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The Massereene Touch DNA Evidence

M.W. Perlin, "The Massereene touch DNA evidence", Twenty First International Symposium on the Forensic Sciences of the Australian and New Zealand Forensic Science Society, Hobart, Tasmania, 26-Sep-2012.



Abstract

The getaway car used in the Northern Ireland Massereene Barracks attack was abandoned and burned to destroy personally identifying evidence. However, trace amounts of touch DNA were deposited on a few items. This low-level and mixed DNA evidence associated two Republican dissidents, Colin Duffy and Brian Shivers, with the vehicle or its torching.

The trial began in November 2011 before Judge Anthony Hart, and lasted two months, presenting considerable forensic evidence. Pittsburgh-based Cybergenetics TrueAllele® computer system provided DNA match statistics for several of the getaway car evidence items, which human review could not.

After three days of expert testimony and cross-examination, Judge Hart admitted the computer interpretation method and match results into evidence, opening a new era of forensic computing in the United Kingdom. Brian Shivers was convicted of homicide and sentenced to life imprisonment. While the DNA established that Colin Duffy was in the car, he was found "not guilty" since the available circumstantial evidence did not prove he committed the crime.

The talk describes how a computer can reliably interpret touch DNA evidence, and reviews the courtroom testimony that led to TrueAllele's acceptance and use in the Massereene trial.