There has been quite a bit of adverse publicity recently surrounding the reliability of forensic science, including DNA (consider: the US review of forensic science; the use, or not, of LCN DNA in the UK; the execution of a Texas man for a murder for which he was later found not to be guilty) this is a nice example of how cold case review can be successful. It also gives a hint of the number of people on the UK DNA database and the number of people who are on the database but do not have a criminal conviction. The second article describes how DNA can be extracted from exhumed remains in order to obtain a sample for analysis.
“Evidence from murderer’s body were the key
A full crime scene DNA profile of the 22-year-old Teresa’s murder in a pub car park was developed as part of a case review. Experts at the Forensic Science Service were able to test samples taken from killer David Lace’s body after it was dramatically exhumed from Kingston Cemetery in New Road, Copnor, last month. The News understands the rigorous scientific tests involved the grim process of taking samples of bone or teeth from Lace’s remains, sanding or airblasting them to remove any contamination and then painstakingly extracting the DNA to enable a profile to be created. Lace’s profile was checked against samples taken from the original crime scene at the rear of the Tom Tackle pub in Commercial Road, Southampton. Results showed there is a one-in-a-billion chance of Lace not being responsible for her death. The profile also matched that of Lace’s sister held on the National DNA Database.
Detective Chief Inspector Phil McTavish, who lead the fresh investigation, said: ‘At the time (of the murder], all detectives had to go on was blood groups. ‘Now we had the DNA profile, we could start the elimination process in line with the background research of the case papers we were reviewing at the same time. ‘The Forensic Science Service looked across the DNA database to find a match. The database threw up 30,000 results. A lot of people on the DNA database don’t have criminal records. It was a process where we used some focussed research to focus on the most likely matches. We found a match with a sibling, a sister of his. Combined with the evidence gathered on the case papers, we sought approval from the Ministry of Justice to exhume David Lace’s grave.’
Hampshire Constabulary is ‘fully satisfied’ that the person exhumed from Kingston Cemetery was David Lace and that his DNA profile is a complete match for that of the suspect. DCI McTavish said: ‘A match probability of one-in-one-billion has been given which basically means that the chances of obtaining a similar match from a person selected at random is of the order of one-in-one-billion. He added: ‘The DNA result together with a full file of evidence has been submitted to Mr Alistair Nisbet of the Crown Prosecution Service for review and it has been determined that, had David Lace been alive today then there is a realistic prospect that a jury would properly conclude that he raped and murdered Teresa de Simone on December 5, 1979. ‘Accordingly, if he was alive, Mr Nisbet would authorise that David Lace would be charged and prosecution commenced. As a consequence of this decision and, taken together with the outcome of the extensive investigations we have undertaken, we are satisfied that we have identified the man responsible for the murder and rape of Teresa de Simone and we are not seeking any other person in relation to this case. Additionally, we are not currently linking David Lace to any other undetected serious crime.”
Science behind the revelations