Got some murderous impulses? Then you might do well to invest in a good lint roller.
Scientists in the UK recently used a cat DNA database to identify cat hair found on the corpse of David Guy. His dismembered body was found stuffed into a bag on a beach last year.
Hampshire police worked hard to match the cat hair found around Guy’s body with suspect David Hilder’s cat.
There was one problem. The DNA drawn from the cat was mitochondrial DNA, a type that lots of cats share.
Jon Wetton, a geneticist with the University of Leicester explained, “Within each cat hair are two types of DNA, individual-specific ‘nuclear DNA,’ detectable in the roots of some larger hairs, and ‘mitochondrial DNA’ which is shared by all maternally-related individuals and can be found even in the finest hair shafts.”
“Hampshire police wanted to know the evidential strength of the match,” Wetton told the Daily Mail. “I explained that could only be determined with reference to a database of UK cats — which did not exist at the time.”
So Wetton worked with doctoral student Barbara Ottolini to collect DNA from 152 cats across the UK. They examined them and compared their DNA against that found on the body. They found only three samples that matched the DNA of the alleged killer’s cat, Tinker. While not a perfect match, it still suggested that hairs found around Guy’s body likely came from Hilder’s cat.
Hilder was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.