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Thursday, 6 December, 2001, 23:23 GMT
DNA doubts over Boston Strangler
Albert DeSalvo (centre) and police
Relatives say DeSalvo may have confessed for money
A forensic investigation has cast doubts over whether the man who confessed to being the Boston Strangler actually was the infamous 1960s serial killer, and raised the possibility that the real murderer could still at large.

DNA evidence found on one of the 11 women killed by the Boston Strangler does not match that of Albert DeSalvo, who had confessed to murdering the women between 1962 and 1964.

James Starrs, professor of forensic science at George Washington University, told a news conference that DNA evidence could not associate DeSalvo with the murder of 19-year-old Mary Sullivan - believed to be the Boston Strangler's last victim.

DeSalvo said he was the killer while serving a life sentence on unrelated crimes. He later recanted, but was knifed to death in 1973 before any charges could be brought.

Sullivan's body was exhumed last year and DeSalvo's a few weeks ago as part of the efforts by both their families to find out who was responsible for the murders.

The women were all sexually assaulted before being strangled.

Professor Starrs said an examination of a semen-like substance on her body did not match DeSalvo's DNA.

"I'm not saying it exonerates Albert DeSalvo but it's strongly indicative of the fact that he was not the rape-murderer of Mary Sullivan," Professor Starrs said.

Mary Sullivan's nephew, Casey Sherman, asked Professor Starrs to investigate the case, after learning of his involvement in other high-profile identification cases like the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, and the outlaw Jesse James.

"If DeSalvo didn't kill Mary Sullivan, which he confessed to, he didn't kill any of these women. And the real killers of these women...are still out there and they need to be brought to justice, " Mr Sherman said.

The latest development may force the police to reopen one of America's grizzliest crime chapters.

The killer of DeSalvo himself was never caught, and the official aim of the new investigation is to uncover the murderer's identity.

But DeSalvo's relatives hope the tests will also clear him of the serial murders.

Boston skyline
The strangler brought terror to Boston

Money motive

The DeSalvo and Sullivan families believe DeSalvo confessed to the crimes in the hope of securing lucrative book and film deals.

Dan Sharp, the lawyer representing the DeSalvo family, has pointed to large discrepancies between every DeSalvo confession and every crime scene.

Last year, the Massachusetts Attorney-General reopened the investigation into the case.

But the two families have accused the department of stalling in order to avoid examination of how prosecutors came to accept DeSalvo's confession in the first place.

See also:

14 Sep 00 | Americas
Bid to clear the 'Boston Strangler'
30 Oct 99 | World
World's worst killers
18 Nov 99 | Americas
Police baffled by Texas I-45 murders
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