Archive for the ‘Past Projects’ Category


KZN Roadshow 2014: A look back

Thu, Nov 13th, 2014

Earlier this year the DNA Project held its second roadshow, this time conducted in KwaZulu-Natal, to further disseminate our DNA CSI message.

Our KZN Trainer Rhys McColl, who facilitated this year’s roadshow, briefly looks back at his experience…

As a Durban based trainer I have been predominantly involved with workshops in and around the Durban area.  In order to spread the DNA projects message around the KZN province, a “DNA Project Roadshow” was organised from the 8th – 11th of April 2014.  These workshops were held in Ladysmith, Newcastle, Ulundi, Richards Bay and Port Shepstone.


The first workshop was held at the town hall in the historically important city of Ladysmith.  A number of uniformed officers and members of the flying squad were in attendance to gain important instruction in terms of crime scene management.

The second workshop took place in the Newcastle farmer’s hall.  A very good turnout was seen thanks in part by the organisation of our workshop co-ordinator, Maya Moodley, and the enthusiastic approach by the Newcastle police trainers.  The audience was made up by a large number of police as well as paramedics and security personnel.  All those in attendance were eager to learn and the workshop was a great success.


On the third day of the roadshow, members of the Ulundi police force met at the IFP caucus room in the legislative building in Ulundi.  Once again there was a very good turnout.  On a very hot day in central KZN, a great workshop was had with everybody involved gaining insight into the importance of DNA evidence.

The penultimate talk was held at the Flamingo community hall in Richards Bay.  Once again there was a very good turnout on a hot and humid day on the coast.  Over 100 people attended the workshop with members of the police, paramedics and security companies present.

Richards Bay

The final stop in the roadshow was at the town hall in the South Coast town of Port Shepstone.  This final day would in fact turn out to be the most rewarding with a phenomenal attendance of over 250 people.  Of the 250 odd people, a large majority were police officers, however, a number of paramedics and community policing forum members were also present.

All in all the roadshow was a great success with over 550 people attending the 5 workshops and the success of this event has hopefully laid the foundation for many roadshows to come.

Rhys McColl (KZN DNA Awareness Trainer)

Equipment Donations given to the FSL by The DNA Project

Sat, Aug 1st, 2009

The DNA Project, since its inception, has not only purchased and provided the FSL with laboratory equipment for both the Pretoria and Western Cape Labs, but has initiated DNA forensic awareness training programs, developed a post graduate forensic analyst qualification, funded the UK Forensic Science Services review of SA’s FSL’s and is currently assisting with changes in legislation.

The following items on the FSL’s “wish list” have to date been donated to the FSL by the DNA Project:

Western Cape Lab
Gold 96-Well GENEAMP PCR System 9700
Canon 350 Digital camera
Laptop Computers
Hemospat Software
Pretoria Lab
Crimezone 3d Software
Hemospat Software
PhotomodelerPro Software
Garmin GPS

In addition to the above items, the Pretoria FSL has 8 Imaging Work stations which form part of the 2 Evidence Recovery Laboratories (ERL) – Each of these ERL’s needs a camera, macro lens, macro lighting flash, tripod and head, and (most importantly, given the requirement to use these images in court testimony) a Data Verification Kit (to verify the authenticity of the image – proof that no tampering had taken place with the image).

In response to this need, the DNA Project has provided the Pretoria FSL with:

  1. High-resolution digital cameras (compatible with DVK; see below).
  2. Data verification kits (DVK), to verify that images taken with the digital camera have not been altered, tampered with or manipulated in any way.
  3. Macro lens’, for recording fine detail of evidence.
  4. Flash units, to properly illuminate items being photographed in macro mode.
  5. Photo printers, to allow for photographic records to be printed for presentation in court cases.
  6. Tripods, suitable of facilitating macro photography in a studio environment.

The infinity curve, serving as a suitable backdrop to allow for the capturing of images not disturbed by distracting backgrounds (this is part of the supplies included in the current building contract). As important as the DNA profile is to securing a conviction, it is just as imperative to present irrefutable supporting evidence, e.g. with regards to the chain of custody, when having to testify in a court case. This is where this photographic work station comes in – to indicate the original condition, at the time of evidence recovery and examination of an object from which a DNA profile was retrieved, or to even capture the condition of a package containing evidence submitted for forensic examination, e.g. to indicate that the package was sealed properly at the time it was received, proving that the chain of custody was intact (no tampering with the evidence could have taken place), and therefore any DNA profiles obtained from the evidence may be accepted as valid.

DNA Project’s Objectives

Sat, Aug 1st, 2009

The DNA Project’s Objectives are to support the development and expansion of the National DNA  Database to the point where it provides a conclusive form of evidence to prosecute serious offenders as well as act as a deterrent of serious and repeat offenders in the future. This will be achieved in a number of ways, namely:

by way of raising funds in order to equip the FSL with crucial and much needed DNA profiling equipment which will help to reduce the current backlog of unanalysed DNA samples and biological evidence. The more equipment that is given to the FSL’s, the more chance we will have of  improving the FSL capacities to analyse more DNA samples which translates into a larger DNA Database.

to educate the public and key sectors of the community to safeguard a crime scene in order to maintain and preserve the integrity of DNA evidence.

to increase awareness of the importance of a COMPREHENSIVE National DNA Database so that key people in authority are informed of the benefits of DNA profiling technology for purging and solving crime in SA.

to effect changes in existing legislation which currently prevents DNA samples from being collected from convicted offenders – the amendment of current legislation will ensure that the DNA profiles of convicted offenders are added to the national DNA database, thereby making full use of the power of DNA technology to solve crimes and act as a deterrent.

to look at ways to further improve the capabilities and capacities of the FSL such as analyst training and continuing education, the purchase of additional upgraded laboratory equipment and supplies, scientific validation and implementation of new forensic technologies, facility modifications, and contractor-provided services for assistance in implementing new capabilities.

FSS Diagnostic Review of the SA FSL held in Pretoria

Mon, Jul 28th, 2008

In February 2008, the DNA Project, through the generous sponsorship of the Change a Life Mike Thomson Trust, sponsored the Forensic Science Services (“The FSS”) visit to SA to conduct a Diagnostic Review of the Forensic Science Lab in Pretoria. The purpose of the visit was to enable the FSS to better understand the current situation in SA and the vision of the future of forensic DNA in SA. Issues such as scene of crime requirements, legislative impact, technical processes, procedures and techniques currently used within the FSL, were explored. Currently, DNA analysis to support the South African Police Service (SAPS) is provided by 2 laboratories, Pretoria and Western Cape. The Pretoria unit is the largest and houses the National DNA Data-
base. The FSS were requested to undertake a review of the Pretoria Forensic Science Lab (FSL), Biology Unit (BU) to establish if anything could be done to improve the e?ciency and hence capacity of the DNA analytical process;  reduce the existing backlog; improve the contribution of the unit to the detection and conviction of o?enders and make recommendations for future development and expansion of the DNA Database.
The outcome of the Diagnostic Review by the FSS was a comprehensive ?ndings report with recommendations to support the enhancement of DNA processing in SA including a number of proposed solutions from the FSS to meet those recommendations. This report was submitted to the FSL following a presentation of the above ?ndings to the FSL in Pretoria, in July 2008.

Forensic Science Services (UK) visit SA – sponsored by The DNA Project

Fri, Mar 14th, 2008

Pictured above: Mr Alan Matthews (FSS UK Database Manager) and Director Joubert (Section Head, Biology, FSL) share information at the FSL in Pretoria

The Forensic Science Services (FSS) have just completed a week long visit to the SAPS Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) in Pretoria, following completion of a diagnostic review at the FSL. The visit, arranged by Vanessa Lynch of The DNA Project, was specifically aimed to further improve the FSL’s current capabilities and capacities to conduct DNA forensic analyses, and for general forensic laboratory improvement.. The FSS in response to the DNA’s Project’s initiative, submitted a proposal to the DNA Project to conduct a Diagnostic Review within SA’s FSL to enable the FSS to better understand the current situation in SA and the vision of the future of forensic DNA in SA. Issues such as scene of crime requirements, legislative impact, technical processes, procedures and techniques currently used within the FSL, were explored. The outcome of the Diagnostic Review by the FSS will be a comprehensive and strategic findings report with recommendations to support the enhancement of DNA processing in SA including a number of proposed solutions from the FSS to meet those recommendations. The report will be rendered to the DNAP together with the FSL at the end of March 2008.

The FSS and its National DNA Database is considered worldwide, to be the benchmark of DNA Forensic practices and DNA Databasing. The Manager of the UK Database, Mr Alan Matthews confirmed that when the UK National DNA database (NDNAD) was launched in 1995 it was anticipated that 35,000 DNA reference samples would be processed in the first year. The reality was that the UK police submitted over 135,000 samples. This showed the perceived value this ‘new’ forensic tool had to assist the police and Criminal Justice Systems with criminal investigations. In order to achieve this, a strategic approach was taken which required by the co-operation of the FSS, Police & the National Police Training Centre (NPTC) as well as the Home Office. This partnership was designed to:

Increase the police submissions of DNA samples from crime scenes and suspects

Increase the quality of police submissions

Decrease the number of samples being rejected for administrative failures

Decrease the number of DNA samples failing to give DNA profile

Increase the understanding of the need for proper packaging, storage and chain of custody

of DNA evidence

Increase the police understanding of legislative issues and the changed police processes

• ensure the Rapid development in the size of the National DNA Database

Increase the impact of DNA profiling on crime detection and clear up rates

The above action made a significant impact on crime. Every week in the UK suspects arrested for relatively minor crimes are being matched, by the use of the NDNAD, to DNA evidential material recovered from undetected homicides and serious sexual offences. The investigative power of these techniques cannot be ignored. Vanessa Lynch of the DNA Project, recognizing the significant contribution the FSS’s historical journey san make to alleviating crime in SA, is exploring a proposal by the FSS proposes to make this expertise available to the South African Police Service working in partnership to design and deliver an equivalent training programme. To this end, the DNA Project seeks to effect change at Crime Scene level by the implementation of a “Training Bus” – The DNA Project is investigating the development of a “training bus” to handle training of lower level police officers in the handling of a crime scene (where currently a large majority of crucial evidence is lost). The FSS training teams developed mobile training solutions which toured major police sites over 18 months allowing ‘First Attending’ police officers and other specialists access to the training materials and the DNA ‘experts’. These solutions included the provision of a mobile classroom based on a 7.5 tonne truck and the provision of a suite of laptop computers to provide a ‘fixed’ classroom environment.

Whilst in Pretoria performing the Diagnostic Review, Mr Allan Matthews, the International Business Director for the FSS, gave an informative dialogue in which he illustrated how the use of the UK’s National DNA Database has translated into thousands of crimes solved and offenders convicted as a result f the above co-ordinated approach in the UK. In the longer term, as a result of the introduction of DNA profiling and the power of the NDNAD, the UK has seen a significant impact on overall crime rates, particularly in those offences classified as volume crime (burglary and car crime). Every week in the UK suspects arrested for relatively minor crimes are being matched, by the use of the NDNAD, to DNA evidential material recovered from undetected homicides and serious sexual offences. The investigative power of these techniques cannot be ignored.

Vanessa Lynch also held in depth discussions with a senior State Attorney, key role players within the Forensic Science Laboratory as well as the Manager if the UK DNA Database, Mr Alan Matthews to discuss ways in which the DNAP can help lobby support for legislative changes. The FSS to this end, will provide the DNAP with recommendations, based on the UK’s journey through no less than 6 (six) legislation amendments over the past 15 years, which allowed for the regulated and judicious management of the DNA Database in the UK. Issues such as sample retention, use of profiles and database searching are all being addressed in order to ensure compliance with Human Right Issues as well as restrict use of the DNA database to criminal intelligence. These efforts need to be supported by collating all the research being done, drawing a proposal for submission to the SA Law Commission Review and ensuring that the public lobby support for this initiative.

The FSS is an internationally renowned centre of excellence for casework, research, training and consultancy. It has assisted over 60 countries in the field of forensic science. FSS experts visit forensic facilities overseas, to review work practices, advise on the latest technology and promote the implementation of techniques validated in its own laboratories. It has over 2,500 employees based across the UK and the FSS has six sites that process DNA samples for casework, with three sites that deliver specifically to the UK NDNAD. The three DNA profiling units for the UK NDNAD have state of the art automation facilities to ensure the most efficient processing of samples.

The UK’s National DNA Database® was the first of its kind in the world and has received widespread acknowledgement as the most important advance since fingerprinting in the prevention and detection of crime. It is a dynamic database, as profiles are constantly added to it. The Forensic Science Service® is contracted to run The National DNA Database® on behalf of the Home Office. Following requests from other countries the FSS has produced database software (FSS-iD™) based on its experience running and developing the UK database.

For more on the FSS visit

DNA equipment donation boosts fight against crime

Thu, Nov 29th, 2007

November 29, 2007 Edition 2


A RECENT donation of DNA profiling equipment valued at R232 000 will see criminal investigators in Cape Town moving forward in forensic analysis and the fight against crime, officials said.

Yesterday afternoon project leader and founder of the DNA Project, Vanessa Lynch, joined senior superintendent of the Western Cape Forensic Science Lab, Mafiki Maluleke, in a ceremonial handing over of forensic equipment to the laboratory in Bellville.

The lab was the second to receive a donation from the organisation, which was formed by Lynch after evidence in her father’s murder investigation three and a half years ago was mishandled by police.

“I recognised that there were shortfalls, and I wanted to address these shortfalls with a constructive approach,” said Lynch. She said it was important to make “tangible” progress at the “operational level,” beginning with the lab workers forced to do “the best they can with the little they have”.

The contribution included a GeneAmp designed for DNA replication, blood spatter analysis software, an autoclave used for sterilisation, auto-controlled measurement pipettes, a digital camera and data verification kit for cataloguing pictures of legally recognisable evidence, and a microcentrifuge for substance separation.

pictured above: Snr Supt. Mafiki Maluleke, DNA Project Leader, Vanessa Lynch & DNA Project Assistant, Margaret McEwan with the GeneAmp

According to Maluleke, the current backlog of cases that require forensic analysis before appearing in court is about 600. “This donation will help us put in more cases than we would have been able to,” he said.

“Already we can see where these donations have made a difference. Four analysts would have to wait in line to process evidence before the equipment was given. And things like the autoclave make their instruments immediately available to them,” she said.

Thanking her on behalf of SA Forensic Science Lab management, he called the donations a gift for the “community of South Africa” as a whole.

In a recent success for the DNA Project, Lynch’s proposal to bring teams of scientists from the Forensic Science Services in the UK,  to the facility in Pretoria for assessment has been accepted. Their database in the UK processes some 40 000 reference samples per month. The trip will be sponsored by the DNA Project.