, 2022-08-04 04:49:38,
olice are exploring a DNA technique which is credited with cracking scores of unsolved murders in the US, the Standard can reveal.
Scotland Yard said it is leading a pilot on behalf of national policing into investigative genetic genealogy, which compares the DNA of an unknown suspect or unidentified victim with samples uploaded by the public onto a genetic genealogy database for likely relatives. It allows genealogists to place relatives into clusters of family trees and work backwards to identify them.
It could be more effective than the gene-tracing techniques used with the national DNA database as it can trace a potential suspect from more distant relatives.
It could lead to genealogy sites being asked to open up their databases to investigating officers. The technique could uncover a person’s family tree if someone as distant as a third cousin uploaded their DNA onto a database. At present, the UK’s database used by police is only searched for close possible relatives such as parents, children or siblings to match a suspect’s DNA.
The genetic genealogy database is credited with solving the Golden State serial killer case in California in 2018 among other high-profile examples in the US.
Joseph DeAngelo was convicted of at least 13 murders and admitted dozens of rapes in the Golden State case after about 20 people were identified as third or fourth cousins to the perpetrator through the technique.
Deputy chief constable Ben Snuggs said: “Matching DNA to relatives, investigative genetic genealogy can lead to the identification of a perpetrator.”
He said that a working group had been established to “explore the practical and ethical implications of genetic genealogy and assess the potential of this technique for policing”. However, he said no decisions had yet been taken.
Debbie Kennett, an honorary research associate at UCL, said there were fewer cases where it would be used in the UK because of the numbers already on the national DNA database and fewer unsolved cases.
But she added: “Even if it was used on those small number of cases, they could potentially be solved.”
The project comes after a Government paper in 2020, which warned of potential privacy concerns.
The Home Office-commissioned report advised that “unregulated” practice of genetic genealogy database should only be used if necessary and when other methods have been exhausted, and once approved “by the appropriate body”.
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