Murder mystery solved by DNA

This week’s blog is written by Dr Carolyn Hancock, a Director of The DNA Project

You may have read about the murder mystery evening held at the Sci-bono Science Centre in Johannesburg this week. As part of a group of people Prof Valerie Corfield brought together to discuss issues relating to engaging the public in Biomedicine, I was lucky enough to attend. The Science Centre had advertised the event via email and local radio stations and the turnout was fabulous. There were only 60 places for the evening and many people were sadly unable to attend.

The evening revolved around the fictitious murder of Dr. Noall X. Plor – a director of the Science-4-All Discovery Centre. A “crime scene” had been created showing where the body had been found and guests were provided with a list of characters who had played a role in Dr. Plor’s private and professional life. It turned out that Dr. Plor was not a well-liked man and the intricately woven plot included, amongst others, his wife of 30 years – Mrs. Angel St Clare Plor, Dr. Plors various female “companions” – Miss Twitter N Bistead, Ms Arch-Rival and Mrs Phyllis-Anne Thropicopolos, Mr. Gey V Trane – an important politician, Mr. Knowledge O.F. CSI – the local security guard and Mr. Q. Rios Rival, Dr. Plor’s illegitimate son.

The guests arrived to a wonderful selection of refreshments and after a brief introduction by Prof. Corfield on DNA profiling and its use in crime detection, the guests had time to examine the crime scene and to interrogate the characters making up the plot. Participants of the Biomedicine workshop played all the characters involved in the plot and provided the guests with additional information on the events leading up to Dr. Plor’s untimely death. Luckily I played “myself” and I was available for people to ask me any questions they had on the science behind DNA profiling as well as the work being undertaken by the DNA Project.

Prof Corfield with the ‘detective’ who successfully solved the crime

The prize was a murder mystery dinner for 8 people and after 5 of the guests all correctly worked out the identity of the murderer and their motive, a draw was held and the name of the winner was announced. The evening was a resounding success and we hope many more will take place as it provided an ideal opportunity for the public to have fun whilst learning about the use of DNA profiling as a tool that can be used in our fight against crime.


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