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 Jun 2015 |
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.

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[Add a Comment]
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
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