Saturday 18 November 2017

Suspect in child sex case found by DNA sample from traffic stop

FSI director Sheila Willis
FSI director Sheila Willis
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

A suspect in the sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl was identified after his DNA was taken when he was arrested for a traffic offence.

The breakthrough in the case was revealed in a report by Forensic Science Ireland (FSI), which detailed several examples of how the DNA database introduced 18 months ago is helping solve crimes.

The girl went missing in November 2014 while socialising with friends. She underwent a medical examination after she was found and traces of semen were discovered.

The DNA profile from the semen was unknown at the time. But it was entered into the DNA database when it became operational in November 2015, and three months later investigators got a match after a swab was taken from a man who had been detained for a traffic offence.

In a separate case, gardaí were able to identify a suspect in the armed burglary of the home of an 80-year-old in June of last year after a blue latex glove was left at the scene.

Gardaí had no suspect for the burglary until a DNA sample taken from the glove was matched with a sample given by a man who was arrested two months earlier for a public order offence.

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

Read more: CSI Baile Atha Cliath: Inside Ireland's first DNA database

Details of the cases were revealed in FSI's annual report for 2016. It said one out of every five crime scene samples taken had been linked to an individual since the DNA database became operational.

FSI said it achieved 428 hits in 2016, which helped in the investigation of 625 cases.

These matches led to 385 people being linked to specific offences. Some 77 of the matches related to multiple crimes. The cases included two murders, five sexual assaults, 295 burglaries, 42 robberies and thefts and 57 cases of criminal damage.

"The database is proving itself to be a very valuable tool," said FSI director Sheila Willis.

Some 9,048 DNA profiles were uploaded on to the database by the end of 2016. Profiles are currently being uploaded at a rate of almost 1,000 a month.

The report said DNA profiling played an extensive role in helping investigations into gangland crime in the second half of last year. FSI has been deeply involved in the investigation of murders in the Kinahan-Hutch feud gangland feud.

The work has included taking DNA and firearms residue from weapons and clothing.

Dr Willis said forensic scientists were also seeing many new synthetic drugs emerging on to the Irish drugs scene. Some 27 new synthetic recreational drugs were encountered last year. In some cases the drugs were 100 times more toxic than similar drugs.

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

One particular case involved a house party in Cork after which 18-year-old Alex Ryan died. Gardaí arrived at the house to find a number of young people heavily intoxicated, partially clothed and dancing on broken glass.

Initial reports indicated partygoers had consumed a designer drug called 2CB. However, FSI identified the drug as N-Bomb, a highly toxic hallucinogenic rarely seen in Ireland.

As the partygoers thought they were taking a different drug, they ended up taking a hundred times the normal dose.

Irish Independent

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