SAPS Forensic Services: Available Posts – March 2015

March 1st, 2015

New posts within the South African Police Service (SAPS) Forensic Services Division, under the SAPS Act (employment as a police official), have been added to their website and are currently being advertised for March 2015 – http://www.saps.gov.za/careers/careers.php.

Please Note: Police officials are employed in terms of the South African Police Service Act, 1995 (Act No 68 of 1995).

CLOSING DATE for all applications: 13 March 2015

POLICE ACT POSTS

Click here to read the application process in terms of the SAPS Act.

Please download the full advertisement for all the new SAPS Act posts, including full requirements, core responsibilities, salary level and how to apply (PDF).

Download the official application form from the SAPS website.

The following posts are available:

1. Post: Colonel
Section Commander: Investigative Support
Section: Investigative Psychology
Component: Criminal Record & Crime Scene Management
Location of the post: Pretoria (1 Post) (Ref FS 241/2014)

2. Post: Major
Commander: Permits and Licences: Explosives Control
Section: Explosives
Component: Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management
Location of the post: National Office: Pretoria (1 Post) (Ref FS 242/2014)

3. Post: Major
Commander: Technical Support: Bomb Disposal
Section: Explosives
Component: Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management
Location of the post: National Office: Pretoria (1 Post) (Ref FS 243/2014)

4. Post: Major
Commander: Explosives Control
Component: Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management
Location of the post:

  • Provincial Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management: King Williamstown: Eastern Cape (1 Post) (Ref FS 244/2014)
  • Provincial Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management: Bloemfontein: Free State: (1 Post) (Ref FS 245/2014)

5. Post: Major
Commander: Explosives Unit
Component: Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management
Location of the post:

  • Germiston: Gauteng (1 Post) (Ref FS 246/2014)
  • Pietermaritzburg: Kwazulu-Natal (1 Post) (Ref FS 247/2014)

6. Post: Major
Commander: Crime Scene Laboratories
Component: Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management
Location of the post: Provincial Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management: King Williamstown: Eastern Cape (1 Post) (Ref FS 248/2014)

7. Post: Major
Commander: Technical Management
Section: Regional Quality Management
Component: Quality Management
Location of the post: Plattekloof: Western Cape (1 Post) (Ref FS 249/2014)

8. Post: Chief Forensic Analyst (Major)
Section: Regional Quality Management
Component: Quality Management
Location of the post: Amazimtoti: Kwazulu-Natal (1 Post) (Ref FS 250/2014)

9. Post: Chief Forensic Analyst (Major)
Commander: Technical Management: Scientific Analysis
Section: Technical Management
Component: Quality Management
Location of the post: Pretoria: Gauteng (1 Post) (Ref FS 251/2014)

10. Post: Chief Forensic Analyst (Major)
Sub Section Commander: Profiling Analysis
Section: Scientific Analysis
Component: Forensic Science Laboratory
Location of the post: Gauteng: Pretoria (1 Post) (Ref FS 252/2014)

11. Post: Lieutenant
Sub-Section: Criminal Profiling Centre
Section: Centralized CRC
Component: Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management
Location of the post: Pretoria: National Office (1 Post) (Ref FS 253/2014)

12. Post: Lieutenant
Sub-Section: Bomb Disposal
Section: Explosives
Component: Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management
Location of the post: Cape Town: Western Cape (1 Post) (Ref FS 254/2014)

13. Post: Senior State Accountant (Lieutenant)
Sub Section: Bookkeeping: Finance and Administration Services
Section: Nodal Support Centre
Location of the post:

  • Forensic Science Laboratory: Amanzimtoti: Kwazulu-Natal (1 Post) (Ref FS 255/2014)
  • Provincial Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management: Durban: Kwazulu-Natal (1 Post) (Ref FS 256/2014)
  • Provincial Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management: Cape Town: Western Cape (1Post) (Ref FS 257/2014)

14. Post: Senior Forensic Analyst (Lieutenant)
Sub Section: Specialized Identification Services: Data Collection
Section: Post Mortem Facilitation
Component: Forensic Science Laboratory
Location of the post: Pretoria: Gauteng (1 Post) (Ref FS 258/2014)

15. Post: Senior Forensic Analyst (Lieutenant)
Sub Section: Case Management
Section: Biology
Component: Forensic Science Laboratory
Location of the post: Pretoria: Gauteng (1 Post) (Ref FS 259/2014)

16. Post: Senior Forensic Analyst (Lieutenant)
Sub Section: Case Review
Section: Biology
Component: Forensic Science Laboratory
Location of the post: Pretoria: Gauteng (1 Post) (Ref FS 260/2014)

17. Post: Senior Forensic Analyst (Lieutenant)
Sub Section: Environmental Compliance: Regional Laboratory
Section: Quality Management: Forensic Science Laboratory
Component: Quality Management
Location of the post: Port Elizabeth: Eastern Cape (1 Post) (Ref FS 261/2014)

18. Post: Senior Forensic Analyst (Lieutenant)
Sub Section: Quality Assurance: Explosives
Section: Quality Management: Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management
Component: Quality Management
Location of the post: National Office: Pretoria (1 Post) (Ref FS 262/2014)

GENERAL:

  • Only the official application form (available on the SAPS website and at SAPS recruitment offices) will be accepted. The Z83 previously utilized will no longer be accepted. All instructions on the application form must be adhered to and all previous/pending criminal/disciplinary convictions must be declared. Failure to do so may result in the rejection of the application.
  • The post particulars and reference number of the post must be correctly specified on the application form. A separate application form must be completed for each post.
  • A comprehensive Curriculum Vitae must be submitted together with the application form.
  • Certified copies (certification preferably by Police Officers) of an applicant’s ID document, motor vehicle driver’s license (Police Act appointments), Senior Certificate and all educational qualifications obtained together with the academic record (statement of results) thereof and service certificates of previous employers stating the occupation and the period, must also be submitted and attached to every application. The copies must be correctly certified on the copy itself, not at the back. The certification must not be older than three months. All qualifications and driver’s licenses submitted will be subjected to verification checking with the relevant institutions.
  • CANDIDATES ARE REQUESTED TO INITIAL EACH AND EVERY PAGE OF THE APPLICATION FORM, CV AND ALL ANNEXURES.
  • The closing date for the applications is 2015-03-13. Applications must be mailed timeously. Late applications will not be accepted or considered.
  • Appointments will be made in terms of the SAPS Act or Public Service Act as applicable to the post environment.
  • If a candidate is short-listed, it can be expected of him/her to undergo a personal interview.
  • Successful applicants to be appointed in terms of the South African Police Service Act, 1995 (Act no 68 of 1995) and applicants not yet appointed in terms of the South African Police Service Act, 1995 (Act no 68 of 1995) will have to undergo a medical examination and found to be medically fit. They will further have to comply with the prescripts on the SAPS Dress Order, whereby tattoos may not be visible when wearing uniform, must be willing to undergo the prescribed Introductory Police Development Learning Programme and are expected to work flexi hours or shifts in the execution of their duties.
  • The Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Act, Act 37 of 2013 requires that all new recruits (appointments) in the South African Police Service as from 31st of January 2015 provide a buccal sample in order to determine their forensic DNA profile. The forensic DNA profile derived from the sample will be loaded to the National Forensic DNA Database.
  • The Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Act, Act 37 of 2013 requires that all new recruits (appointments) in the South African Police Service as from 31st of January 2015 provide a buccal sample in order to determine their forensic DNA profile. The forensic DNA profile derived from the sample will be loaded to the National Forensic DNA Database.
  • Short-listed candidates for appointment to certain identified posts, will be vetted in terms of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act, 2007 (Act No 32 of 2007) and the Children’s Act, 2005 (Act No 38 of 2005). A candidate, whose particulars appear in either the National Register for Sex Offenders or Part B of the Child Protection Register, will be disqualified from appointment to that post.
  • All short-listed candidates will be subjected to fingerprint screening. Candidates will be subjected to a vetting process which will include security screening and fingerprint verification.
  • Correspondence will be conducted with successful candidates only. If you have not been contacted within three (3) months after the closing date of this advertisement, please accept that your application was unsuccessful.
  • The South African Police Service is under no obligation to fill a post after the advertisement thereof.
  • The South African Police Service is an equal opportunity, affirmative action employer and it is the intention to promote representivity in the Public Service through the filling of these posts. Persons whose transfer/appointment/promotion will promote representivity will therefore receive preference.

Applications and enquiries can be directed to:
Lt Colonel Klopper / Lt Moonsamy
Tel: (012) 421-0194
Tel: (012) 421-0584

Postal Address:
Private Bag X 322
PRETORIA
0001

Hand Delivery:
Cnr Beckett and Pretorius Street
Strelitzia Building
Arcadia

Marie Claire & Blow the Whistle #MCNaked Campaign

February 17th, 2015

Marie Claire’s popular Naked issue, in aid of Blow the Whistle (BTW) and supported by 1st For Women Insurance is on sale now. Featuring 35 local celebrities in the nude, the issue aims to raise awareness of Blow the Whistle’s support of women that are victims of rape and abuse.

“This is probably one of our most powerful Naked issues yet,” says Aspasia Karras, editor of Marie Claire. “We are all vulnerable and naked in the face of the high rate of violent and sexual crime in South Africa against women and children. This campaign aims to give a voice to the many thousands who suffer daily. Our aim is simple; to raise awareness and allow those who are victims to feel safe and come forward and speak up.”

Anti-rape initiative, Blow the Whistle is a national campaign focused on the empowerment of women and children in the face of the incidence of rape and abuse, by giving them the platforms necessary to feel safe. They have developed an app that allows users to select four Guardians to watch over them wherever they are. The app, which can be downloaded on Whistle.co.za, has a private panic button that sends a notification to the Guardians when pressed. The app is also equipped with a journey-monitoring function, allowing users to load their journey details, as well as the amount of time it should take them to get there. If the timer runs out without the journey being cancelled or extended, a notification will be sent to the users Guardians, along with the coordinates and address of their current location. BTW has also produced small and unobtrusive whistles to blow to attract attention when one is in need of help.

All proceeds of the Naked campaign will go towards BTW’s beneficiary, The DNA Project, which works on the development of crime scene DNA forensics. The DNA Project is aimed at expanding the existing National Forensic DNA Database of South Africa that holds the DNA profiles of convicted criminals. DNA profiling is a key component in the conviction of rapists. Any persons arrested for rape or sexual assault will have their DNA profile loaded onto the database, which will be searchable in new DNA investigations to establish any matches in identifying a suspect.

“Blow the Whistle is proud to be associated to the Naked issue,” notes Mike Rowley and Sureshnie Rider, co-founders of the BTW campaign. “Blow the Whistle is about giving woman a voice and allowing them to be heard,” states Rider “This issue really speaks to that voice. It’s about empowerment. It’s about all citizens forming a community and starting a conversation.”
As Rowley concludes, “Our women and children are our nation’s greatest asset and we cannot fail them.”

Marie Claire cover - March 2015

How to get involved

Share one’s voice. Speak up and tell others to do the same. Marie Claire has created a picture gallery on its website, where readers can post their message of support or opinion on sexual violence. This gallery will be shared on Marie Claire’s Facebook page. To drive engagement and more discussion; 1st For Women Insurance will donate R10 000 towards The DNA Project when the Facebook gallery reaches 1000 shares.

Donate: SMS the word ‘WHISTLE’ to 38157 to make a donation of R10 towards BTW.

Buy a whistle for R36 from The Cross Trainer stores or from hotels in the Legacy Group around South Africa. (For more information, visit www.whistle.co.za).

Supporting the 2015 campaign is 1st for Women Insurance.

Robyn Farrell, the executive head of 1st for Women Insurance and a trustee of the 1st for Women Foundation says: “We are proud to sponsor Marie Claire’s Naked campaign. We believe that it cuts through the charity clutter and makes a bold statement – it exposes the naked truth of the rape epidemic and forces South Africans to pay attention and start a conversation. The purpose of the campaign aligns with the aim of the 1st for Women Foundation which has, since its inception in 2005, donated over R30-million to a number of women-related charity organisations that focus on assisting survivors of gender-based violence and making the HPV vaccine more accessible to South African women.”

Celebrities taking part in the 2015 campaign are:

Lira; DJ Milkshake from 5FM; Pearl Thusi and Masasa Mbangeni; Daniel Nash, Thithi Nteta and Andrew Berry; Chris Chameleon and Danielle Deysel; Angel Campey and Shimmy Isaacs; Schalk Bezuidenhout; Michael Lowman and his girlfriend, brand manager Daisy May; JP Duminy and his wife, Sue Duminy; Ewan Strydom; Guy McDonald, Carl Wastie, Sandra Rosenberg and Erin-Li from of Good Hope FM Breakfast; Joelle Kayembe; Katherine Pichulik; George van der Spuy, Rian Zietsman, Jason Ling and Louis Nel from Taxi Violence; Nadia Velvekens, Leandie du Randt and Amalia Uys; Stefan Ludik, Reynardt Hugo, Theodore Jantjies and Nkululeko Tshirumbula and radio personality Vic Naidoo.

Marie Claire will post more content, interviews and behind-the-scenes videos of the 2015 Naked campaign online, as well as more information on BTW. For all the updates, visit www.marieclaire.co.za.

SOURCE: Lira to grace cover of Marie Claire’s 2015 Naked issue – Media Update – published 16 February 2015

Appointment to the DNA Oversight and Ethics Board confirmed

February 9th, 2015

Last week I received a letter such as none I have ever received before.

It was signed by the Minister of Police and confirmed my appointment as a Member and Deputy Chairperson of the National Forensic Oversight and Ethics Board. This part time appointment will run for the next five years.

The reason I am so excited about this appointment is because key to the successful implementation of the DNA Act, is the establishment of this Oversight Board which will provide ethical oversight over the National DNA database and handle complaints relating to the taking, retention and use of DNA samples and forensic DNA profiles. Comprising of ten members, half of which have been chosen from outside of the Government sector, this Oversight Board’s core functions will include monitoring the implementation of the provisions of the DNA Act and making proposals to the Minister for any improvements regarding the overall operations of the database.

Looking at countries around the world which have introduced DNA legislation in the past, they have all done so under the guidance of some form of Oversight Board in response to meeting the commitments imposed upon it by any new DNA legislation. An oversight body furthermore creates accountability and functions as a watchdog not only to ensure ethical compliance with the provisions of the Act but compliance with the time frames within which forensic DNA profiles should be analysed and loaded onto the DNA Database. The purpose of a DNA Database is to load as many arrestee and convicted offender profiles onto the Database, and this important expansion process needs to be closely monitored.

I for one feel honoured to have been tasked with this important role and have notified the Minister that I gladly and willingly accept the appointment and look forward to the important work ahead in helping ensure that the DNA Act is properly and optimally implemented. I do and have always believed that the DNA Act will have a profound effect on crime resolution in South Africa and am delighted to be have been chosen so that I can continue to be part of this process.

The Act states that the first meeting of the Oversight Board has to be held within 30 days of the Act having been declared operational, which is 30 days from the 31st January 2015: namely on or before 2nd March 2015. I am ready as ever and look forward to meeting my new colleagues and hope they are as eager as I am to finally help translate the pages of this Act into real crime resolution.

In the meantime, the work of The DNA Project remains as important as ever —  we need to continue to create awareness around crime scene preservation. When a crime scene is not disturbed, forensic evidence has the power to determine exactly what happened and who committed the crime. Disturb the crime scene, and we lose that opportunity forever and no legislation nor Oversight Board, however good, can change that.

Vanessa Lynch

Operation: DNA CSI 2.0

February 5th, 2015

February is quite the month of change with the DNA Act becoming operational from the 31st of January 2015.

Another nice change that we would like to share with you is our newly redesigned ‘DNA CSI’ website which focuses on our DNA Awareness Campaign.

Please visit http://operation-dna-csi.weebly.com to view our new design or to learn more about our workshops and how you can book one for your organisation, group or company.

Our new 'Operation: DNA CSI' 2.0 website

SAPS Press conference on DNA legislation – Media invitation

February 3rd, 2015

MEDIA ALERT

SOUTH AFRICAN POLICE SERVICE

To:     All media

SAPS NATIONAL COMMISSIONER PROVIDES PROGRESS ON DNA LEGISLATION

Pretoria 3 February 2015 - The Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Act 37 of 2013 (the DNA Act) was finally passed into law on the 27th of January 2014.

The SAPS National Commissioner, General Riah Phiyega cordially invites the media to a press conference in which she will provide progress on DNA legislation and capacity in this regard, investigations and convictions on rape cases.

Date:               4 Feb 2015

Time:              9:30am for 10:00am

Venue:            GCIS Press Room, corner Frances Baard and Festival Streets, Hatfield

DNA Act becomes operational from 31 January 2015

January 31st, 2015

A warm letter of thanks

January 30th, 2015

Towards the end of last year we received a wonderful email from a young lady thanking us for the work we do that we would like to share with everyone.

Good day.

My name is Pearl Mabuela and I’m a 15 year old girl. I really am a big fan of this organization, since the age of 7 I’ve always wanted to be a forensic scientist or work in the criminology faculty. Very soon, I’ll be going to university (I’m in grade 10) and I thought of MONASH university because they offer Criminology, Philosophy, Anthropology and Enviromental science,  All the things I want to do. Unfortunately, as I looked upon the requirements for University of Free state I was quite sad because I don’t have some of the required subjects for Forensic science, but I won’t give up I’ll give all in!

All I wanted to say was THANK YOU because all this while I’ve been telling my parents that forensics, anthropology and philosophy are not regarded as important In our country. I felt like forensics was dying out day by day, but because of you guys I realised that it’s still alive and rising up above all! Watching shows like Forensic detectives, medical detectives, Forensic scientists, Dr. G medical examiner, I was murdered, CSI and so many more really made me have an ambition towards forensics. The other day they broke into our house and the forensic detectives came, as they were collecting fingerprints I was busy telling my mom everything they’ll do and how they will do it, she was quite shocked that I was correct (laughs) but, I just told her “That’s my future job” .

So thank you! You gave me hope again! May God bless all of you abundantly.

Pearl Mabuela

(A young teen in action!)

We were absolutely thrilled to receive such a lovely email and wish to give Pearl a BIG thank you for sharing with us her great story and wish to become a forensic scientist.

The forensic community will definitely benefit from having such a passionate young lady joining their ranks and we wish her the very best with her future studies and look forward to her one day becoming a CSI=)

DNA Project Team

Mitochondrial DNA Research Could Bolster Forensic Investigations

January 23rd, 2015

Image credit: University of California Museum of Paleontology's Understanding Evolution

A grant from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) will help scientists from Penn State’s Eberly College of Science (United States) delve deep into the world of mitochondrial DNA, or mtDNA, used to help solve crime in forensic investigations.

Sometimes, forensic scientists only have mtDNA to work with in their evidence samples, with examples being old bones and hair shafts. However, because this genetic information is passed down from a person’s mother, an individual will have the same mtDNA as his or her mother and siblings, making it hard to distinguish between members of the same family. As a result, it can be challenging in some cases to use mtDNA for identification in forensic investigations.

Penn State scientists will use the $430,000 NIJ grant to explore the rates of low-level mixtures of mtDNA found in most individuals, called heteroplasmic variants. These variants are areas of genetic information in mtDNA that can differ between a mother and child, or between siblings, making this type of DNA analysis much more informative for forensic identifications. In addition, the scientists at Penn State will evaluate how variants are passed between relatives, and between different tissue types in a person’s body. Their initial findings on this topic were published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Image credit: University of California Museum of Paleontology's Understanding Evolution

This research project showcases an interface between biology and forensic science research, said Mitchell Holland, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, and the lead investigator on the grant. “It’s basic research that helps us understand the rates of these low-level mtDNA variants, and how they move between maternal relatives and different tissues in a person’s body. While these are basic questions of interest to biologists, they also have direct applications to forensic science,” he said.

The investigators will apply next-generation sequencing technologies to explore the mtDNA variants. Next-generation sequencing allows a scientist to obtain much more genetic information than traditional sequencing methods and is allowing forensic scientists to explore areas of mtDNA genetics that weren’t particularly feasible before, said Holland, and the technology is growing fast. “Sequencing technology is growing at a faster rate than computer technology, which is incredible.”

The aim of the research is to make mtDNA analysis a much more useful tool in forensic investigation by providing more information from an mtDNA testing result. The potential impacts of this research are broad and far reaching for the forensic community, and could increase the value of mtDNA evidence in forensic casework.

SOURCE: This article, by Penn State, was published online by Forensic Magazine on 22 January 2015 – http://www.forensicmag.com/news/2015/01/mitochondrial-dna-research-could-bolster-forensic-investigations

Commencement of the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Act (37/2013)

December 31st, 2014

What a wonderful end to an exciting year!!!

In a proclamation published in the Government Gazette on the 30th of December 2014 (Vol. 594 | No. 38376), the President has stated the 31st of January 2015 as the date on which the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Act 37 of 2013 shall come into operation with the exception of section 2 (to the extent that it inserts section 36D(1) in the Criminal Procedure Act, 1977 (Act No. 51 of 1977)).

Additional note: Section 2 of the ‘DNA Act’ deals with the insertion of 36D (“Powers in respect of buccal samples, bodily samples and crime scene samples”) and 36E (“Samples for investigation purposes”) into the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977 and in particular, 36D(1) refers to the mandatory taking of a buccal sample from a Schedule 8 arrestee by the SAPS or bodily sample by a registered medical practitioner or registered nurse.

Please click here to view a PDF copy of Government Gazette Vol. 594 | No. 38376.

Government Gazette Vol. 594 | No. 38376

DNA Test That Distinguishes Identical Twins May Be Used in Court for First Time

December 16th, 2014

In 2004, two young women were abducted at gunpoint while walking home near Boston [United States] at night. The crimes happened eight days apart, but the pattern was the same: The women were shoved into a car by two men, pistol-whipped, driven to a different location, and raped. While collecting her clothes, the second victim managed to grab the condom one of the men had worn; she hid it in her pocket, and turned it in as evidence.

One of the two men involved pleaded guilty to the attacks in 2012. The other remained at large. Police had a suspect, but they couldn’t pin the crime on him due to a twist of genetic fate: He had an identical twin brother, and DNA from the condom matched both siblings. But now, a decade after the assaults, scientists have developed a genetic test that can distinguish between identical twins, and it may be used in court for the first time in this case.

The second suspect is 33-year-old Dwayne McNair. In September, McNair was arraigned on eight counts of aggravated rape and two counts of armed robbery, stemming from the two sexual assaults.

Traditional forensic methods can’t differentiate between DNA belonging to identical twins

He’s been a suspect in the crimes since 2007. According to court documents, a standard genetic test linked him to semen collected from the second attack back in 2008. That would ordinarily be enough to justify charges, but Dwayne wasn’t the only person whose DNA matched that semen. His twin, Dwight, was also a match. Traditional forensic methods can’t differentiate between DNA belonging to identical twins, and without a clear way to establish whether Dwayne or Dwight had left the semen at the scene, police had no probable cause to make an arrest in 2008.

But in 2012, the other man involved in the assaults told investigators that Dwayne had been his partner in the crimes. And earlier this year, prosecutors learned of a new forensic genetics test claiming to differentiate between biological samples belonging to identical twins. According to the Suffolk County District Attorney the test points to Dwayne, not Dwight, as the perpetrator of the 2004 assaults.

Normally, forensic tests work by extracting and amplifying regions of DNA collected from a crime scene. Then, investigators look for a match between the evidence and a suspect’s genetic sequence. Ordinarily, this kind of testing is sufficient: Most humans vary from one another enough for investigators to easily identify whether a suspect left blood, skin, hair, semen, or something else at a crime scene.

This is not true with identical twins. Grown from the same, single fertilized egg, monozygotic twins have nearly identical genomes. So, for decades, twins committing crimes had a relatively easy way to establish doubt—based on DNA evidence alone, their identical sibling would be equally as likely to have deposited whatever genetic material might have been left at a crime scene.

Maybe not anymore.

Using what’s known as ultra-deep, next-generation sequencing, a team in Germany has developed a test that claims to reliably identify which twin a biological sample belongs to. The test works by taking a close look at the genetic letters (called base pairs) comprising the 3 billion-base-pair human genome. Because mutations randomly occur during development, even genetically “identical” twins will vary at a handful of locations, says Burkhard Rolf, a forensic scientist at Eurofins Scientific, the company that developed the test.

The sequence mutations are random, so it’s incredibly unlikely they’d be the same in both twins—and it’s those discrepancies that can be used to pin a crime on a twin.

In a proof-of-principle study, Rolf and his colleagues analyzed sequences from a pair of twins and one of their kids. Scientists could positively identify which twin was the child’s father, based on five single base pair differences present in the father and son, but not in the uncle. They published the work earlier this year in Forensic Science International: Genetics; it’s this paper that caught the Suffolk District Attorney’s attention.

Results from Eurofins, showing one of the mutations

The office sent evidence to Eurofins for analysis. After the results came back, the McNair was indicted and arraigned for the crimes in September.

“At arraignment, the assigned prosecutor cited the Eurofins test results and said Dwayne McNair was ‘two billion times more likely’ than his twin to have been the source of the crime scene DNA,” says Suffolk DA spokesperson Jake Wark.

Now, the question is: Will the genetic test be admissible in court? It would be the first time it’s been used in the United States. A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for Jan. 12, 2015, after which a judge will decide whether evidence from the test is admissible.

Some experts seem to think it will hold up.

“It is scientifically sound and reliable, has a high probability of success, is based on standard, generally accepted forensic DNA sequencing technology, and has an infinitesimally low risk of error if proper laboratory practices are followed,” said Bruce Budowle, in an affidavit to the court. Budowle, who is now at the University of North Texas Health Science Center, once led the FBI’s DNA typing laboratory.

Yet some scientists are a bit wary. “I think it’s an interesting idea,” says computational biologist Yaniv Erlich of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The work published by the Eurofins team is accurate, he says, but is only based on one pair of twins. In an ideal world, Erlich would test the method using dozens of twin pairs, while simulating the small amounts of DNA that might be found at crime scenes.

He’s also concerned about the test’s applicability to different tissue types, and blood in particular (which is not an issue in the McNair case). In 2011, Erlich took a close look at the blood of identical twins who shared a placenta during development; early on, these twins are also sharing blood – even as adults, each twin has blood cells with DNA from the other twin.

“Think about one twin being Coca-Cola, the other twin is Sprite,” Erlich said. Their blood will be a mix of Coke and Sprite. “It’s not 50-50,” he said, “but it could be 20-80.”

In other words, while the Eurofins method might not work as well with blood samples left at crime scenes. But when it comes to saliva, skin, or semen, it could mean that identical twins are about to lose their genetic get-out-of-jail-free card.

SOURCE: This article was first published by Wired on 4 December 2014 and written by Nadia Drake – http://www.wired.com/2014/12/genetic-test-distinguishes-identical-twins-may-used-court-first-time/