Home > Case Book > Forensic Cases: Colin Pitchfork, First Exoneration Through DNA

Forensic Cases: Colin Pitchfork, First Exoneration Through DNA

By: Suzanne Elvidge BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 18 Jul 2016 |
Dna Rape Murder Exoneration Conviction

One of the keystones of forensic science is DNA testing. DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is the genetic material present in every cell. Each individual has a Unique DNA Profile. There are even a few differences between the DNA of identical twins.

A British scientist, Sir Alec Jeffreys, developed DNA profiling in the 1980s. DNA for profiling can be extracted from samples of human cells found at a Crime Scene, including blood, semen, skin, saliva, mucus, perspiration and the roots of hair, and Profiling can even be carried out on old and dried out samples.

The case of Colin Pitchfork was the first murder conviction based on DNA profiling evidence (there was a previous rape conviction based on this type of evidence).

The Exoneration

After going missing, Lynda Mann, a 15-year-old schoolgirl, was raped and murdered in the grounds of Carlton Hayes psychiatric hospital in Narborough, Leicestershire, in November 1983. Forensic examination of semen sample showed that it was a type found in only 10% of men, and was from someone with type A blood. However, the police did not find a suspect.

In 1986, another 15-year-old schoolgirl, Dawn Ashworth, was similarly sexually assaulted and strangled in the nearby village of Enderby, and semen samples showed the same blood type.

Richard Buckland, a local 17-year-old with learning disabilities who worked at Carlton Hayes psychiatric hospital, had been spotted near Dawn Ashworth’s murder scene and knew unreleased details about the body. In 1986, he confessed to Dawn Ashworth’s murder but not Lynda Mann’s.

Using Sir Alec Jeffreys’ new technique, scientists compared the semen samples with a blood sample from Richard Buckland. This proved that both girls were murdered by the same man, and also proved that this man was not Richard Buckland – the first person to be exonerated using DNA.

The Conviction

In 1987, in the first ever mass DNA screen, the police and forensic scientists screened blood and saliva samples from 4,000 men aged between 17 and 34 who lived in the villages of Enderby, Narborough and nearby Littlethorpe and did not have an alibi for murders. The turn out rate was 98%, but the screen did not find any matches to the semen samples. The police and scientists expanded the screen to men with an alibi, but still did not find a match.

In August 1987, a woman overheard a colleague, Ian Kelly, boasting that he had given a sample posing as a friend of his, Colin Pitchfork. Pitchfork had persuaded Kelly to take the test as he claimed he had already given a sample for a friend who had a flashing conviction. The police arrested Colin Pitchfork in September 1987, and scientists found that his DNA profile matched that of the murderer.

Colin Pitchfork had previous convictions for flashing, and claimed that the murders had begun as flashings, but the girls had run away, which had excited him.

In January 1988, Colin Pitchfork was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murders, and was told he had to serve a minimum of 30 years.

What to Read Next...

Forensic Cases: The M25 Rapist.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
Joseph Wambaugh wrote a non-fiction book on this case. An excellent book. He is an ex detective from San Diego.
Bill - 18-Jul-16 @ 7:29 AM
If this website is going to make statements you could at least get your facts right! At no point in his life has the person exonerated EVER been diagnosed with learning difficulties! I am fed up with society still trying to pin another man's guilt on an innocent man! The drama 'Code of a Killer' was a joke quite frankly! So many lies were perpetuated. What they left out was that it was the Defence that approached the University NOT the Police. It had to go to court repeatedly before the police accepted the results. And thats not even the half of it!
truthteller - 28-Apr-16 @ 2:26 PM
Never release this thing. He does not deserve the title of a man. When I was young attending to my horse in glen par a this man used to sit on the bridge exposing himself. We called the police on numerous occasions but they could never find him. He also exposed himself and as the above by corky, started masturbating on the towpath of the canal where myself and a friend were walking. If he had no shame to 2 young girls what outcome will releasing him prove other than giving him back the opportunity to repeat the vile things that he done all those years ago. Lock him up. Throw away the key and let him rot.
Chip - 26-Apr-16 @ 10:42 PM
what I find amazing in this story is that, without the DNA technology, RichardBuckland was on his way to a prison cell for a murder he did not commit.How did they get a confession from an innocent 17 year old??Who conducted the interrogation of this challenged young man??It was only when they wanted to nail him for a second murder that they submitted his DNA for comparison..They were shocked to discover his DNA did not match the semen found at either crime scene..
Joann - 13-Mar-16 @ 7:27 PM
The case of Colin pitchfork is interesting and much should be learnt since this time. I believe if DNA samples of all new born are stored it will keep people away from committing heinous crimes and as well make crime investigation faster and easier in future if not in practise already.
obinna - 16-Feb-16 @ 9:14 PM
there should be DNA databases all over,so that who ever is born,has a DNA sample taken off and stored. this will drastically reduce on the crime rate
sambenja - 11-Feb-16 @ 5:00 PM
I just pray that Colin Pitchfork, never got released. He should have been given a death sentence or jailed for life plus 1,000 years which I heard one American get sentenced to on television. Pitchfork is a vile person that did and unspeakable thing, why should he get his life back when the two young girls he murdered never will be given their lives back. I pray for the parents of both Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth. May your daughters memories stay in everyones hearts forever and may they Rest In Piece. May Colin Pitchfork rot in hell.
PW - 13-Jan-16 @ 12:56 AM
Kudos to the woman who reported the bogus specimen collection - too many people have knowledge of criminals who are a threat to public safety and never report. The body count would have been higher had this witness not come forward. She deserves sincere thanks for her actions!
Tati - 2-Jan-16 @ 4:59 PM
As technology gets smarter so do criminals..but no one can outsmart DNA..We need to do more research into scientific ways to be one step ahead everytime and not leave it to chance.." there is always one" is a true statement but no one shoud leave safety to chance
Deedee - 18-Jun-15 @ 10:18 PM
If I was the father of either of these two girls, I would make it my life's mission to find and personally execute this unspeakable monster should he ever be released
teejay - 4-Jun-15 @ 9:28 AM
This man should never be released. His crimes are horrendous and he is young enough to commit them again.
Brian - 7-May-15 @ 6:09 PM
Unfortunately the parole board are ready to hear his case and he could be back stalking the streets within six months we the family have started a petition on change.org to keep him locked up please sign and share
Bazz - 1-May-15 @ 1:49 PM
Neverlet him out there are no words to describe him. Mylove will always be with the family's theresufferingevery single day. He shouldrot in hell and Iagreewith acommentmade aboutDNA it should betakenwhenwe are born. Bring backcapitalpunishment
maz - 17-Apr-15 @ 9:44 PM
Please tell me that he's not being released fro prison. That animal should be locked up for the rest of his life. Everyone knows that kind of sociopath will rape and kill again and if anything it will be more brutal. The thought of that monster free makes me ill.
Mama J - 15-Apr-15 @ 3:59 PM
Does any one out there know which Prison Colin Pitchfork is in right now? So that we can prepare for his release next year and protect our daughters as best we can.It would of course be nothing but sheer madness if this man is set free, please forgive me , but this is 'The British Justice System' we are putting our trust in here.We can only hope and pray that they do the right thing and keep this monster under lock and key!
Ann - 14-Apr-15 @ 8:35 PM
Under NO circumstances can this man be let out of prison.He MUST die in prison!It was lucky that he was found out to have got someone else to take the blood test.Without this fact he would have got away scot free.The DNA revealed he was the murderer only after he was arrested.The man was one step ahead of the police until someone reported the deception. We were very lucky. Brickiebob
Brickiebob - 14-Apr-15 @ 6:33 PM
Hopefully ,this individual is never released,if he is we can only hope someone who has nothing to lose (i.e someone who has been diagnosed with a deadly disease such as cancer and has a short lifespan),does the honerable thing and exterminated him,I know I wood if it was me.lets keep our fingers crossed he is not released.
Jamie - 14-Apr-15 @ 7:17 AM
A DNA database would be acceptable if people could be trusted with the personal information of others.Such a database will be open to abuse by any organisation.This must NEVER happen.No one should be forced to have their DNA taken.It is a myth that, “if you are not guilty, you have nothing to hide”. @ Wench I am certain that there is a lot about you that you would not want everybody to know. The Pitchfork beast must never be released from prison, please throw away the keys!
SciAngel - 14-Apr-15 @ 12:07 AM
Everyone born from now should have they'er DNA taken . Why it is not done itis something I will never understand, so much crime could be sortedmuch quicker . What do your readers think.
Wench - 13-Apr-15 @ 11:43 PM
Virginia kills children using psychiatry. Hysterical woman make Cornpone.
Joe-Yerkes-Jeanes-11 - 10-Apr-15 @ 1:51 AM
Iwas a teenager going out with a lad from enderby .it was 1980 and I was followed home one night and the man exposed himself and started to masturbate.I was terrified was this pitchfork at work I will never know.i watched the first part of code for a killer and it all came flooding back as if it was yesterday .He should never be released he is pure evil.
corky - 7-Apr-15 @ 6:29 PM
No child killer should be aloud back to society.let alone a bloody double child killer should never be released.
bomber - 6-Apr-15 @ 10:21 PM
Let that Barstard rot in prison, never let him out, he took too young girle lives how can he be let free when he took there lives at such a young age. Longford( I wont call him by a title because they's so called lords think they are above the person in the street)Longford is a Prat, Like most of the so called judges we have all in the little boys club
Me - 10-Oct-13 @ 6:47 PM
We need to re hash this as much as possible to make sure this evil swine never gets out and rots in Jail followed by hell. Changed man well any of those so called people who think he is really changed.let him look after you kids or grand kids one weekend.Like listening to Lord Longford again.pathetic do gooders!
martynCC - 17-Aug-12 @ 6:45 AM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Bell
    Re: The Rate of Decay in a Corpse
    If a person chooses not to embalmed... -does there have to be a "closed "casket -imagine the body goes through all the stages…
    30 November 2016
  • WBH
    Re: Estimating The Time of Death
    Apart from all those vital signs used to estimate the time of death, has anyone or any research done to identify a specific…
    30 November 2016
  • Mistytopaz
    Re: The Romanovs: Forensic Identification of the Tsar's Grave
    You know about a year ago I found these military pins from Russia and there is one gold star…
    29 November 2016
  • Rifleman
    Re: The Four Manners of Death
    My mother found out her husband of 10 yrs (my stepdad) was cheating on her and had been for quite sometime. She had stated many times…
    27 November 2016
  • Booboo ngoro
    Re: Rigor Mortis and Lividity
    This is very educative.I am researching on how processes in creation relate to christian faith.The Bible teaches us that God's…
    27 November 2016
  • Curiosity
    Re: The Rate of Decay in a Corpse
    Can postmortem report provide actual time of death ? Or this will be in range of hours? What is the standard deviation of PMI in…
    24 November 2016
  • Bob
    Re: The Rate of Decay in a Corpse
    Presently I am writing a murder mystery. Chapter Three centers on the torture and subsequent death of a mother and her daughter.…
    24 November 2016
  • Elo
    Re: Determining Cause of Death
    Wednesday November 16, 2016 My sister found her 2 year old baby suffocated with blanket found in baby's mouth, My sister is…
    23 November 2016
  • Cvd
    Re: Asphyxiation
    Hi I need urgent advice. My mom died in August 2016. She had Progressive Supranuclear Palsy. We drove from Bloemfontein to Cape Town as my grandmother…
    23 November 2016
  • Nimmy
    Re: Forensic Entomology
    I am writing an EPQ about forensic science, I am doing a section on Forensic entomology, if possible does any one know any reliable resource…
    23 November 2016
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the ExploreForensics website. Please read our Disclaimer.