BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: UK: Wales  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
England
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales
Politics
Education
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Monday, 4 November, 2002, 12:42 GMT
Genetic test that solved riddle
dna close-up
DNA profiling is now an essential police tool
A routine DNA testing programme carried out on prison inmates solved a murder inquiry that had kept police guessing for more than a decade.

Detectives took DNA samples from 5,000 men, in one of the most extensive screening programmes ever undertaken by a British police force.

Geraldine Palk
Geraldine Palk had been out with friends

But it was not until 2001 that DNA evidence would provide the key to the murder puzzle.

Random DNA tests on inmates at Dartmoor Prison led them to Hampson, who was coming to the end of a four-year sentence for assault.

He taken to Fairwater police station for questioning, and was eventually charged with her murder.

Despite the mass DNA swabbing exercise carried out in Cardiff during the decade after Ms Palk's death, Hampson slipped through the net and was never tested.

Samples

But forensic science advanced a tremendous amount in the years that followed.

At the time of her murder, scientists would have needed a sample of blood or semen the size of a 5p piece before being able to draw any definite conclusions.

These days, a single skin flake, piece of dandruff, or dab of saliva, is all that is needed to produce dependable results.

Minute traces found on the rims of cups, cigarette ends, or underwear, can provide vital clues.

5,000 people provided blood tests
5,000 people provided blood tests

Estimates suggest there are as many 600 people in the UK who have committed murder but escaped detection.

But, with smarter techniques being developed all the time, the guilty have a much slimmer chance of staying free - even if they committed crimes decades ago.

And, at the national database in Birmingham - the first DNA library of its kind in the world when it opened in 1995 - sophisticated new methods are being developed which could cut down the time detectives have to wait for the outcome of a test.

One technique can already identify the colour of a suspect's hair, and experts hope that skin colour and facial characteristics - like nose, ear, and chin size - will soon be detectable.

Geraldine Palk murder graphic

Stories

Background
Internet links:


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

Links to more Wales stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Wales stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes