Could a new Leicester innovation spell the end of the 'cat' burglar?
Criminals around the UK may have to say goodbye to their beloved cats.
A new cat DNA database developed by Leicester genetics experts means cats can now provide forensic evidence to help put their masters behind bars.
Dr Jon Wetton, of the University’s Department of Genetics, has led a project to compile a database of DNA from 152 cats around the country.
The database was used to help show that cat hairs found on the body of Hampshire man David Guy were likely to belong to “Tinker” - a cat owned by main suspect David Hilder.
This evidence was used as part of the prosecution case leading to the successful conviction of Hilder for manslaughter last week.
After a USA lab helped show there was a mitochondrial DNA match between the cat hairs found on David Guy’s torso and “Tinker”, Hampshire Police approached Dr Wetton to show how rare the DNA type was in the UK.
Dr Wetton had created a similar database of UK dogs while working with the Forensic Science Service (FSS) – making him an ideal person to help Hampshire Police in their investigations.
With PhD student Barbara Ottolini carrying out the lab work, 152 cats from England were tested, within an impressively short timescale.
The team were able to get the samples from a company, which handles analysis of blood samples from pets for vets across the country.
The samples showed cats’ ages, gender and postcode – with 23 cats from Southsea and another 129 from a range of places throughout the rest of the country.
Only three of the samples obtained matched the hairs from the crime scene, confirming that it was indeed an uncommon type in the UK.
This evidence was presented at Winchester Crown Court, and formed part of the prosecution case successfully convicting David Hilder for manslaughter last week.
The team now hopes to publish the database so it can be used in future crime investigations - so criminals may want to swap their pet moggies for hamsters.