Cat DNA database used to convict killer
NewsThursday 15 August 2013
The first database of cat DNA in the UK is set to be published and enhanced so that it can be used in future crime investigations. This move came after cat hairs helped lead to the conviction of David Hilder for the manslaughter of David Guy.
Cat hairs were found on a curtain that was wrapped around the dismembered torso of Mr Guy, which was discovered on Southsea beach last July.
The DNA database then helped convict the cat’s owner - Hilder.
The database was created by the University of Leicester for the police investigation into the death of Mr Guy, which was the first time cat DNA had been used in a criminal trial in the UK.
It has, however, previously been used in the US and Canada.
Dr Jon Wetton led the project. He told the BBC: "Any cat owner will know that cat hairs get absolutely everywhere.
"This could be a real boon for forensic science, as the 10 million cats in the UK are unwittingly tagging the clothes and furnishings in more than a quarter of households."
There is even talks of the cat DNA database being used for cold cases as well as future investigations.
It will be published in a paper in a forensic science journal, late this year or early next year.
Dr Wetton has also said that the database could be enhanced in future to make it more "discriminatory".
PhD student Barbara Ottoloni, did the lab work for the database. She also spoke to the BBC and said: "The police were lucky in this case, as most mitochondrial types are common when tested with the technique we used here.
"We would like to use cutting-edge DNA sequencing methods to identify further variation in cat mitochondrial DNA to maximise the discriminating power of the evidence."
Prof Mark Jobling, who leads the lab where the cat database work was done, said: "The current database size is adequate to give a general view of UK cat DNA diversity, but more is always better.
"If more samples were needed, we'd approach the company that carries out veterinary testing on cat blood samples, which processes many cat samples every week."