We are often asked whether identical twins would be able to get away with committing a crime because their DNA is identical… well here is a case in point:
Saved by their indistinguishable DNA, identical twins suspected in a massive jewelry heist were set free because neither of them could be exclusively linked to the DNA evidence.
It’s what many movies are made of: the perfect crime.
Identical twins Hassan and Abbas O., charged in a spectacular multimillion-dollar jewelry heist in Germany, were set free because their genetic information is identical which means that traces of DNA found at the crime scene failed to provide conclusive evidence for trial.
In the early morning hours of Sunday, Jan. 25 2009, thieves managed to break into Berlin’s famous, luxury department store Kaufhaus des Westens, universally known as KaDeWe, stealing fine jewelry and pricey watches worth $6.5 million.
Surveillance cameras taped three masked men wearing gloves sliding down a rope from a store skylight, evading motion detectors and outsmarting the store’s security system.
The bandits got away that night but left evidence behind: DNA, found in a trace of sweat after police secured a discarded rubber glove at the crime scene.
Investigators ran the material through the German criminal database and came up with the twins Hassan and Abbas O., who both have criminal records for theft and fraud. They cannot be named in full, under German law, which prohibits such suspects from being identified until they are convicted.
The 27-year-old brothers, who live in the northern German state of Lower Saxony, were arrested two weeks after the high-profile incident with police suspecting that at least one of them took part in the theft.
By the end of the week, however, they were released before the case could ever come to trial after confusion over which one of them was the alleged culprit.
DNA Evidence Clouding the Case
“From the evidence we have, we can deduce that at least one of the brothers took part in the crime,” the court wrote in a statement, “but it has not been possible to determine which one.”
When police found traces of DNA on a glove left at the scene of the crime, it seemed that the criminals responsible for Germany’s most spectacular heist in years would be caught. But the DNA led to not one but two suspects — 27-year-old identical, or monozygotic, twins with identical DNA.
German law stipulates that each criminal must be individually proven guilty. The problem in the case of the O. brothers was that their twin DNA is so similar that neither could be exclusively linked to the evidence using current methods of DNA analysis. So even though both have criminal records and may have committed the heist together, Hassan and Abbas O. were set free.
Both brothers stolidly refused to comment and since no further evidence has become available, police cannot detain them. According to the daily Berlin newspaper, the twins sent a message that they were “proud of the German constitutional state and gave it their thanks.”
There is still no trace of a third suspect — or the loot!