LONDON — A newly created DNA database of British cats has helped convict a killer, a British university said Wednesday, illustrating how even pets' genetic material can be a boon to forensic scientists.
The University of Leicester says its catalog of feline DNA buttressed the prosecution case against David Hilder, who was convicted of manslaughter last month at a court in the English city of Winchester.
Although drawing DNA from human hair, saliva, or blood samples has long been established part of crime scene investigations, animal material has also provided investigators with valuable clues. The Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at the University of California, Davis has used animal DNA to catch criminals for more than a decade, including in one case in London in which blood left at the scene of a nightclub stabbing was matched to a murder suspect's bull terrier.
In the most recent case, investigators were trying to identify the cat hair discovered on the dismembered torso of David Guy, 30, which was discovered hidden in a trash bag on a British beach in July of last year. Detectives matched the hair to a cat belonging to the man's neighbor, Hilder, but they still needed to determine how good the match was, and that's where the database came in.
Hilder, 47, was sentenced last month to life in prison, with a minimum term of 12 years before he is eligible for parole. In a statement, police noted that the cat hair was just one element in a "wide range of evidence" used by prosecutors to bring him to justice.