News Irish News

Thursday 23 November 2017

DNA database: Cases include girl (15) who 'was sexually assaulted after going missing while out with friends'

Dr.Sheila Willis Director General of Forensic Science Ireland at their offices in the Phoenix Park. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Dr.Sheila Willis Director General of Forensic Science Ireland at their offices in the Phoenix Park. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

One out of every five crime scene samples has been linked to an individual since the DNA database came into operation a year and a half ago.

Forensic Science Ireland (FSI) said it achieved 428 “hits” in 2016, which assisted in the investigation of 625 cases.

Swab team: A technician at Forensic Science Ireland examines a crime scene sample; and inset, Dr Geraldine O'Donnell, director of DNA at FSI. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Swab team: A technician at Forensic Science Ireland examines a crime scene sample; and inset, Dr Geraldine O'Donnell, director of DNA at FSI. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

These matches led to 385 people being linked to specific offences or multiple crimes.

The cases included two murders, five sexual assaults, 295 burglaries, 42 robberies and thefts and 57 cases of criminal damage, according to the FSI annual report for 2016, which was published today.

The report said DNA profiling played an extensive role in assisting investigations into gangland crime in the second half of last year.

FSI diverted significant resources into assisting the investigation of murders in the Kinahan-Hutch feud in the aftermath of the Regency Hotel attack in February last year.

Dr.Geraldine O’Donnell Director of DNA at Forensic Science Ireland at their offices in the Phoenix Park. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Dr.Geraldine O’Donnell Director of DNA at Forensic Science Ireland at their offices in the Phoenix Park. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

This work has involved obtaining DNA profiles from weapons, clothing and items relating to gangland activities, analysing large seizures of drugs, and analysing clothing and items for firearm residue.

FSI director Sheila Willis said: “The database really is providing itself to be a very valuable crime intelligence tool.”

Dr Willis warned forensic scientists were seeing that many new synthetic drugs are becoming a feature of the Irish drugs scene. In total some 27 new synthetic recreational drugs were discovered last year.

In some cases the drugs were 100 times more toxic than other similar drugs.

Despite the rise in synthetic drugs, traditional street drugs remained the most common encountered by FSI. These include cannabis, cocaine, heroin, benzodiazepines and ecstasy.

The report said 9,048 DNA profiles were uploaded onto the database by the end of 2016.

Profiles are currently being uploaded at a rate of almost 1,000 a month;

The report detailed several cases where DNA profiling helped gardai investigate serious crime.

These included the case of a 15-year-old girl who gardaí fear was sexually assaulted after going missing while out socialising with friends.

A semen sample taken from the girl’s body was entered onto the database when it commenced operation in November 2015.

Three months later a suspect was identified after a match was found with DNA taken from a man who had been detained for traffic offences.

DNA testing was used to identify Kenneth O’Brien, the man whose torso was found in a suitcase at the Grand Canal near Celbridge, Co Kildare in January last year.

It was also used to identify other body parts found in bags.

A suspect has been charged with his murder and is due to go on trial later this year.

The report outlined the difficulties encountered by scientists in identifying certain types of synthetic drugs.

It detailed the case of a house party in Cork after which a young man, student Alex Ryan (18), died.

Gardaí arrived at the house to find a number of young people heavily intoxicated, partially clothed and dancing on broken glass.

Initial media reports indicated that the party goers had consumed a designer drug called 2CB. But FSI identified the drug as N-Bomb, a highly toxic hallucinogenic drug.

This drug had rarely been seen in Ireland and was most commonly presented as blotter paper soaked in the drug. It was consumed as a white powder on this occasion.

As the partygoers thought they were taking a different drug, the amount of white powder consumed turned out to be highly toxic.

They ended up taking a hundred times the normal dose.

The report said this case highlighted analytical challenges encountered by FSI when dealing with newly synthesised drugs where there is no reference material available to assist in identification.

The report also outlined how FSI did a major analysis of the purity of drugs seized in Ireland.

It found large cocaine seizures typically had a purity of 40pc, which is consistent with other European countries.

Among the compounds found present in cocaine were levamisole, a drug used by vets to treat parasitic worms, benzocaine and lignocaine, local anaesthetics used by dentists, and phenacetin, which is a painkiller banned in a number of countries.

Bulk heroin was approximately 33pc pure. They found heroin also contained different combinations of phenacetin, paracetamol and caffeine, amongst other substances.

Online Editors

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News