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Dutch Cold Case Murder Solved After 8000 People Gave Their DNA 513

Posted by samzenpus
from the check-me dept.
sciencewatcher writes "A 1999 cold case rape and murder in The Netherlands has been solved. Dutch police asked 8000+ men living within 5 kilometers of the crime scene to volunteer their DNA so that the murderer could be traced through (close or distant) family members sharing part of this DNA. As it turned out, the man now in custody turned in his own DNA, resulting in a 100% match. The request of the police was discussed here on Slashdot in September. The percentage of people participating was closing in on 90%; in the midsize town of the victim it was 96%."
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Dutch Cold Case Murder Solved After 8000 People Gave Their DNA

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  • Interesting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MyLongNickName (822545) on Monday November 19, 2012 @11:23AM (#42027059) Journal

    It is interesting to see the different attitudes toward volunteering information to the government. If NYC asked something like this, it would be an outrage and participation would be roughly 1% if it moved forward at all.

  • by concealment (2447304) on Monday November 19, 2012 @11:24AM (#42027071) Homepage Journal

    I don't like the idea of DNA dragnets.

    Just because I'm a male within 5km of a rape does not mean I should be required to give up my DNA.

    First, who owns it? Does it get destroyed? Do I trust government to do that competently? No: it will be sold to the highest bidder.

    Second, am I coerced into doing this? Will they shame me publicly for not giving up my DNA?

    Finally, who else knows about it? Is my health insurance going up because they've found I'm susceptible to lung cancer or AIDS? What if there's a way to tell if I'm gay or prone to alcoholism (hic)?

    There's got to be a better way to solve these rapes than asking all of us to give up private information at the threat of arrest.

  • Re:Interesting (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 19, 2012 @11:31AM (#42027141)

    Lucky to get 1% before the ACLU (Or some other group) files suit to block

  • Solved? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The_Noid (28819) on Monday November 19, 2012 @11:32AM (#42027169) Journal

    Everybody in the Dutch talks as if the man is convicted already. He's not. The case is not solved until a judge has had the last word, and given the inaccuracies in DNA matching I'm very interested in what a judge has to say about this.

  • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 19, 2012 @11:34AM (#42027199)

    "volunteering"...?

    "You can volunteer your DNA to eliminate yourself as a suspect, and eliminate the need of SWAT kicking down your door to get the DNA."

  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Monday November 19, 2012 @11:37AM (#42027235)

    But when does it stop being voluntary? It's voluntary now. But a few cases like this will make it very tempting for lawmakers to move to the next level (making it mandatory for particular areas in particular investigations). And from there, to making it mandatory for the entire citizenry. And from there, to including scans for potential diseases in the database (for the public health, of course). And from there, to insurance companies wanting access to that info....and so on. Pretty soon you could be in a Gattaca [wikipedia.org] type situation.

    Not saying this is going to happen, or that one step necessarily has to follow from the previous. But you have to understand why this particular slippery slope makes a LOT of people VERY nervous.

  • Re:Idiot (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jesrad (716567) on Monday November 19, 2012 @11:37AM (#42027239) Journal

    Assuming the person arrested is not guilty, it could just be a false positive match. DNA tests are not 100% precise, in fact I read they are 99.7% precise only, resulting in approximately 1-in-300 errors, so in any wide-ranging tests with thousands of different DNAs all coming from the same area (meaning most of them had a lot of common ancestors across them) it was almost bound to happen. Imagine the uproar if TWO 100% matches had been found (and I do not mean homozygote twins) !

    Note that roughly 1 in 10-15 person has more than one set of DNA, through chimerism - rare - or plain mosaicism - which is much more common than usually thought: that's part of how you can get "surprising" results of >10% paternity tests turning out negative in countries where those tests are sold over the counter. There are documented cases of botched criminal cases due to this, the most famous being Linda "I'm my own twin" Fairchild's.

    And if he IS guilty then it may be one way to work up doubt into a future jury, using precisely those arguments. So, it's not necessarily idiotic.

  • by BLKMGK (34057) <morejunk4me&hotmail,com> on Monday November 19, 2012 @11:39AM (#42027267) Homepage Journal

    The DNA matched DNA found on a cigarette lighter found in her schoolbag - not DNA from the rape itself apparently. It's possible in my mind that the guy is innocent of rape\murder and guilty of selling a schoolgirl a lighter or her guilty of stealing it. More details need to come out, this isn't "solved" in my mind unless they have DNA evidence from the rape itself that matches.

  • by Sydin (2598829) on Monday November 19, 2012 @11:40AM (#42027283)
    If you'd taken the additional ten seconds required to actually read more than just the headline, you would have stumbled upon the fact that nothing was "required" of anybody. It was strictly on a volunteer basis. In some countries, and I know this is a shock to those living in the USA, governments still consider people innocent until proven guilty. These people were being asked to provide assistance to their police force in order to catch a rapist, and the vast majority chose to do just that. You'll notice that there's nothing stating the 10% who refused are behind bars right now, and that's because deciding NOT to turn in your DNA due to privacy or other such concerns does not instantly make you guilty of suspicion. The anti-government, anti-police stance on this website rivals that of a Ron Paul fanclub forum. Protip: Not all cops are corrupt, and not all governments want to slam a boot down onto your face forever.
  • by Baloroth (2370816) on Monday November 19, 2012 @11:41AM (#42027287)

    If 96% of people had done it the social pressure might have been insurmountable. He might have figured if he was the only person in the village who didn't give DNA the police would investigate him and find him anyway, so he might as well give the DNA, hope that there would be a mistake, or hope that he could claim "If it was me, then why did I give them my DNA?"

    That's why the US has the fifth amendment (and why a right against self-incrimination is a good idea in general). Not turning in DNA is not probable cause for an investigation, and if that is why they started investigating him, the case would have a high chance of being thrown out (of course, the family DNA might be enough to establish an investigation). I'm not sure what the law is on this in the Netherlands.

  • Mod parent up (Score:5, Insightful)

    by crazyjj (2598719) * on Monday November 19, 2012 @11:45AM (#42027351)

    That's a VERY important point in this case. People hear "DNA" these days and automatically think "irrefutable evidence." But in this case, it's just further evidence--NOT ironclad proof of guilt.

  • by McGregorMortis (536146) on Monday November 19, 2012 @11:51AM (#42027413)

    I haven't RTFA, but from the summary, this sounds like a textbook example of the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prosecutor's_fallacy [wikipedia.org], which is a special case of the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Base_rate_fallacy [wikipedia.org]

    If you have a suspect in hand, then DNA evidence can be pretty compelling. But when you comb through the population trying to find a suspect using DNA evidence, then you're walking straight into a miscarriage of justice.

  • by rhsanborn (773855) on Monday November 19, 2012 @12:01PM (#42027529)
    Not here. I was fingerprinted to run it against the FBI database to make sure I didn't have a previous record. I couldn't get employment without that background check. The FBI put my fingerprints in their system, and now, will have them as a reference. Of course, I shouldn't have anything to worry about, since I don't plan on doing anything wrong. Fortunately, no one was ever put in prison on circumstantial evidence ...

    Of course, the FBI isn't interested in making a DNA database of people not convicted of a crime [nytimes.com].
  • Exactly (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 19, 2012 @12:02PM (#42027535)

    If government is involved, there is no "volunteering". The threat of physical force is ALWAYS present with government, no matter how far under the carpet they sweep it, or how much smokescreen they blow in front of it.

  • by rtfa-troll (1340807) on Monday November 19, 2012 @12:13PM (#42027691)

    What if it's a false positive?

    Given that the chance of a false positive is normally between 1 in 100 and 1 in 1000 in DNA tests (this is based on cases where people have actually tested labs by sending them known matching and non matching samples - not the statistics of DNA) and they have carried out 8000 tests, that's pretty likely. Most likely they had multiple false positives, but he's the one which repeated when they retested. If he was actually guilty he probably wouldn't hand his sample in.

    The most likely explanation, given that he's a farmer, is that his DNA was present on some food the lab technician put next to the original sample. Now there's no way he can prove his innocence (were were you on the 1st of May 1999? can you prove that?). He's fucked. Serves him right for trusting the police.

    Let's see if the Dutch police actually investigate or if they just assume his guilt. From what I've seen whilst probably honest they're pretty narrow minded.

  • by coldfarnorth (799174) on Monday November 19, 2012 @12:16PM (#42027741)

    There are a few more details that make the Prosecutor's Fallacy less applicable to this situation. First, they are looking at a relatively small population, so the odds of two unrelated matches is lower than if you were scanning a database of millions of profiles. Second, they have a pretty complete picture of the population that they are searching, so duplicate matches can be investigated. Third, this is all just evidence at this point - the trial is yet to be carried out. Assuming that a miscarriage of justice is going to occur because large quantities of DNA evidence was used seems a bit harsh for this early in the game.

  • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by interkin3tic (1469267) on Monday November 19, 2012 @12:45PM (#42028111)
    I would hope so. It could be that one "success" of volunteer submissions could pave the way to some lawmaker suggesting it be "encouraged." Then outright mandatory. I'd rather err on the side of having murders and rapes go unsolved, rather than err on the side of police having everyone's DNA sequences.
  • Re:Exactly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 19, 2012 @01:23PM (#42028617)
    A few years back, the TSA had just started requiring people to put their shoes through the X-ray scanner, but it wasn't completely mandatory yet. At one airport, we were informed that we didn't have to take off our shoes, but if we didn't, we could be subject to additional security. Needless to say, everyone "voluntarily" took their shoes off. If there's a punishment for not complying, it isn't voluntary.
  • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jiriw (444695) on Monday November 19, 2012 @01:36PM (#42028801) Homepage

    No... People want to have a murder solved. There is a difference. And if you can't trust your government then you live in a very sorry nation indeed.

    The hard part is voting the right people in to be your political leaders. Now I don't say everything is all shiny here in the Netherlands because it isn't. But at least we know we can vote every four years and have a choice of political parties to choose from who are actually -different-. And that an absolute majority is a herculean task to achieve so we always have coalitions. Which is good because it means politics has to care about minorities. So, next time you go to the voting box (if you actually do live in the Netherlands), do not vote for the party(/ies) that try to relax the privacy laws so you can actually put a little trust into the government for not randomly trying to fuck you up.

    By the way, just in: nu.nl [www.nu.nl]. The second, minute DNA test (which took 6 hours to perform) also identifies the suspect as the one matching the traces both on the victims body and the lighter found at the scene of the crime.

  • Re:Interesting (Score:3, Insightful)

    by operagost (62405) on Monday November 19, 2012 @01:49PM (#42029017) Homepage Journal
    No government should be trusted. Ever. If you trust your government, you will be a sorry nation indeed.
  • Re:Interesting (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TWX (665546) on Monday November 19, 2012 @02:48PM (#42029779)

    The DNA data could only be used for this particular investigation. It will not be added to the national DNA database that exists for suspects.

    BwhaHAHAHAHAHA!!!

    Oh wait, you're serious?

  • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) on Monday November 19, 2012 @02:58PM (#42029921)

    I'd rather err on the side of having murders and rapes go unsolved, rather than err on the side of police having everyone's DNA sequences.

    Why? Not trolling, but it seems to me that if everyone's DNA were on record the crime rates would drop through the floor.
    Maybe I feel this way because a good friend of mine was raped a few years ago, and if all DNA were recorded the asshole who did that to her would probably be rotting in jail right now.

  • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mariox19 (632969) on Monday November 19, 2012 @03:20PM (#42030155)

    There is no end to the amount of crimes that could be prevented or solved if only we were ready to embrace draconian governmental invasions of our privacy and restrictions on our freedom of choice. Do you realize that if we only had laws forbidding women from traveling alone in public without being escorted by a male relative how many rapes we might prevent each year?

  • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by interkin3tic (1469267) on Monday November 19, 2012 @05:03PM (#42031487)
    Because I'd rather keep what we have: a state where there may be higher incidences of rape and murder, than a state where the government has my DNA on file. Murder and rape can always be countered effectively by methods we have now. And if crime gets too bad, it's not too hard to turn that situation around. Erosion of privacy, and police state on the other hand are situations that are pretty much permanent. You can always put more cops on the street and be careful if you're worried about getting shot. Law enforcement with too much power on the other hand pretty much requires moving to a different country, or a revolution.

"And do you think (fop that I am) that I could be the Scarlet Pumpernickel?" -- Looney Tunes, The Scarlet Pumpernickel (1950, Chuck Jones)

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