No humans are exactly alike, and the DNAs are what constructs humans to be genetically unique. Using an extraordinary finding about DNA fingerprinting, a murderer of two 15-year-old in Leicestershire was successfully convicted. On November 21, 1983, Lynda Mann left her house to babysit for a lady down the road. While walking back home on a path called the Black Pad, Lynda was raped and strangled by a man. Her body was found the next morning. The story of Lynda Mann was discussed everywhere near the area and the people in the village were living in fear because the murderer was not found for quite a while. They suspected a man named Colin Pitchfork, a baker with 2 sons, but when asked about what he was doing on the night Lynda Mann disappeared, he answered that he was babysitting his child in his home. The case went cold.
On July 31, 1986, another girl named Dawn Ashworth did not return home after taking a shortcut home. After two days, her body was found in a path called Ten Pound Lane. It was found out that she was raped, beaten and strangled. The two murders appeared to be done by the same person and the people believed now that the murderer was local. Richard Buckland, a 17-year-old boy with learning disabilities has been going around the murder scene of Dawn, telling people and the police that they were looking in a wrong spot. He was a local, working in a Carlton Hayes psychiatric hospital. He did not give a definite answer on what he was doing the night when Dawn went missing and so the police arrested him. After questioning, he admitted to the crime involving Dawn Ashworth but denied the murder of Lynda Mann. Thanks to the DNA profiling, it was found out that Richard Buckland was not the killer and Colin Pitchfork was arrested for the murders.
This case is interesting because it is the first case where DNA fingerprinting was used to release and convict a person. Even though the village people had skepticism towards the new method of identifying a person, they all agreed to participate and that is how they could connect Colin Pitchfork with the murders. Now, DNA testing is used all around the world and is considered one of the most efficient way to identify a criminal.
From Lynda Mann’s body, the police found and linked a semen sample to a person with a type A blood. They also found an enzyme profile that matched only 10 percent of males. No other evidence was found. Then, from Dawn Ashworth’s body, they found a semen sample that revealed the same blood type. However, the prime suspect, Richard Buckland, continued to admit to the murder of Dawn but deny the murder of Lynda. The police were sure that those two murders were committed by the same person because the modus operandi of the second murder matched that of the first. Modus operandi, which translate to modes of operation, is someone’s habit of working usually regarding business or crime.
When the police felt that they needed extra help in discovering the murderer, they contacted Sir Alec Jeffrey, a researcher and a scientist at the university of Leicester. He discovered that human DNA produces a constant but unique patterns that can be used to identify one person and find out relationships between family members (Jeffreys, Thein, Wilson, 1985, p. 76). The first method used for DNA profiling involved RFLP analysis. A sample such as blood or semen is cut into small pieces by restriction enzyme. This produces thousands of DNA fragments of different sizes. Then, the fragments are sorted out by size by gel electrophoresis. After this, the fragments are transferred on to the nylon membrane. The process is called Southern blot. A radioactive DNA probe is added where it binds to specific fragments. Lastly, X-ray film is placed to detect the radioactive pattern. Using this method, he compared the semen sample collected from both victim, Lynda and Dawn, and found out that the murder was indeed committed by the same person. However, the prime suspect’s DNA did not match the DNA of the semen sample. The police had to let Richard Buckland go.
To find the murderer, the police went on a “man hunt” and asked all the male in the village from ages 18-34 to voluntarily take a blood test so they could compare their DNA with the killer’s DNA. It was solely for elimination purposes. The “man hunt” was a slow process and the operation was massive. Just when the police were losing hope, everything turned around one day. On August 1, 1987, Ian Kelly, one of Colin Pitchfork’s, the man that was questioned for Lynda Mann few years back, fellow worker at the bakery, told his colleagues in a Leicester pub that he has gone to do the blood test instead of Pitchfork because he has asked him to. Pitchforks excuse was that he had already given his blood pretending to be a friend who wanted to avoid being questioned about a youthful conviction for burglary. A woman overheard what Ian Kelly said and called the police to report it. On September 19, 1987, Pitchfork was arrested. His blood and saliva matched the semen samples taken from the scene of two crimes (Ottawa, Ont, 1988). This could be seen from the pattern of the DNA. When the x-ray of both sampled are placed beside each other, you could see that the pattern of 2 bands were the same or similar in location. He eventually admitted to the murders and was sentenced to life imprisonment.
The impacts that this crime had to the society is the fact that young women feel more vulnerable no matter where they are. They have to live in constant fear that they might be a victim of a rape or murder just because they were “simply there” (Siddle, 2015). Lynda Mann’s sister, Rebecca Eastwood has set up an online petition against releasing Pitchfork and it has passed 4,000 signatures. She fears that “If released he will kill again and he will always be danger to the public” (Siddle, 2015). The fact that he doesn’t have to wait for girls to hunt anymore but simply go online and find girls on social media websites scares many people that he would commit the same crime but through an easier way. Rebecca has said that Pitchfork has effected her family, especially her mom. she has been strong and tough through out the years knowing that he is in prison. She does not know how her mom would carry on if he is released. This case forces law enforcements and government to prioritize security at night in pathways and roads. The government also has to make sure that young children are not walking by themselves late at night because they could get themselves in danger. This case has also proven that DNA fingerprinting is an efficient way to identify a person through blood, saliva, semen and so on. The people, who were not really sure if this method would work, were reassured after Colin Pitchfork was arrested that this way of testing worked and that this finding is revolutionary to forensic science.
Colin Pitchfork was sentenced to a minimum term of 30 years. However, in 2009, Pitchfork’s sentence was reduced to 28 years.
Man nabbed by genetic ‘fingerprints’ gets life. (1988, Jan 23). The Ottawa Citizen Retrieved from http://ezproxy.library.yorku.ca/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/239145129?accountid=15182
Colin Pitchfork: ‘DNA evidence snared child rapist who killed my sister – please do not let him go free’; Colin Pitchfork was the first criminal in the world to be convicted on DNA evidence and was jailed for life in 1988 for killing two schoolgirls.(2015, May 5) Irishmirror.ie, Retrieved from www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/lnacademic
Butler, J. M. (2010). Fundamentals of Forensic DNA Typing. London: Academic Press.
Peter Cheney, T. S. (1991, Oct 05). GENETIC FINGERPRINTING legal breakthrough inexact science? Toronto Star Retrieved from http://ezproxy.library.yorku.ca/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/436502141?accountid=15182
Baird, R. [Ronald Baird]. (2016, August 11). True crime stories about Colin Pitchfork Code of a Killer. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deoZEm1e8TI&t=27s.
Jeffreys, A. J., Wilson, V., and Thein, S. L. (1985a). Individual-specific “fingerprints” of human DNA. Nature 316: 76-79.