Front Page







World News in Audio

On Air


Talking Point


Low Graphics


Site Map

Tuesday, March 10, 1998 Published at 13:11 GMT


DNA 'photofit' closes in on crooks
image: [ Police want to use the information carried by DNA to build a photofit of a suspect ]
Police want to use the information carried by DNA to build a photofit of a suspect

Forensic scientists could soon produce a more detailed portrait of a suspect from a microscopic strand of hair or drop of blood left at a crime scene.

Research into DNA has already developed techniques to predict physical characteristics of an offender including sex, ethnic origin and hair colour.

In the future, experts hope to be able to identify other characteristics such as eye colour, facial features and height.

DNA is a nucleic acid that makes up the greatest part of the chromosomes of almost all organisms. It is responsible for passing on hereditary characteristics from parents to offspring.

[ image: It may soon be possible to convict on the evidence of one cell]
It may soon be possible to convict on the evidence of one cell
The West Midlands Police working with the Forensic Science Service are pioneering new techniques for using DNA to identify individuals, and the results of the research are due to be released in the next three months.

Detective Inspector Richard Leary said: "This technique will give police vital information about the person responsible for the crime from part of their genetic identity - a genetic fingerprint - which they leave behind at the scene of a crime.

"DNA gives people a genetic identity which is unique to them. Samples taken from the scene of a crime can be fed into the national DNA database, and by using computer software we can predict part of the offender's genetic make-up.

"The future of investigation, and particularly identification, is very exciting indeed."

The latest research is also focusing on the development of super-sensitive systems to recover the smallest possible amount of material from a scene for use in DNA profiling to identify the suspect.

Det Insp Leary added: "Criminals cannot help but leave a part of themselves at the scene of a crime, although it may be a very small part indeed.

"We want to develop systems to help recover these amounts of microscopic material for use in DNA profiling. The research undertaken to date has shown that this is possible, even down to the recovery and profiling of a single cell."

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage


Link to BBC Homepage

[an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive]
  Relevant Stories

21 Feb 98 | World
British burglar jailed on `earsay'

02 Dec 97 | UK
DNA testing draws a blank in murder inquiry

  Internet Links

The Forensic Science Service

The Forensic Science Agency of Northern Ireland

West Midlands Police

The Forensic Science Society

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.