Posts Tagged ‘Vanessa Lynch’


2015 International Symposium on Human Identification (ISHI)

Mon, Oct 12th, 2015

In its 26th year, ISHI is the largest conference on forensic DNA analysis in the world and will take place from October 12 – October 15, in Grapevine, Texas (US).

Following her presentation at last year’s ISHI, Vanessa was invited to return this year and will be presenting a talk (Wednesday, October 14) entitled “Investigation of a Ruthless Rapist” – which will focus on the identification and conviction of Albert Morake, a ruthless South African serial rapist who committed 30 rapes between 2007 until his capture in 2012.

This year’s keynote speaker is Kirk Bloodsworth, the first person to be exonerated from death row through post-conviction DNA testing, and will open the symposium by sharing his story. Bloodsworth spent nine years in prison and more than two years on death row before DNA evidence identified the true perpetrator of the 1984 rape and murder for which he was imprisioned. Today, Bloodsworth is an advocate for the wrongfully convicted and speaks publicly to highlight the risk of wrongful convictions and dangers of the death penalty.

ISHI 26 includes presentations from leading professionals in the fields of forensic DNA analysis, genomics, forensic anthropology, medical molecular diagnostics, law enforcement and more.

Filmmaker Alexa Barrett and Sara Huston Katsanis, a Science & Society Initiative Instructor at Duke University, will be presenting The Living Disappeared, an exploration of how DNA is being used to prevent child trafficking. Their presentation will include a brief preview of Barrett’s film by the same name.

Phenotyping, which utilizes DNA evidence to help predict what a suspect might look like, will be explored from multiple angles. Ellen Greytak, Director of Bioinformatics at Parabon NanoLabs, will present DNA Phenotyping: Predicting Ancestry and Physical Appearance from Forensic DNA, and David Ballard, a research associate in forensic genetics and senior scientist at King’s College London, will present DNA Phenotyping: What Can and Should We Predict?

Other presenters include: Marie Allen (Uppsala University, Sweden), Bruce Budowle (Institute of Applied Genetics), Thomas Callaghan (Federal Bureau of Investigation), Douglas Hares (Federal Bureau of Investigation), Rock Harmon (retired, Alameda County District Attorney’s Office), George Herrin (Georgia Bureau of Investigation), CeCe Moore (Institute for Genetic Genealogy), Fredy Peccerelli (Forensic Anthropology Foundation of Guatemala) and Jim Thomson (LGC).

This year’s event also includes more than 140 scientific posters including a submission by Colleen Fitzpatrick, a forensic genealogist, who will share her work exposing false Holocaust accounts. Fitzpatrick is also collaborating on the recently re-opened “Somerton Man” case, which involves the exhumation of a 45-year-old John Doe who died under mysterious circumstances and washed up on a beach fully clothed in Adelaide, Australia, in 1948.

In addition to the 3-day series of general session presentations, optional small group workshops are available, including:

  • Analyzing and Utilizing Data from Next-Generation Sequencers in the Forensic Genomics Era
  • Forensic Mixtures: Assessment, Analysis and Technology: Current Methods, New Approaches and Disruptive Technologies
  • Advanced Methods for DNA Based Identification of Skeletal Remains Countdown to 2017: Internal Validation of the New CODIS Loci
  • DNA Identification Strategies for Skeletal Remains and Other Challenging Samples

A complete list of workshops, speaker biographies, the ISHI blog and ongoing program updates are available at the symposium website:

This symposium for forensic experts and suppliers is offered through Promega Corporation, a leader in providing innovative solutions and technical support to the life sciences industry. Founded in 1978, the company is headquartered in Madison, WI, USA, with branches in 16 countries and over 50 global distributors. For more information about Promega, visit

Woman’s Day: Cape Town’s fearless females

Tue, Aug 4th, 2015

A look at six trailblazing Mother City ladies… The following is an excerpt from Cape Town Magazine’s recent article ahead of Women’s Day which features six stellar women – one of whom is our very own Vanessa Lynch…

On Thursday, 9 August 1956, 20 000 women of all races came together to challenge an oppressive government and petition against legislation that required “non-whites” to carry a pass, an identification document designed to curtail freedom of movement during Apartheid. Since the fall of the regime in 1994, the day has been annually commemorated as Women’s Day to highlight the strength and resilience of women during the resistance.

More recently, the South African public holiday’s raison d’etre has broadened – it’s no longer just a celebration of a single act of solidarity, but a day devoted to a more general recognition of the spirit and accomplishment of women. Furthermore, in the past few years, the occasion has been used as a rallying point in the fight for women’s rights.

Rape, domestic abuse and issues relating to gender inequality are still way too prevalent in a country that has come so far in the fight against discrimination, and the need to use the holiday as an instrument of advocacy and to shine the spotlight on the savvy sisters defying norms is paramount.

So, while there are thousands of courageous ladies showing the world how absolutely amazing women can be, we’ve narrowed our list down to a few in specialist fields – namely: arts and culture, winemaking, altruism, construction, the culinary arts and management consulting – who are flying the flag for the bright, the brainy and the brilliant and serving as a source of inspiration for the masses.

VANNESA LYNCH: DNA Project Founder & Creative Director

Following the murder of her father in 2004 and the blatant disregard and destruction of evidence containing DNA by the police, community members and other first-on-crime scene responders, Vanessa Lynch began to seek ways in which to meaningfully contribute towards the alleviation of crime in South Africa.

Driven by her own traumatic experience, this extraordinary woman embarked on a journey (for over a decade) where she founded an organisation that aimed to practically address the crime situation in South Africa through the expanded use of DNA evidence in conjunction with South Africa’s National DNA Database. Introduce the DNA Project.

Where some may not have been able to find the strength, this incredible woman did and because of her determination and resilience (and her ability to forge relationships with police and government), we now have a pioneering new DNA Act on our statute books: The Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Act 37 of 2013 (DNA Act), which came into law on January 27, 2014 and into effect early this year on January 31, 2015. It is now mandatory for all arrested and convicted scheduled eight offenders to be swabbed for DNA and the results stored in the DNA database.

Currently, Vanessa also sits on the National Forensic and Oversight Ethics Board as the Deputy Chair. What’s more, just as the DNA Project has developed the Forensic Honours Degree at the UFS, which is also offered at UCT, UWC, MGI and soon UKZN, they have also begun to develop a subject outline for a “DNA and the Law” course for law students in an attempt to bridge the gap between science and law. Furthermore, the Innocence Project of South Africa (IPSA) has also recently been restructured and will be driven by the DNAP, the Wits Justice Project and UWC as a tripartite partnership, should the organisations bid for funding be successful.

Leading Ladies in Vanessa’s Life: “My Grandmother taught me things about life and the universe that would have shocked most at the time but have had a profound effect on my life – she warned me about global warming in the 70’s! An eccentric, non-conventional and unforgettable woman (not always for the right reasons!) who was way beyond her time. Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan environmentalist who began a movement to reforest her country by paying poor women a few shillings to plant trees and who went on to become the first African woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize. She started the Green Belt Movement – its mission was to plant trees across Kenya to fight erosion and to create firewood for fuel and jobs for women – to date 30 million trees in Africa have been planted and  nearly 900,000 women in Africa have been helped. It took her one tree to plant a forest, a philosophy that I have always lived by and her achievement shows how that is in fact possible.”

Read more – To view the full article published in Cape Town Magazine featuring all six fearless Cape Town women, please click here.

SOURCE: Cape Town Magazine

ISHI 26: Under the Microscope – Vanessa Lynch

Tue, Jul 14th, 2015

Vanessa has very kindly been invited back to present a talk entitled “Investigation of the Muldersdrift Serial Rapist” at this year’s upcoming ISHI (International Symposium on Human Identification) conference being held in Grapevine, Texas, in the United States from the 12th – 15th of October.

The following is a short interview with Vanessa by ISHI for their “Under the Microscope” guest speaker feature.

How did you come to work in the field of forensics/DNA?
Bizarrely it was actually through the lack of DNA evidence being collected on my father’s crime scene that brought me to this work – that coupled with the words of Prof Berndt Brinkmann, a forensic scientist in Germany who is the father of a close friend of mine – after my father was murdered, Prof Brinkmann told me to send him any DNA evidence or even just evidence from my fathers crime scene to his lab in Germany so that he could test it for possible traces of DNA. Sadly all the evidence had been discarded – clothing, the bottle the killers had been drinking from and blood of the killers on the perimeter fence which was not collected. This  was then followed by the Prof’s question ‘does SA have a DNA database?’ – that really changed everything for me as I knew then that was exactly what we needed in SA: a DNA database coupled with greater crime scene awareness!

If you woke up tomorrow and this field no longer existed, what would you choose for a career?
I would apply to the United Nations to continue philanthropic work on a global scale.

What new technologies are you most excited about or where do you see the field heading in the next 10 years?
Bearing in mind that SA is still lagging behind somewhat in utilising the amazing developments in DNA profiling being applied in international criminal justice systems, I would say that currently for me, the most exciting technology in a  SA context would be the ability to differentiate between mixed profiles  – we have a huge problem with gang rape in SA and this would change the way in which these types of cases are resolved.

What was the most challenging or bizarre case that you’ve worked on?
I don’t work with cases as such, but have been exposed to many different cases through the work that I do. Probably the most bizarre case was when someone called me and told me that the police had found pieces of his father in a suitcase and was seeking advice as to what to do.

What person would you say has had the biggest influence on your life?
My father. It was because of his death that I now do what I do but also because of what he taught me in my life when he was alive that I believe I possessed the ability to do what I did after he was killed. The work of the DNA Project has changed me irrevocably in a way that would not have happened had my father still been alive. I am not saying that I would not have changed that but because it did happen, I know that this was what I was meant to do with my life.

Can you think of a specific example where ISHI has helped you in your career or with a case?
Without a doubt my first visit to ISHI last year exceeded my expectations in terms of what I learnt about this technology and the field of forensic DNA profiling, albeit I am not a scientist! The advances being made in DNA profiling insofar it relates to crime detection and resolution and the software available to achieve this are quite literally mind-blowing. Learning from a forum such as ISHI is unprecedented and it has  provided me with the ability to think strategically on how best to focus the work of the DNA Project in a way which will have the most impact going forward. Learning from other jurisdictions’ experiences and taking those lessons back to SA has helped enormously.

Who in the audience would benefit most from your talk?
It’s difficult to say, but because SA has such a high crime rate, possibly all disciplines would be able to calculate how best they would have approached the situation and what their result would have been or be based on what facilities and technologies are available to them at present. It will possibly provide the audience with some insight into their own situation and maybe even enable them to offer SA advice on how best to approach certain cases?

If you won the lottery, what would you do with the winnings?
Approach it in much the same way as I approached the work I had to do in the DNA Project: how do you eat an elephant? Bit by Bit – I would break it down into all the areas where I felt it was needed and apply it accordingly. I would love to be able to use it less as a straight donation than as a means to empower people to make a difference. I would actively seek ways to do that. And I would definitely use some of it to travel the world with my family!

If you were to have a theme song, what would it be?
An interesting question! We are about to look into the possibility of a local rapper in SA compiling a rap song about crime and how the culprits got away because the crime scene was disturbed …and of course how this could change if we learnt that we must not disturb a crime scene etc etc – its a great way of reaching and teaching communities through  song – a medium that SA communities love and resonate with. So watch this space and hopefully we will have a theme song with a difference that will make a difference to play at ISHI!

What would your ideal vacation be?
All new destinations are exciting for me, even if it’s not a vacation; so I can’t really say I have an ideal vacation – but my travels are usually quite energetic – I am not one to lie on the beach all day, however beautiful!


DNA Act a monumental step forward for SA

Fri, Feb 14th, 2014

The promulgation of the new DNA Act in January was a “monumental step forward” for South Africa as the nation battled high levels of crime, but an easy implementation should not be expected, writes Natasha Odendaal for Engineering News, 13 February 2014.


DNA Bill Panel Discussion

Thu, Feb 13th, 2014

Date: 13 February 2014

Time: 12:00 – 14:00

Venue: Melrose Arch African Pride Hotel

1 Melrose Square

Melrose Arch

Johannesburg, GAU 2196, ZA

+27 11 214 6666