A blood and
a somewhat rare combination of enzymes, but these informations were not enough to point to anybody - more than 10%
of the adult male population matched that profile.
Without other leads, the case was sadly destined to remain unsolved.
Three years later there was an identical crime in the area - the police found the body of Dawn Ashworth, also 15. She
had been sexually assaulted and strangled. The semen samples pointed to the same blood type as in the Lynda case,
so the investigators were sure that the assailant was the same.
This time they focused on a local boy, Richard Buckland;
after a long questioning he confessed the homicide of Dawn, but denied any involvement with the murder of Lynda.
The investigators wanted to close that case too, so they decided to contact Dr. Alec Jeffreys
at nearby Leicester University, who had been in the news lately - he had discovered a new technique for tracking down
genetic diseases. The technique was called RFLP, and one of its side effects was that it could be used to match
a man to his DNA with great accuracy.
He agreed to help the police, and they sent him DNA samples from
the two murder cases and from Buckland. Dr. Jeffreys was able to confirm that the two girls had indeed been murdered by the
same man, but that man wasn't Buckland.
Richard Buckland has the dubious honour of being the first person in the
word to be acquitted thanks to DNA fingerprinting - given the evidence and the confession, he would have certainly been
convicted a decade earlier.
Back to square one, the police tried a stunt that would have been impossible in the States: they asked every male resident
of the area to provide a blood or saliva sample, to be eliminated from the list of the suspects.
5000 men - all the residents in the presumed age bracket of the murder - "volunteered" to be tested.
They were considered guilty until they proved their innocence.
The mass screening took six months to complete, and in the end - nothing come out. The DNA fingerprinting excluded all
those who had been tested. The "unsolved cases" cabinet opened once again.
The investigators finally got their lucky break a year later, when a woman overheard a conversation by a Mr. Ian Kelly.
Kelly had apparently helped a local baker who didn't want to be tested, giving a blood sample in his name.
The baker was arrested and tested, and his DNA profile matched the samples taken from both victims. He has been sentenced
to life imprisonment - and he is the first person to be convicted thanks to DNA fingerprinting.
The name of the devilish murderer was Colin Pitchfork. Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony.