Italy wins ‘Hit of the Year’ Award

June 7th, 2017

Starting in 2017, a new international DNA database award was created and awarded by Gordon Thomas Honeywell Governmental Affairs (GTH-GA) to bring an increased awareness to the incredible power of forensic DNA databases to solve crime and provide closure to victims and their families and to also recognise the dedication of investigators and forensic scientists throughout the world.

This year’s inaugural “Hit of the Year” winner was Italy.

Our very own Vanessa was amongst this year’s panel of judges and we congratulate Italy on winning the award. 

ITALIAN MURDER CASE WINS THE 2017 DNA DATABASE HIT OF THE YEAR AWARD

New international award brings attention to the value of using criminal offender DNA database to solve crime and bring closure to victims and families

Vienna, Austria, May 17, 2017 — Gordon Thomas Honeywell Governmental Affairs (GTH-GA) has awarded the inaugural DNA Database Hit of the Year award to the Italian Carabinieri and Polizia di Stato for its dedicated work on the Yara Gambirasio murder case. The winning case was selected from 50 cases submitted by 15 countries, and was chosen by a panel of seven international judges with career backgrounds in forensic DNA. The award was announced during the annual Human Identification Solutions (HIDS) Conference held in Vienna, Austria.

“The DNA Hit of the Year Award is designed to bring increased awareness to the incredible power of forensic DNA databases to solve crime and provide closure to victims and their families. It also recognizes the dedication of investigators and forensic scientists throughout the world who use DNA databases to pursue justice,” said Tim Schellberg, GTH-GA’s President.

The judges selected the Italian case from five finalist cases. The four runner-up cases were from China, Austria, and two from the United States. A full list of submitted cases and a presentation describing this year’s award and case highlights can be found at www.dnaresource.com/hitoftheyearmain.html

Yara Gambirasio (of Brembate di Sopra, Italy) was murdered on November 26, 2010. To identify the suspect, whose full DNA profile was found at the crime scene, Italian authorities developed the world’s largest known DNA mass screen database. Using this tool, investigators and analysts embarked on a complex and exhaustive familial DNA searching scenario that ultimately led to an arrest on June 14, 2015. The suspect was convicted on July 1, 2016. “I have never seen a case where so much effort was put into finding a suspect through the use of DNA. The men and women of the Italian Carabinieri and the Polizia di Stato should be commended for their tireless work to identify the person that matched the DNA left at the crime scene,” said Rock Harmon, Retired Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for Alameda County, California (USA), and one of the judges for the 2017 Gordon Thomas Honeywell Governmental Affairs Hit of the Year Award.

Media contact: Tim Schellberg – tims@gth-gov.com – +1 (253) 209-8818

About GTH-GA

Gordon Thomas Honeywell Governmental Affairs is globally recognized as experts in forensic DNA database policy, legislation, and law. For nearly twenty years, consultants at GTH-GA have consulted in over 50 countries and states on legislation and policies to establish or expand criminal offender DNA databases.

Sincerely,

Tim Schellberg

Xtraordinary Woman of the Month – Vanessa Lynch

May 18th, 2017

This month Vanessa was chosen as Xtraordinary Women‘s “Woman of the Month” with the following article being published by them on their website…

Vanessa Lynch – Executive Director of The DNA Project & Deputy Chair of National Forensic DNA Oversight & Ethics Board

Having graduated from Law School at UCT in 1993 I pursued a legal career for the following ten years. In 2004, after the brutal murder of my father, I founded the NGO “The DNA Project” in an effort to alleviate crime in South Africa through the use of a National Forensic DNA Database. It thus became my mission to help establish infrastructures and laws in South Africa which would ensure that forensic DNA technology was used to its best advantage. To that end I have assisted with the drafting of the new DNA Act and have been commended for the contribution I have made to law reform in this regard.

I have driven the development of a specific career path in Forensic DNA both in science and law and was appointed by the Minister of Police as the Deputy Chair of the National Forensic Oversight and Ethics Board in January 2015, a position which I currently still hold.

You are busy with some very interesting projects. Please tell us a little more about that.

As Deputy Chair of the National Forensic Oversight and Ethics Board, I am currently overseeing the implementation of the DNA Act in SA and the growth of the National DNA Database – when I read about cases such as this one published just today, I am filled with hope that we have done a good thing! I am also involved with various University Master’s programs on Forensic DNA and the Law, as well as for Officers of the Court. I am about to start studying again too, which I hope will culminate in a PhD in Forensic Law and then – well, the sky’s the limit and I will probably have a complete career change!

To continue reading the full article please click here

Carte Blanche ‘Catch-Up’ with Vanessa

April 12th, 2017

Watch Vanessa Lynch’s recent ‘catch-up’ interview with Carte Blanche‘s Laura Byrne at the 4th Annual Forensic Services Conference wherein she discusses the continued work of the National Forensic Oversight and Ethics Board (NFOEB) and the implementation of the DNA Act.

To view the programme segment please click here.

Secretariat of DNA Board – post advert

January 27th, 2017

The following position of Secretariat on the National Forensic Oversight and Ethics Board (DNA Board) (Ref: CSP/01/2017) is currently being advertised.

For enquiries, please kindly contact Ms Lerato Maisela on 012 393 2500 / 1916.

CENTRE: Pretoria

SALARY: R 898 743 per annum (All inclusive remuneration package)

REQUIREMENTS

  • An LLB degree or equivalent tertiary qualification and registration with CIS (Chartered Secretaries Southern Africa) will be an added advantage.
  • A minimum of 5 years’ experience at Middle Management.
  • Sound knowledge of Public Service Systems and applicable legislations and regulations (Corporate legislations, King, III: PFMA, etc.) as well as their functioning.
  • A proven track record in the management of Corporate Governance, working with Boards of Public Entities, processes and systems, Sound and extensive track record incorporating Governance, Budget management and Strategic Management, Be a strategic and analytical thinker with excellent communication and writing skills, People and diversity management experience.
  • Ability to follow organizational objectives and drive synergies in a mature manner and provide a proven track record of experience in similar/relevant previous assignments.
  • Advanced legal drafting skills, Good presentation skills, Good facilitation skills and Project management skills,
  • Sound financial management skills, Planning and organizing skills, Problem solving and decision-making skills, Research skills and Report writing skills.
  • Ability to prioritize and work under pressure.

DUTIES

  • Drafting and development of Policies and Procedures, Drafting recommendations for improvement to legislation and Keeping the Board fully informed of existing and new legislative requirements.
  • Support the DNA Board in the effective management of the Board by drafting reports, developing systems reports.
  • Overseeing the implementation of appropriate database management software solutions, ensuring training of stakeholders and acting as a communication and information channel for the Board members.
  • Overall management and development of the DNA Board staff in terms of Performance Management and Development System.

DNA Board 2015/16 Annual Report

December 1st, 2016

The National Forensic Oversight and Ethics Board (or ‘DNA Board’), with Vanessa in attendance as Deputy Chair, met on the 23rd of November to present its Annual Report for 2015/2016 before the Portfolio Committee on Police regarding the DNA Act and its ongoing implementation.

Below is the outcome of what was discussed at the public meeting and includes copies of the report and presentation for viewing.

Meeting Summary

The Committee met with the National Forensic Oversight and Ethics Board (DNA Board), and its accounting officer, the Civilian Secretariat of Police (CSP), to be briefed on its Annual Report for the 2015/16 financial year. Before the briefing, the Committee Content Adviser prepped Members by providing an introductory presentation on the functions of the Board, procedure for handling complaints, composition of the Board, reporting requirements, issues reported to the Committee in its last engagement with the Board in March 2016 and possible questions for the Committee to consider.

The DNA Board then briefed the Committee on part one of its Annual Report for the period 1 April 2015 to 31 March 2016, namely, members of the Board, meetings of the Board for the period, governance and sub-committees and the budget of the Board for the 2015/ 16 financial year. The Report also looked at the Board’s strategic objectives for 2015/16 and challenges encountered in achieving the stated objectives and strategic objectives of the Board for the 2016/17 financial year…

To download and read the full Meeting Summary and Report, please click here.

To download the DNA Board Annual Report, please click here.

To download the DNA Board presentation, please click here.

Invitation to the founding meeting for Forensic Science Academy

November 7th, 2016

Dear Forensic Science Colleagues in Southern Africa,

We have been talking in our sector for a number of years that as the “next step” in the evolution of forensic science in South/Southern Africa we need to form a body that will at the minimum e.g.

a)  Aim to protect our combined interests.
b)  Create a forum for discussion amongst ourselves.

During the past year this issue has come to the fore on many occasions, during many discussions and we thank each of you who indicated support for the idea.

The time is right for us to get together, discuss what we require of such a body, and get the body started.

INVITATION TO THE MEETING

For this reason you are invited to the founding meeting of this body, which we have thus far (for lack of a better name) started to call the “Southern African Academy for Forensic Science” or SAAFS for short.

ENVISAGE MEETING SCHEDULE

There is a tentative schedule to introduce the following in order to stimulate discussion (you will note we call it an “academy” until we decide on a final name):

a)      Context of the meeting.
b)      Why an academy?
c)      What do we require from an academy?
d)      Model of the academy.
e)      Membership categories.
f)       Membership fees.
g)      Who should be able to join (only South Africans or SADC members or wider)?
h)      Discussion: e.g. a SWOT analysis for the academy.
i)       The way forward.

Please send us any suggestions you may have for the agenda.

MEETING DETAILS

  • Date of meeting: Wednesday, November 16th, 2016.
  • Start of meeting: 10:00 (to give colleagues time to fly in from other centres)
  • Duration: estimated at no more than 2-3 hours.
  • Venue: To be confirmed, but it will be in Pretoria.
  • RSVP deadline: Friday, November 11th, 2016.

INVITATION OF OTHERS TO THE MEETING

Given the short timeline to the meeting, we want to urge that you send the contact details of anyone that you may think should also be invited to the meeting to me as soon as possible. Please include the following details for them: title, name, surname, institution, field of practice, email address, telephone (work), mobile number. Given the venue limitations and catering needs, we will unfortunately NOT be able to accommodate anyone that did not RSVP ahead of time. We want to make the meeting as inclusive as possible, so please get as many as possible of your colleagues to attend and complete the survey (to be sent out in the next few days).

RSVP & SURVEY

  • Please RSVP to the following email address: forensics@DNAbiotec.com – which was created specifically for this purpose.
  • In a few days you will receive a link to complete a short survey prior to the meeting. This survey will also be sent via the same email address whilst we get an official website up and running.
  • Given that we have a near zero budget for the meeting, please do not RSVP that you will attend, if you do not intend to physically attend.
  • Even if you cannot attend, please complete the survey to indicate your interest (or not) in forming this body, and provide us with your input.

We realise a lot needs to be done in a very short period of time, prior to our meeting on November 16th. Please follow this link https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FPFLXQ3 to complete a short survey (it will take about 15 minutes to complete).

The deadline for the survey is Friday, November 11th, 2016, at 17:00. Please do not leave it until the deadline complete it as soon as possible.

Please complete the following short survey PRIOR to our meeting of the 16th of November. It is important that you complete this survey:

a)      If you want to remain on the mailing list & stay up to date with the process as it develops.
b)      Even if you are attending the meeting – we need to compile the agenda from some of the feedback in the survey.
c)      Also if you are NOT going to attend the meeting – this is your opportunity to give us feedback.
d)      To indicate whether you support/or not support the founding of such a body.

It is thus critical that everyone who receives this email complete the survey so that we can use the time on the 16th of November optimally. If you forwarded the original email on to people that is NOT on our mailing list, please also forward this email on to them, so that we can get a comprehensive view of the sector – it will maximise our discussions next week!

WHO SHOULD ATTEND

The academy is intended for scientists who actively practice in the forensic sector. We will probably form various categories of membership to encompass the entire sector hence our invitation to all stakeholders in the sector for this meeting.

TRAVEL ARRANGEMENTS

Please note that all of us are responsible for our own travel arrangements to and from the meeting. We literally have a zero budget for this meeting and are still in the process of looking for sponsors for e.g. refreshments.

PLEASE UPDATE YOUR DETAILS

Please use the link below this email to update your contact details. This is essential in order to ensure that we have an updated database going forward.

THE PROCESS THUS FAR

We want to state upfront that the process that got us to this point is not perfect, and most of the steps we will take forward may also not be perfect. We trust that you will look beyond this and see the forest, the need for us to organise ourselves and to get our profession to where it should be. This can only be achieved if each of us agrees to leave our disputes at the door of this meeting and work together to make forensic science in South Africa the tool for justice it should be.

The small group of people that have been talking to get us to this point is from various institutions (government, department of health, various private forensic science companies or consultants, academics who provide training in this field). For ease of reference we have referred to ourselves until now as the “Forensic Science Workgroup”.

The next and last communication that we plan to send out to all is an email that will be sent on Monday, November 14th 2016. It will state the final arrangements for the meeting as well as the venue.

Regards,
Forensic Science Workgroup

  • Alida Grove – Dept of Health
  • Antonel Olckers – DNA
  • Gert Saayman – Forensic Pathology UP
  • Jason Jordaan – Digital Forensics
  • Marise Heyns – Academia UCT
  • Ryan Blumenthal – Forensic Pathology UP
  • Wes van der Westhuizen – Ballistics

SAPS Forensic Services: Available Posts – Nov 2016

November 4th, 2016

New posts within the South African Police Service (SAPS) Forensic Services Division are currently being advertised for and have been added to their website under the ‘Police Act’ section.

Please visit http://www.saps.gov.za/careers/careers.php to view all the various posts and requirements.

CLOSING DATE for all applications: 11 November 2016

I Am Woman: Thank you!

September 21st, 2016

I have been inundated with messages of love and support since the showing of the below documentary on the work of the DNA Project.

It was not a journey I undertook alone and thank you to my amazing DNA Project family for your passion and unwavering support over the last decade.

In particular the documentary pays such beautiful tribute to my Dad, Johnny Lynch – it is the first time I have seen my Dad ‘live’ in video since his death (we didn’t realise my brother had these videos…) and it took my breath away — for my daughter and my family sitting around me, it felt as if he was in the room with us and you could have heard a pin drop as the tears fell upon our cheeks.

My Dad has always been my ‘silent’ partner in this journey, having not chosen to use his name in my work, because that was what my Dad was always about — he always told me that true charity is when you give something of yourself but never tell anyone about it — well in some ways that was what he did and in this programme it was his time to shine and I am so glad that his story was told, even though I know he would still be humble about it!

In loving memory of the true hero in this story, my dearest Dad, John Lynch

~ Vanessa

Thank you to Lisa Chait and Lauren Groenewald together with the whole “I AM WOMAN” team. It was a real honour for our DNA Project family to be part of your inspirational programme.

I AM WOMAN LEAP OF FAITH is a South African television and online series presented by storyteller Lisa Chait. It features the lives and Leaps of Faith of remarkable women exploring how they stepped into brand new territory when faced with life’s greatest challenges and opportunities. Each episode uncovers the turning points and pivotal moments of change in their lives. We also explore where they turned to when the chips were down.

To learn more about the series or to view past episodes, please visit www.iamwomanseries.com

Some of the wonderful comments we received via our social media and emails – Thank you all for your very kind words of support:

“Dear Vanessa, Congratulations…. what a lovely documentary. Your family have every reason to be so very proud of you. Both Brian and I thought that every interview was excellent and both felt very humbled to be connected to such a remarkable achievement and woman. I just wish that neither of us, (you and I) had to experience the trauma that we did for this to happen. You will be in the history books! Lots of love, respect, and admiration” ~ Diana Thomson (Mike Thomson Change A Life Trust)

“I hope you are all feeling very proud of what you did and achieved… I smiled, I laughed, I cried, I felt happy, I felt sad, but above all, I felt blessed and privileged to know you all. Vee, you really are the champion and all your seconds along the way have walked / run the race with you. I know that for you the hero in this story is and always will be Johnny – for me, it’s all of you. God bless – take care – lots of love” ~ Carol xx

“I just wanted to share with you how touched I was by your story that was aired last night. Thank you for touching the hearts of many others in a time of great sorry and pain. What a lady!!!!!!!!!!!! Thought I must share with you how much it meant to me” ~ Elsabe

“I watched a program of you last night,I am woman. What you have done is amazing and is a lasting legacy. May God bless you for your strength and courage. Thank you from a South African dad” ~ Rudi

“You’re an amazing woman Vanessa. When unsolved cases of someone dear to us go unsolved, it’s heart breaking. We salute you and thank you for your “Leap of Faith”” ~ Colleen

“I have cried while watching this very poignant story. What an incredible person you are Vanessa. I am amazed at your dedication and tenacity. You deserve more recognition for your brilliant work. Well done” ~ Alison

“Was so incredibly emotional and inspirational to watch last night. So much respect for what you and the team are doing for the country. Thank you” ~ Marieka

“Really heartfelt, whilst informative all at the same time” ~ Nolwazi

SAPS Forensic Services: Available Posts – Sept 2016

September 9th, 2016

New posts within the South African Police Service (SAPS) Forensic Services Division, under the Police Act, have been added to their website and are currently being advertised for September 2016.

Please visit http://www.saps.gov.za/careers/careers.php to view all the various posts and requirements.

CLOSING DATE for all applications: 16 September 2016

Change a Life – Mike Thomson murder feedback

August 4th, 2016

We received the following incredible feedback from the Mike Thomson Change a Life Trust that we wish to share…

It was eight years ago that Mike Thomson was tragically murdered and the Mike Thomson Change a Life Trust was formed in his memory. In all these years his killers had not been brought to book but his mother, Diana, reports that the wait for justice is finally over.

On Tuesday, 26 July 2016, the final member and leader of the gang responsible for Mike’s murder was sentenced to 15 years for armed robbery and 20 years for murder. Although the sentence will run concurrently with the 37 years he is serving at present, it will add to the years he will not be eligible for parole. Diana says that, after all the years Razor Zulu has been completely unrepentant and has pleaded not guilty to the crime, he made an about face the day before the trial and plead guilty to the crime.  He also apologised to Diana and Lorna, Mike’s widow.

Two members of the gang had previously pleaded guilty and turned state witness against Razor Zulu and another man named Stofele. They were given 25 and 20 years respectively.  The final outcome has been that of the five members of the gang, three are in prison, one was killed during a gun battle after escaping from prison and Stofele was released for lack of evidence against him.

Mike’s family can finally take comfort that these people will not be at liberty to continue with their reign of terror for many years to come.

The DNA Project wishes to extend our heartfelt thanks to the Mike Thomson Change a Life Trust for their many years of amazing support.

Their continued support enabled us to bring about a positive change not only through our various projects and awareness campaigns, but most importantly in allowing us to champion the need for effective legislation in South Africa – which ultimately lead to the passing of the new ‘DNA Act’ – to make better use of forensic DNA evidence as a crime fighting tool.

Thank you!