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Killer Convicted, Using Dog DNA Database 97

Posted by timothy
from the what-about-concealed-dog-licenses? dept.
lee1 writes "It turns out that the UK has a DNA database — for dogs. And this database was recently used to apprehend a South London gang member who used his dog to catch a 16-year-old rival and hold him while he stabbed him to death. The dog was also accidentally stabbed, and left blood at the scene. The creation of human DNA databases has led to widespread debates on privacy; but what about the collation of DNA from dogs or other animals?"
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Killer Convicted, Using Dog DNA Database

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  • New political insult:

    "He couldn't get elected dog DNA sequencer in this county!"

    • by Z00L00K (682162)

      Regardless - the existence of DNA doesn't necessarily prove guilt, just that you have a connection of some sort.

      Remember that DNA evidence can also prove that you aren't guilty. At least not of that crime.

      However since criminals today are aware of DNA they are sometimes trying to contaminate the scene as much as possible just to throw in a few false leads.

  • Orwellian (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:16PM (#31526646)

    I can't think of anything more Orwellian than claiming that having some number of legs is better than some other number of legs.

  • by russotto (537200) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:18PM (#31526692) Journal

    Any time anyone collects detailed information about a person, his associations, or his possessions, there are privacy implications. That includes dog DNA databases, VIN databases (and tag number databases even more so), processor serial number databases, etc.

    We're already so far down this slope, though, that nobody really notices it any more.

    • Registering a dog through its DNA may be similar to registering a weapon. The article is not clear if all dogs are registered, or just the status dogs.

      • by Smauler (915644) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @05:50PM (#31529560)

        Not all dogs are registered - to be honest I didn't even know of this database. Unless they actually test clandestinely (perhaps at the vet's), none of the dogs I know are on the database. There have been recent proposals however about compulsary insurance for dogs, which fortunately seem to be not being put through because of their unpopularity and the coming election. Why the fuck they needed the dog's DNA anyway, is confusing. From the BBC [bbc.co.uk]:

        Johnson was arrested as he fled from the scene of the murder in Larkhall Park bare-chested and covered in blood.
        New technology, used for the first time, proved by a billion-to-one probability that some of the blood came from his pit bull-mastiff crossbreed dog, Tyson, which had been knifed during the attack.
        The rest was shown to come from the teenage murder victim.

        FFS, it doesn't take Poirot + CSI to figure this one out, does it?

      • by Sulphur (1548251)

        When recombinant DNA leads to dogs smarter than a two year old, then at least someone will be ready.

      • by daem0n1x (748565)

        I'd love to have this here in Portugal for two reasons:

        The first is the abandoned dogs that wander around everywhere raiding the trash cans in search of food spreading trash everywhere, and sometimes attacking people. The owners of such dogs should be given a HUGE fine and then be forced to take the dog back. Every summer, thousands of dogs are abandoned by pricks that can't be bothered to take them on holidays. Many are run over, causing car damage or even car crashes, some are killed by bigger dogs, mo

  • Interesting... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Culture20 (968837)
    Who cares about your DNA when the DNA of something you own and use in a crime can be linked to you? Forget RFID; the illuminati need to ramp up production on bio tech so that everything is traceable like this. Then your tinfoil hats and body gloves will be useless.
    • Forget RFID; the illuminati need to ramp up production on bio tech so that everything is traceable like this. Then your tinfoil hats and body gloves will be useless.

      That's why I've been investing in antique tinfoil hats and body gloves. Did you know that modern "tin"foil hats are actually made from aluminum? Shocking, I know.

    • by gknoy (899301)

      Moreover, I would imagine that US courts would rule that pets and plants do not have an expectation of privacy, and thus could have their DNA harvested pretty much without your knowledge, consent, or even with a warrant.

    • by Locke2005 (849178) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @04:52PM (#31528636)
      Hey, just because MY DOG was there, doesn't mean I was there! The dog... he's still mad about getting his 'nads removed, and he's trying to frame me!
  • I understand British law is a bit different but in the US the blood would merely be circumstantial and wouldn't hold its own. While I do buy that it was part of the evidence that would warrant this guy as a prime suspect, there's no way you can convict on it alone. After all, the fact that the dog was stabbed could just as easily lead one to believe that this guy and his dog were actually trying to intervene in the kid being stabbed.
    • by lee1 (219161)
      The story did not say he was convicted based solely on the DNA evidence. In fact, it's pretty clear that he was not.
      • by sunking2 (521698)
        Find a single piece of other evidence in the article. More horrid journalism. An article to support a catchy title while not actually telling the entire story.
        • The Times article may be terrible (I don't know, I didn't read it) but the BBC article [bbc.co.uk] mentions that he was arrested fleeing from the scene and there was at least one witness
        • by lee1 (219161)

          Find a single piece of other evidence in the article.

          Are you serious? "dog's blood that was found both on him and at the attack site.[...]When they arrested Johnson nearby they found he was covered in blood[...]We did not have excellent ID evidence [suggesting that they had some id evidence, but did not want to rely on it excusively][...]The court heard another dog was also used in the attacks [meaning that there was testimony about the attack at the trial]

          Yet another high-quality comment.

    • Circumstantial evidence serves a purpose in making a case, and placing him at the scene helps show the "Opportunity" part of Means, Motive and Opportunity. If we look at the dog as "just" a weapon, than this isn't much different than finding a gun on the scene and using fingerprints to show someone handled it. Ties the suspect to the scene, though not foolproof as perhaps he could have handled the gun earlier and had it stolen. Criminal trials are about using multiple pieces of evidence to build a case.
    • by Xest (935314)

      Yeah, it's sensationalist. The dog's DNA was just additional evidence.

      I think the fact that witnesses came forward was probably a more prominent reason as to why the guy got sent down.

      This is what happens when you use the likes of The Times though as a source and don't bother checking any others. The same story, from two different British news publications for example, we have from The Times as in tfa:

      "Killer convicted using dog DNA in legal first"

      Suggesting he was convicted using the dog DNA, and putting t

  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:30PM (#31526960) Journal

    On the whole, if you are trying to pursuade people that privacy is important, don't use examples like: "If you force me to have a license place on my car, then when I kill your child while I drunk drive for the 100th time, I can be caught and that would be a bad thing".

    People might not be all that sympatethic.

    Oh here is another one "I parked my car in front of a fire-hydrant and the firemen had to run around it, delaying them so you burned to death but they scrathed the paint, they should pay me for emotional trauma".

    Learn to pick your cause. A guy who killed a child is NOT a cause for YRO. If you keep doing stuff like this, you only make yourself an easy target for ridicule.

    Don't believe me? See how easily the deniers latched on to the "global warming" aspect of "global climate change" and then leap on any cold day as proof it is all a hoax.

    Samething can happen to people who care about privacy "Oh look, another privacy nutter, who wants criminals to have free reign."

    Show the voter why he should care about a dog DNA base. Frankly I doubt you can.

    • by Culture20 (968837)

      Don't believe me? See how easily the deniers latched on to the "global warming" aspect of "global climate change" and then leap on any cold day as proof it is all a hoax.

      I believe you have that reversed. The deniers latched on to the "global warming" aspect of "global warming" and then leaped on any cold day as proof it is all a hoax. Then the global warming advocates changed the name to "global climate change" to save face when they should have stuck to their guns and instead said "warming over long term" or something, because now the deniers latched on to the "global climate change" aspect of "global warming", and rightly state that climate change will always occur so i

    • Oh here is another one "I parked my car in front of a fire-hydrant and the firemen had to run around it, delaying them so you burned to death but they scrathed the paint, they should pay me for emotional trauma".

      I like the German rules for this situation. The firemen don't mind if you park your car in front of a fire-hydrant. They have these heavy fire engines, and it is heavier than your car, so your car will not _stay_ in front of the fire-hydrant for more than two seconds if they need access. Same if you block an access way, the fire engine _will_ get through undamaged. The same won't be true for your car. And nobody will pay for the damage, including your own fully comprehensive insurance.

      • by cdrguru (88047)

        In Chicago the firemen have been known to run the big hose to the hydrant through the windows of a car, from the street over to the hydrant. They probably couldn't have pushed the car out of the way without moving a whole line of cars - and from where I've been in Germany the on-street parking is worse (way, way worse) just about everywhere.

      • I like the German rules for this situation.

        I like the Swedish rule for this situation, where the fire hydrant is actually in the street, below a man hole cover. The only thing at the side of the road is a sign pointing to it (so that I can be found under e.g. snow). If you were to block one by parking over it, then the fire department would be the least of your worries.

    • by Gordonjcp (186804)

      Learn to pick your cause. A guy who killed a child is NOT a cause for YRO.

      Yes, but it's a post from timmeh - and you know how much he hates the UK, because we're free.

  • Database? Not really (Score:3, Informative)

    by alanw (1822) <alan@wylie.me.uk> on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:34PM (#31527044) Homepage

    It's a just a clueless journalist misusing the word database.

    This BBC report [bbc.co.uk] doesn't mention the word at all. There is no central registry of dog DNA samples. It's just the first time that DNA matching, between a sample of blood found at the crime scene and a sample taken from the dog belonging to a suspect caught nearby has been used in a UK court.

    • by mea37 (1201159)

      That the BBC report doesn't mention a database doesn't mean that there isn't a database. It's pretty vague about what testing was done, exactly. You assume that they just profiled the DNA from the two samples and compared them to one another, but the BBC article doesn't actually say that.

      TFA is less vague, which you interpret to mean it's wrong but which I interpret to mean perhaps they referred to sources other than just the BBC report.

    • by lee1 (219161) <lee.lee-phillips@org> on Thursday March 18, 2010 @04:21PM (#31528034) Homepage
      Before accusing the journalist of being clueless, try reading beyond the first few paragraphs. 'Detective Chief Inspector Mick Norman, who led the investigation, told The Times: "It was vitally important that we could put Johnson at the scene of the attack. We did not have excellent ID evidence and using the dog DNA database forensically unequivocally placed Johnson at the scene of the murder." The new dog DNA database came online just two-months before the murder in April last year, enabling statistical analysis to be given on samples for the first time...'
      • by alanw (1822)

        It's still misuse of the word database. I would hope that Slashdotters would appreciate the difference between a related collection of tables stored on a computer and a forensic laboratory procedure for measuring the correlation between two DNA sequences. As somebody joked earlier, if one row and two columns make a database, then I'll have to stop disparaging Excel.

        • by lee1 (219161)

          It's still misuse of the word database

          Not in the least. It is clear that there is a central database, and not just a laboratory comparison between two samples gathered as evidence. Is it really less painful to keep repeating your mistake rather than just owning up to it?

          • by alanw (1822)

            It is clear that there is a central database, and not just a laboratory comparison between two samples gathered as evidence.

            I can find no other evidence of such a database. Can you provide any?

            • by alanw (1822)

              I can find no other evidence of such a database. Can you provide any?

              I've just found a UK Member of Parliament's web site that mentions such a database: go to
              http://www.gregknight.com/ [gregknight.com] and then select Press (which redirects to a home directory on an IP address, which is why I'm not posting the direct link), then scroll down to 1st April 2009.

              See also http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/greg_knight/east_yorkshire [theyworkforyou.com] to confirm that his web site is genuine.

              • by lunacris (861985)

                then scroll down to 1st April 2009

                As the date suggests, it's an April fool.

                • by Simmeh (1320813)
                  very clearly an April fool too.
                  "A spokesman for the European Civil Service, who are backing the scheme said: "East Riding dogs failing to be submitted for the swab tests within the next 12 months will be liable to immediate incarceration in a new UK-wide 'super-pound' which will house over 2 million dogs from across the EU." It is to be constructed at Great Kelk in East Yorkshire. A spokesperson for the plan, dubbed the 'Doggy Bank' said that every one of the East Riding's 98,367 dogs would have to be pre
              • by lee1 (219161)
                I hadn't bothered to go beyond the article I linked in the summary. Interesting find, especially under the circumstances.
        • if one row and two columns make a database, then I'll have to stop disparaging Excel.

          It might stop you, but it wont stop me! (Try processing dates or times with Excel!)

  • by Wdi (142463) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @03:44PM (#31527252)

    http://www.jurablogs.com/de/wenn-ein-eichenblatt-den-moerder-ueberfuehrt (sorry, no English version, use Google Translation)

    In 2004, a killer was convicted in Germany. The corpse of his wife had been found in a forest, buried beneath an oak tree. He claimed he was innocent and that had never even been in that area.

    Unfortunately for him, a dried leaf of an oak tree was found in the trunk of his car - and DNA analysis proved it was from the very oak tree the corpse was buried under. Plants have DNA, too.

    Oops.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pclminion (145572)

      Clearly this was a violation of the tree's rights and I demand reparation immediately!

      This story is so ridiculous it makes me cry. Oh no, a murderer got caught because he left evidence at a crime scene. That sounds... just about right to me. It's one thing when we are building databases of human DNA collected from people who have committed no crimes -- a person cannot choose to not have DNA, so this is a serious ethical and human rights issue. But what I see here is that this guy idiotically left physical e

      • If there were actually a dog DNA database it would be further violation of the right to be left alone. Look at guns which are clearly protected by the US Constitution: requiring them to be registered makes it more difficult for law-abiding citizens to obtain them, forces them to pay a fee, and gives the government an excuse to selectively deny registration. Having to register your dog's DNA would be a pain in the ass, and if your dog was mixed-breed you'd further have to petition the almighty bureaucracy to
    • by rarel (697734)

      Unfortunately for him, a dried leaf of an oak tree was found in the trunk of his car - and DNA analysis proved it was from the very oak tree the corpse was buried under. Plants have DNA, too.

      CSI: Stuttgart
      "The DNA matches the dried leaf, Herr Kommissar!"
      "Ach soo, we have found... *puts sunglasses*... the roof of the matter."

      YEEAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

    • by rahvin112 (446269)

      Oak leaf? Childs play! I'll raise you microscopic algae! Diatoms have been used in more than one case in the US to convict murderers and were even see as a plot line in Dexter! (after being the lead story for an episode of Forensic Files on Court TV)

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Let's hope that oak wasn't part of a clonal colony: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clonal_colony

  • by mea37 (1201159) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @04:34PM (#31528318)

    I've seen at least one post asserting that there is no database. Based on the facts presented in the story, I can see why a scientific mind might be inclined to conclude this: no database would be necessary to do what was done in this case. I think that's at best inconclusive; let's take a closer look...

    They wanted to link this guy to the crime scene. They already had him near the crmie scene. With limited identification from witnesses, that's at best only a start...

    They had blood on him, and the relevant use of DNA technology was in showing that this blood matched the blood from the crime scene. They could tell there was both human and dog blood; this doesn't require a database. They could tell that the human DNA on the suspect matched the victim's blood; combined with the other facts, that might be enough to put him at the scene, and it doesn't require a database. If they needed more evidence, they could tell that the dog blood from both samples came from a single animal; again, there should be no need for a database.

    I'm not sure what identifying the animal from which the dog blood originated adds to that. ("Wellll, he was covered in the victim's blood and blood from an animal that was at the crime scene, but that doesn't tell us anything... Oh, wait - he also owned the animal in question? Well, then!" If that's the reasoning, I guess the message is "if you're going to use a dog as a weapon, use someone else's dog".) But even then, no need for a database to match the blood sample to the dog since you have access to the dog you suspect it will match.

    So I don't doubt that a database exists and was used; but I suspect its use and the subsequent publicity have more to do with someone's political agenda (make DNA databases look like useful tools) and less to do with real investigative techniques or real science.

    • by ascari (1400977)

      if you're going to use a dog as a weapon, use someone else's dog

      Thank goodness that dogs are notoriously difficult to clone. When people start using sheep as weapons we're suddenly all suspects.

  • not quite there yet, but it's another step along the way...

    still, at least we will have computers that are voice controlled and capable of infinite zoom into a photo.. oh, and hot femmbots

  • When I see a dog objecting to the invasion of his privacy, either in writing or verbally, then they should expunge that dog's DNA records. Until that time, it's fair game. As a side note, how do I go about training my dog to hold people while I stab them to death?
  • Well, let's see. As our guest we have Mr. Sniggles, a very opinionated 7 year old terrier-poodle cross.

    Q: Mr. Sniggles, what do you feel about the collection of your DNA.

    A: Grrrr-rufff!!!

    Q: It's that intrusive, eh? But don't you feel that in the greater interests of fighting crime, not to mention the very limited rights that pets have, it's hard to object to it?

    A: Ruff ruff ruff!!!!

    Q: I guess I can see where you're coming from. But that bit about Richard Nixon seems very offtopic.

    A: Grrrrrrrr...

    Q: No, I

  • Is that the leg he humped? Have CSI take a swab of it and we'll check the database.
  • During the attack Tyson was accidentally stabbed and police found a 600-yard blood trail leading from the scene. When they arrested Johnson nearby they found he was covered in blood.

    Detectives said that not only was it the first time a status dog had been used in the course of a killing but it was also the first case of its kind where they could use dog DNA to prove a one in a billion match to Tyson – and link his owner to the murder scene.

    Detective Chief Inspector Mick Norman, who led the investigation, told The Times: “It was vitally important that we could put Johnson at the scene of the attack. We did not have excellent ID evidence and using the dog DNA database forensically unequivocally placed Johnson at the scene of the murder.”

    So your saying, finding the murder, johnson, covered with the victims blood wasn't enough evidence? While I'm sure they want an air tight case, really, what else they want, Johnson putting a youtube video of it up?

  • by jdc18 (1654245)
    I dont know why i even bothered to click on this article.

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