TThe University of Leicester announced today that British authorities used the nation's feline DNA database (Yes, the UK has one) to convict a man of manslaughter, according to the Associated Press. This is the first time cat DNA has been used in trial in the UK, says Jon Wetton, a university official.
In this case, detectives teamed up with the University of California Davis's Veterinary Medicine animal forensics lab to identify cat hair found on a man's dismembered body. The cat hairs were loosely tied to Tinker, a cat owned by suspect David Hilder, but authorities could not determine the strength of the match. That's where the cat DNA database came in — of the 152 samples collected by the university, only three matched the crime scene samples, meaning that, while they couldn't be 100 percent sure, it was pretty likely.
This isn't the first time animal forensics have been used to fight crime. Back in 2006 Amy Bower of Time magazine profiled the UC Davis's Veterinary Medicine lab, where technicians have been analyzing DNA to link suspects to crime scenes for years. Bower writes:
In its first year of operation, the lab helped prosecutors win a tricky sexual-assault conviction in Iowa in which the key clue was dog urine (the victim was unable to identify the suspect, but her dog had relieved itself on his truck during the assault). "Once we had the DNA to connect him to the crime scene, he pled guilty," says acting lab director Beth Wictum.
However widespread cat forensics may be, British authorities would like to make it clear that Tinker's DNA wasn't the only evidence in the case. They also found traces of the victim's blood in Hilder's apartment.