Cold cases: How DNA can prove innocence - or guilt

Several famous cases have been solved after DNA testing revealed the innocence or guilt of a defendant

Stefan Kiszko was convicted in 1976 of murdering and sexually assaulting 11-year-old Lesley Molseed. He spent 16 years in prison before being released in 1992 after it was shown that the semen on the body could not have been his. In 2007, Ronald Castree was found to have the same DNA as Lesley's killer and was convicted and jailed for life.

The Cardiff Three, Steven Miller, Yusef Abdullahi and Tony Paris, were jailed for life for the murder of Lynette White, who was stabbed more than 50 times in Cardiff in 1988. They were cleared on appeal in 1992. New DNA techniques led to the conviction in 2003 of Jeffrey Gafoor, who was jailed for life for the murder. The three are currently involved in a civil action for compensation.

Colin Stagg was arrested and charged with the murder of Rachel Nickell on Wimbledon Common in 1992 and cleared in 1994. Robert Napper, a convicted rapist who was already serving a sentence in Broadmoor, was convicted last year on the basis of new DNA evidence.

John Humble, the man better known as "Wearside Jack", who hoaxed detectives investigating murders by the Yorkshire Ripper, was caught after officers matched a DNA sample from an envelope with a sample of his DNA on their national database.

James Hanratty was hanged in 1962 and is one of the most famous alleged cases of miscarriage of justice. An appeal filed on his behalf was dismissed in 2002, when the court of appeal ruled that DNA analysis of fabrics recovered from the scene of the murder of Michael Gregsten and rape of Valerie Storie in 1961 provided "certain proof" that Hanratty was guilty - a claim still challenged by his family and campaigners.

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
‘Is the conviction sound? No’: lawyer vows to prove Michael Stone’s innocence
Exclusive: Mark McDonald believes Russell murders case will turn out to be a serious miscarriage of justice

Daniel Boffey Chief reporter

27, Nov, 2022 @3:30 PM

Article image
Getting warmer: why police chase cold cases like Suzy Lamplugh
Officers reveal how relentless pursuit and DNA advances are key to cracking old crimes

Sandra Laville

03, Nov, 2018 @7:00 AM

Lies don't prove guilt, says judge
The lies and deceit of Ian Huntley and Maxine Carr do not prove their guilt, the Soham trial judge warned today.

Press Association

11, Dec, 2003 @5:15 PM

Article image
Bill forcing people to prove nationality slammed as discriminatory
Government says aim is to remove foreign national offenders from Britain but critics say bill is a toxic recipe for race relations

Vikram Dodd Police and crime correspondent

04, May, 2016 @7:47 PM

Rape investigations: cold cases

Scores of rape cases are being re-examined by a cold case team within the new rape command

Sandra Laville

01, Dec, 2009 @8:48 PM

Article image
UK modern slavery cases involving children doubles
Rise attributed to criminal gangs exploiting children in ‘county lines’ drug dealing

Sarah Marsh

20, Mar, 2019 @12:01 AM

Article image
Shamima Begum says she wants to prove innocence in UK courts
Appearing in live TV interview from Syria detention camp, Begum says she ‘did nothing in Islamic State but be a mother and wife’

Dan Sabbagh Defence and security editor

15, Sep, 2021 @11:54 AM

Article image
Historic cases could be challenged after joint enterprise ruling
Five examples of joint enterprise-related convictions – three that could be revisited, and two that will stand

Jamie Grierson and Steven Morris

18, Feb, 2016 @1:51 PM

Regulator backs use of DNA technique in court cases

Forensic science regulator rules that tiny samples of DNA evidence are safe to use in criminal prosecutions

Robert Booth

11, Apr, 2008 @8:29 AM

Payout review in drink-related rape cases ruled out

Ministers say guidelines wrongly applied but compensation body says no review mechanism in place

Rachel Williams

12, Aug, 2008 @11:01 PM