Bloody towel leads to thief's capture after 1 year

DNA taken from a towel recently matched with suspect's DNA, leading to his arrest.

By
January 24, 2012 20:36
2 minute read.
Scientists in a laboratory

DNA laboratory 311. (photo credit: iStockphoto)

 
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A bloody towel that a Beersheba thief left behind over a year ago led to his eventual arrest this week, police said on Tuesday.

DNA taken from the towel was recently matched with the suspect’s DNA in the police’s central database, leading to the arrest, Negev police spokesman Tamair Avtari said.

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“Even if a long time passes after an offense, the police’s growing technological abilities mean old crimes can now be solved,” he said.

The investigation began in 2010, when a home burglary was reported to Beersheba police. A crime scene investigator was sent to the apartment, in accordance with standard procedure, to determine how the offense was committed and collect any forensic evidence, such as fibers, fingerprints, footprints and DNA samples.

CSI officer F.-Sgt. Shmuel Avraham deduced that the thief injured himself during the break-in and used a towel to wipe off blood.

The towel was taken to national police headquarters in Jerusalem for DNA analysis.

The police recently compared the sample to the DNA of a 47-year-old Beersheba man suspected of breaking-and-entering, and a positive match was identified.

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The suspect was arrested and informed of the DNA match during questioning by detectives.

He subsequently confessed to the theft and police say he will be charged in the coming days.

His DNA was added to the database at the end of 2011. “Our central database is growing all the time,” Avtari noted.

Prof. Ariel Darvasi of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Department of Genetics is working on a groundbreaking technique that will enable police to separate out multiple DNA remnants left by more than one person at a crime scene.

“The size of the database is what’s important.

Sometimes a suspect [is entered into] the database after committing a crime because of another incident,” he said. “It’s definitely a good tool, and its use will only grow.”

Darvasi, who is currently working with the largest forensic laboratory in the US, said the new technique offers much promise, despite a growing public debate on privacy issues surrounding DNA databases.

“There is a fear over privacy. I think it’s important to think about the issue, but I’d be willing to sacrifice some privacy if it prevents a murderer from wandering around freely and posing a threat to safety,” he said.

“No method is foolproof, but when you balance the advantages [against] the danger, it’s definitely in our interest to have a DNA database,” Darvasi added.

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