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Cotton Swabs are the Prime Suspect In 8-Year Phantom Chase

samzenpus posted more than 5 years ago | from the mom-always-said-to-wash-your-hands dept.

Biotech 344

matt4077 writes "For eight years, several hundred police officers across multiple European countries have been chasing a phantom woman whose DNA had been found in almost 20 crimes (including two murders) across central Europe. It now turns out that contaminated cotton swabs might be responsible for this highly unusual investigation. After being puzzled by the apparent randomness of the crimes, investigators noticed that all cotton swabs had been sourced from the same company. They also noted that the DNA was never found in crimes in Bavaria, a German state located at the center of the crimes' locations. It turns out that Bavaria buys its swabs from a different supplier."

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344 comments

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Ewwwwwww... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27338361)

So they shredded a woman for swabs? I thought we were only good for barbecue, masks, book covers, lampshades and creepy garments.

CSI to the rescue (1, Funny)

zaroastra (676615) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338363)

Mega criminal mind

Re:CSI to the rescue (4, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338377)

Mega criminal mind

The handler of swabs really is a serial killer.

Re:CSI to the rescue (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27338391)

Mega criminal mind

The handler of swabs really is a serial killer.

No, the blood on the swabs is just because they came from her tampons.

Re:CSI to the rescue (0, Offtopic)

taucross (1330311) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338399)

Pornographic use of Occam's razor.

Re:CSI to the rescue (0)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338471)

Actually, her DNA carries code for a terrible alien disease that's completely unknown to modern medicine. It causes otherwise normal humans to commit a diverse range of horrendous crimes upon viral integration with their genome.

The mothership is on its way to clean up what's left of our planet.

Re:CSI to the rescue (1)

LuNa7ic (991615) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338897)

'The Handler of the Swabs' what an awesome name for a serial killer!

Re:CSI to the rescue (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27338425)

It's a new spin off!

CSI: You're Doing It Wrong

Re:CSI to the rescue (0)

BizzyM (996195) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338831)

CSI rule #1: do NOT use the yellow q-tips.

Re:CSI to the rescue (2, Funny)

dontmakemethink (1186169) | more than 5 years ago | (#27339061)

The Coen brothers are set to do a CSI spin-off, Crime Scene Incompetence, sort of like Fargo meets Scary Movie.

I wish I wasn't kidding, that would be a riot!

"Officer Grissom, are you concerned about the security of... your shit?"

Re:CSI to the rescue (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27338431)

I'm glad that they didn't find the woman who's DNA it is. After all, she would have been severely punished for something that she had absolutely no idea about.

I'm amazed that there was the presence of mind to check the suppliers!

Although, this would be a great "thin-blue-line" skit.

Re:CSI to the rescue (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27338565)

I'm pretty sure that there'd be about 96 billion ways to disprove each individual charge.

Re:CSI to the rescue (1)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338749)

I'm glad that they didn't find the woman who's DNA it is. After all, she would have been severely punished for something that she had absolutely no idea about.

Damn. Wasn't it already standard procedure to ignore DNA connected with handling the evidence? Why not? Who gets to decide, and why?

<grammarnazi>whose == the one who [subject] belongs to, who's == who is</grammarnazi>

Re:CSI to the rescue (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27338843)

My grandmother's name is Monique not Mazi, you insensitive clod!

Now get off her lawn!

Great way to hide (5, Funny)

Onyma (1018104) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338369)

Bet you'll find her at the end of the packing line completely unaware she's a highly adept and wanted criminal. Or what a brilliant cover if she was guilty ;)

It's clear what this means (2, Funny)

PapayaSF (721268) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338371)

Obviously there's a woman on the cotton swab assembly line who leads a secret life of crime!

Re:It's clear what this means (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27338403)

OJ didn't do it!

APB (5, Funny)

bobbuck (675253) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338603)

All points bulletin: be on the lookout for woman with extremely clean ears!

Sherlock Holmes (2, Insightful)

Toe, The (545098) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338375)

"Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth."

Re:Sherlock Holmes (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27338423)

Sherlock Holmes is the most ridiculous portrayal of "logic" ever printed.

Re:Sherlock Holmes (2, Funny)

NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338525)

Inconceivable!

Re:Sherlock Holmes (3, Interesting)

Rayban (13436) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338447)

Aliens did it?

Re:Sherlock Holmes (4, Funny)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338475)

I suspect a highly secretive and powerful organization known only as the GNAA.

Yours truly,
Slashdot Troll.

Re:Sherlock Holmes (1)

tg123 (1409503) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338883)

Bloody Aliens

Re:Sherlock Holmes (1)

w0mprat (1317953) | more than 5 years ago | (#27339001)

"Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth."

Sherlock Holmes is fictional.

This is actually pretty scary (4, Insightful)

saiha (665337) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338439)

But ... but ... CSI, computers and experts are always right! You mean they actually have to do investigations instead of blind trust?

I wonder how much hard evidence they discarded because they "knew" it was this same woman?

Re:This is actually pretty scary (5, Insightful)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338479)

That's a good question. Cops aren't really all that bright, they are methodical and when applied properly, it gets the job done but they aren't exactly the smartest group of people. It's entirely possible that a lot of evidence and/or leads have been discarded or neglected because of this.

Before anyone flames me for stating that cops aren't the brightest of the bunch, when doing science it's often the case where a sample of something is tested before it it treated with the substance being tested. These provide baselines for comparative results and it isn't uncommon for them to be randomly done throughout the course of the experiments because you need a control. Now, if they were the slightest bit intelligent in the subject, they would test raw material periodically to ensure it wasn't contaminated in the same ways they shoot and clean their own guns periodically to ensure they are ready for use. This entire mysterious woman contamination could have been caught before it ever effected one crime scene if something was periodically done to validate the test equipment they are using. Instead, they treat it with less suspicion then a flashlight and just assume that it works as advertised instead of "checking the batteries" every once in a while. Doesn't seem to bright to me.

Re:This is actually pretty scary (2, Insightful)

grim-one (1312413) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338513)

Do you really think the same people are doing the detective work (collecting swabs) as are doing the DNA testing (working in the lab)? It's the scientists in the back rooms getting lazy. The good thing about police departments is once they find an issue, they take steps to avoid it in future.

Re:This is actually pretty scary (2, Insightful)

Firehed (942385) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338621)

Well, I'd like to think that the defense (had it gotten to that stage) would have made the connection that the woman being charged for two dozen random and unconnected crimes works in a Q-tip factory and that maybe, just maybe, she coughed on a box along the way.

Re:This is actually pretty scary (1)

Hordeking (1237940) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338893)

Well, I'd like to think that the defense (had it gotten to that stage) would have made the connection that the woman being charged for two dozen random and unconnected crimes works in a Q-tip factory and that maybe, just maybe, she coughed on a box along the way.

She must cough on each one, extra-special-like. She's been doing it for 8 years...

And this one is just for you, Detective Jimbo Junior...>hack< >wheeze< >bloodsplutter<

Re:This is actually pretty scary (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338663)

The good thing about police departments is once they find an issue, they take steps to avoid it in future.

Hmm. What country do you live in where this is the case?

Re:This is actually pretty scary (1)

grim-one (1312413) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338917)

Australia

Re:This is actually pretty scary (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27338939)

Australia

Ahh. So you mean they take steps to avoid being caught doing it.

Re:This is actually pretty scary (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338587)

This entire mysterious woman contamination could have been caught before it ever effected [dict.org] one crime scene [...]

How could this contamination have caused a crime scene?!?

Re:This is actually pretty scary (4, Interesting)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338613)

The police actively don't hire [nytimes.com] people that are too smart. Which scares the shit out of me.

Re:This is actually pretty scary (4, Interesting)

ushering05401 (1086795) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338933)

The police actively don't hire [nytimes.com] people that are too smart. Which scares the shit out of me.

Intellectual outliers destabilize control structures.

Being predictable to your teammates/backup under all circumstances is an essential part of performing a life and death job - whether performing undersea construction or policing the 'projects.'

Having a tendency to come up with bright ideas under pressure is simply a liability in the world of street level law enforcement.

Re:This is actually pretty scary (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27338999)

Also, they're worried about people going through police training, getting it for cheap, then quitting for a better-paying job.

Re:This is actually pretty scary (5, Insightful)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338499)

How about how scary it would have been for the woman? Just imagine if the government got a hold of her DNA in a few years as part of some new Not-Really-Totalitarian-Fascist-Plot-We-Are-Really-Your-Friend program to grab DNA data for massive profiles of their citizens? She gets handed her ID card back and then picked up by the police a few hours later as the databases are furiously matching old crimes to new citizen data. She has no idea what is going on, just that they state they have DNA evidence of her involved in crimes all over the EU.

Considering how much the police and the courts blindly trust all the data coming from forensic laboratories, she would be well and truly fucked.

Re:This is actually pretty scary (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27338523)

On the other hand..

How is her DNA getting on these cotton swabs, anyway? Is it OK that it's getting on there, the CSIs might not be the only ones buying cotton swabs from this company, and they might need to be hygienic in other applications...

Re:This is actually pretty scary (4, Insightful)

tftp (111690) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338761)

How is her DNA getting on these cotton swabs, anyway?

Earlier someone suggested sneezing/coughing, covering her mouth with a gloved hand, and then using the same gloved hand to pack swabs. Hard to avoid this unless she works in an enclosed suit (which is unlikely.)

they might need to be hygienic in other applications

Or not - I use them to clear soldered contacts, for example - couldn't care less about traces of some organic, they'd be all history after I dip the swab into some of our solvents (alcohols and acetone, for example.) Medical people simply sterilize everything before they use it on a patient. So this is an interesting case where highly sensitive biological test is performed without checking that the material is clean and without cleaning it. This may have something to do with the fact that the users here are not highly trained doctors and scientists (who are personally responsible for quality of results) but mere technicians who do the steps by the book but don't quite understand how the whole thing works, and maybe sometimes even don't care to know.

Re:This is actually pretty scary (1)

SpeleoNut (610127) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338779)

Not really, DNA is just a salt by itself it is not really dangerous. Consider if you have eaten anything that was at some point a living object (such as a steak or piece of fruit or a vegetable). That stuff is full of DNA and it hasn't killed you yet. I am surprised that the forensics lab that has been doing this testing did not run the appropriate negative control (cotton swab only) in their PCRs. DNA evidence alone would not lead to a conviction especially if this woman has alibis for the times these crimes were committed (such as she was busy packing cotton swabs at the time of the murder).

Re:This is actually pretty scary (1)

Hordeking (1237940) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338909)

Not really, DNA is just a salt by itself it is not really dangerous. Consider if you have eaten anything that was at some point a living object (such as a steak or piece of fruit or a vegetable). That stuff is full of DNA and it hasn't killed you yet. I am surprised that the forensics lab that has been doing this testing did not run the appropriate negative control (cotton swab only) in their PCRs. DNA evidence alone would not lead to a conviction especially if this woman has alibis for the times these crimes were committed (such as she was busy packing cotton swabs at the time of the murder).

Actually, I do believe it's a technically an acid, Deoxyribonucleic acid [wikipedia.org] (which by definition, can be combined with a base to get salt, water, and some heat).

I don't think anyone was actually worried about the DNA being dangerous. I think it was more along the lines of whatever microbes are hitching a ride along with the swabs, since obviously the packer seems to be making all sorts of meaningful contact with the cotton.

Re:This is actually pretty scary (4, Insightful)

Animaether (411575) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338555)

she would be well and truly fucked because apparently all cops are stupid idiots who just go "the computer says it was you, so we're not even going to bother asking you that question you seen on TV - you know, the one going 'where were you on the night of', or even gather evidence for a solid care or present that evidence to a judge - we're just going to lock you up, for life, right away".

oh wait. that's not how that stuff happens in any reasonable nation.

In fact.. -because- that's NOT how that stuff happens is that they realized there's gotta be something going on with the swabs themselves.. as opposed to, say, the DNA lab handling them. Or that the same woman really -was- involved in the actual crimes themselves.

I know it's popular to say that DNA evidence is being used to lock people up left and right, but very few cases -hinge- on that DNA evidence (some exceptions are e.g. rape cases where DNA from a sperm sample collected is pretty strong evidence that moves the question of "did the woman even have sex with that man?" to "was the sex that she had with that man a case of sexual violation?")

That's not to say that I'm in favor of a building a DNA database with everybody's samples in them - but to make it seem like it will auto-jail people is naive in all but the strangest nations where you probably wouldn't get much of a due process regardless of DNA tests being involved or not.

Re:This is actually pretty scary (4, Insightful)

AJWM (19027) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338593)

oh wait. that's not how that stuff happens in any reasonable nation. [emphasis added]

Yes, well, that's the catch. Are there any? Remember, they're all run by politicians.

Re:This is actually pretty scary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27338805)

oh wait. that's not how that stuff happens in any reasonable nation. [emphasis added]

Yes, well, that's the catch. Are there any? Remember, they're all run by politicians.

All but one is not the US if that's what you're asking.

That's casting the net a little too narrow as there are other nations but the US who are also unreasonable, some are even in Europe!

Yeah yeah yeah he should have used a qualifier, just don't think you're off the hook because of it or use it as a justification to expect and accept an extreme lack of reason where you happen to live. Otherwise you're making it worse.

Re:This is actually pretty scary (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27338651)

If you were 'proved' to be involved in two murders, and a dozen other crimes, I suspect you'd be in at least a holding cell until you could prove your innocence.

If you couldn't prove the police are obviously wrong, you could be in jail for weeks, or months before your court date.

Re:This is actually pretty scary (5, Insightful)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338751)

she would be well and truly fucked because apparently all cops are stupid idiots

I never said or implied that. "Blind trust" was the word I used which indicates negligence, and not stupidity.

"the computer says it was you, so we're not even going to bother asking you that question you seen on TV - you know, the one going 'where were you on the night of', or even gather evidence for a solid care or present that evidence to a judge - we're just going to lock you up, for life, right away".

Unfortunately, that does happen quite often. There are plenty of men that have been released from prison after 10-20 years for precisely just that.

oh wait. that's not how that stuff happens in any reasonable nation.

That's meaningless. I find it hard to categorize any of the actions of the U.S, Canada, U.K, France, Australia, etc. as reasonable. Most people don't, or have you not read most of the posts on Slashdot? In an unreasonable nation they would not need a computer in the first place. Your guilty only because it serves the purpose of somebody that wants you out of the way for whatever reason.

In fact.. -because- that's NOT how that stuff happens is that they realized there's gotta be something going on with the swabs themselves.. as opposed to, say, the DNA lab handling them. Or that the same woman really -was- involved in the actual crimes themselves.

Gotta? Really? As in, for sure? Fo Shizzle?

The investigating officers don't "gotta" do anything. The only choice they have is to 100% rely on the veracity of the findings by their forensic technicians. Anything less puts the whole system in doubt which greatly hampers any investigations by the officers.

When faced with forensic evidence across many crime scenes I don't find it reasonable that the vast majority of investigating officers will be second guessing the findings to figure out how they may be wrong. More likely, they will try to construct a "reality" that fits the findings. That is the danger.

Once it leaves the investigating officers hands, it reaches the courts. The prosecutors don't give two shits about the defendant, the victims, or the truth. They only care about ONE THING, AND ONE THING ONLY. That is, "Can I get a conviction?". I highly doubt any prosecutor has ever thought long and hard about the veracity of any of the evidence in front of them that they are using. As far as the other side, "discredit, discredit, discredit".

Prosecutors and Politicians have one thing in common. They are both whores. In fact, good prosecutors turn into Politicians, and the vast majority of Politicians started as lawyers anyways. Their jobs are not to find the truth, but to bend the truth to whatever agenda they are trying to accomplish. Cynical, I know....

The problem here is the forensic technicians. Every single one of them needs to be fired. Not only could this woman have been at risk, but possibly many others as they clearly did not take the time to do proper science in any, way, shape or form. A lot of victims probably lost out as well since if they could not be competent in the bare fundamentals, what leads us to believe they did not miss huge amounts of evidence?

ALL of the evidence this lab produced is suspect going back at least as far as the first sample was taken in this case. That opens the flood gates for lawyers to get convictions turned over based on this negligence alone. Certainly new trials where the laws allow it.

I realize you are coming to the defense of the authorities here, but this is indefensible. Investigating officers and the courts cannot afford to ever second guess the technicians, so when something like this happens it is perfectly reasonable for people like me to suspect that innocent people have been made victims.

Keep in mind, this was across many laboratories. This was not an isolated incident. Don't underestimate the implications of what has happened here or that the same behavior would not lead to more problems in the future exacerbated by the presence of DNA databases where mistakes could instantly affect somebody rather than just resulting in a "cold case".

Re:This is actually pretty scary (4, Insightful)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338659)

Imagine an even worse scenario... the Totally-Not-Fascist DNA database already exists and has her DNA in it at the time this first started. Disproving 20 crimes would probably be easy for her, as a solid alibi to one would call into question the rest. But if it were a single crime, there's no way she'd get out of it unless she were lucky enough to have an alibi on that one specific day.

But hey, no worries, the innocent have nothing to hide!

Re:This is actually pretty scary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27338685)

While you raise a good point, there would be a bit of a problem when her DNA started turning up at crime scenes when she was in custody. At that point, she would have a slam dunk case against the police.

Re:This is actually pretty scary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27338781)

Sounds like Death Note. The guy behind bars pre-scheduled the deaths to give him an alibi.

This person who contaminated all the swabs, or really did murder the people, maybe did both. :p

Re:This is actually pretty scary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27338699)

Actually she would have got off easy. It's unlikely that she won't have a solid geographic alibi for most of the crimes, and even with just one alibi, logic forces the realization that an impossible match means there's something wrong with the evidence.

Also in a few years with your Not-Really-Totalitarian-Fascist-Plot-We-Are-Really-Your-Friend program, they'd have so many more crimes tagged to that DNA they'd already have triggered an audit. Which may be what is going on already, with only 20 crimes; I can't tell yet 'cause TFA is /.'d.

The mess now is the proven possibility of contaminated swabs means the caselogs must be reviewed for convictions [and arrests in some jurisdictions] that have used swabs as keystone evidence. Including guity pleas, which can be coerced. That's a big, expensive job, that won't be made any cheaper by the judicial load we'll have for demanded retrials.

Also expect a government lawsuit set on the swab manufacturer to defray damages. Unless they've got some interesting "not contamination-free enough for DNA certainty" labelling on their product, they'll probably be bankrupted. And if not, that should trigger an investigation into who the company paid off to avoid the suit. Life's rich pageant, and all that.

Sigh (4, Interesting)

The MAZZTer (911996) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338449)

Is it really too much to ask for a SERVER at the other end of that hyperlink?

nyud.net doesn't seem to have it cached, neither does Google. And MirrorDot is no help at all:

Presently sustaining 0 parallel Slashdottings. Far out!

Are there any newer slashdot caching tools I don't know about? Specifically one that has this article?

What?? (5, Funny)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338487)

Wait... Are you bitching that you can't read the article? As in, you wanted to read the article before making a post?

I feel... like I've seen a unicorn or something...

Re:Sigh (1)

ndogg (158021) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338541)

I'm pretty sure mirrordot has not been updated in years.

Re:Sigh (5, Informative)

tick-tock-atona (1145909) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338581)

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7341360.stm [bbc.co.uk] Until that server comes back up, here is an article from a year ago about the case. Makes for hilarious reading now!

Re:Sigh (1)

moritzbraun (1515993) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338907)

Morning /.ers An informative article on this phantom story is available from the Heilbronner Stimme at http://www.stimme.de/ [stimme.de] ( first two articles) bye

Re:Sigh (4, Informative)

complete loony (663508) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338589)

Here's [wikipedia.org] the wikipedia page about the case. I think the original source of the news is in German though.

Story is from Stern... (1)

NixieBunny (859050) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338789)

Here's the original story in German [stern.de] and a blog entry in English [wordpress.com] .

Always state your assumptions (5, Funny)

alextheseal (653421) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338451)

First thing I was taught in my high school class on problem solving. Always state your assumptions, right underneath stating your explicit goal. We were also taught that if you start running into dead ends, circle back to your assumptions and review them critically to see that they are 1) all inclusive, and 2) actually true. Oh, and never use contaminated cotton swabs. I think that was day two.

Health Class (1)

bobbuck (675253) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338591)

Our health teacher told us not to buy used Q-Tips(tm). Would have saved the trouble right there.

Re:Always state your assumptions (4, Interesting)

smaddox (928261) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338607)

It reminds me of early MOSFET technology. No one could get MOSFET's to work on the same level of BJT's because there was horrible leakage in the gate. After several years it became apparent that the gate oxide was contaminated by sodium ions that carried current through the gate.

(Disclamer: This story was relayed to me by one of my professors. I'm not sure how accurate it is.)

Re:Always state your assumptions (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | more than 5 years ago | (#27339025)

Circa 1970 RCA sold MOSFETs whose gate oxide was so totally broken that the gates formed a diode with the source/drain. Essentially, they were JFETs. They sold for about $1.50 each; the ones with good gates were about $3.00.

Where in the world is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27338485)

Blast that Carmen Sandiego!
It's up to you now, gumshoes!

Bad Slice (2, Funny)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338505)

This guy is using Slicehost for his blog or whatever. Apparently, he didn't pay for a big enough slice.

Real life is slow... (3, Funny)

incognito84 (903401) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338531)

It took them eight years to find out what CSI could have found out in one episode! Reality is so unrealistic.

Re:Real life is slow... (1)

broken_chaos (1188549) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338811)

That's the hole I can't figure out... Why was this woman's DNA on eight years worth of cotton swabs? Do they seriously buy them in that large bulk that they only need a purchase every 8 years? If there was so much widespread contamination, why wasn't this showing up in even more crimes? Why didn't they figure out that there were two different pieces of DNA on these swabs?

Prawo Jazdy (5, Funny)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338533)

This reminds me of the "Prawo Jazdy" story. The Irish police were looking for this dude "Prawo Jazdy" who accumulated a very large number of speeding tickets. He kept committing infractions all across Ireland but always got away whenever he was stopped by giving a different address each time. They thought they had a supercriminal fugitive speeder on their hands until someone noticed that his name was Polish for "driver's license".

Re:Prawo Jazdy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27339033)

Ahahaha. And everyone thinks the Polish are stupid.

Hah! (1)

OldFish (1229566) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338545)

If this doesn't suggest how hackable hi-tech evidence is then nothing will...

Just think... (1)

Smashe01 (1486933) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338547)

Imagine what would have happened if she ever had to submit her DNA for testing for whatever reason, and all of a sudden the Bavarian swat team busts down her door and arrests her for being linked to crimes all across Europe!

Re:Just think... (1)

indi0144 (1264518) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338677)

If she's just a worker and has been working while the crimes were being committed, can't the factory logs prove that she was not all over Europe while that was happening?

Police: Come with us you filthy criminal, you're being accused for killing X person in France 3 years ago exactly the 26th march 2006 at 7am.

Woman: LOL that was the day of my birthday and I haven't been in France ever. Look this is my photo with my family that day, it was funny because that water pipe broke and was a mess all over the town, here look at the broken pipe and thats John all wet because he's a jerk...

Thank God you don't rely exclusively on CSI type evidence to prove someone is guilty.. oh wait

Re:Just think... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27338849)

Well, most likely what would happen is that the authorities would determine that it was her. After all, the DNA can't be wrong. They're not going to call her up first and ask if she's really the woman who murdered all those people!

Given how vicious her crimes were, she's probably armed and dangerous, so a paramilitary assault team will be sent to pick her up. Maybe she's in the kitchen when they break down the door unannounced, so she's holding a knife. She's so scared that she freezes and doesn't put it down, causing the police to taze her and brutally throw her to the ground because they think she's threatening them. Of course they've also shot her dogs because they're afraid of dogs, and her kids are scarred for life after watching their house get broken into, their dogs shot, and their mother arrested and dragged out of the house, then get put into foster care. Meanwhile, they're destroying her house looking for nonexistent murder weapons or other evidence of her heinous crimes.

She'll spend the weekend in jail waiting for arraignment, be denied bail because of her danger to society, the whole time claiming that it's a case of mistaken identity and has no idea what's going on. At this point the cops are too busy to talk to her because they're patting themselves on the back and giving press conferences talking about their excellent police work, how they caught a violent criminal, and every news show and paper leads with her photo.

At some point they'll decide to tag-team interrogate her, and will spend hours on end accusing her of doing all kinds of things. When she denies it all, they call her a liar and threaten her with tales of what will happen to her in prison, what will happen to her children, and so on. Most of these crimes are really old so she'll have no alibi. Who the hell knows what she was doing November 12, 2004?

Eventually they'll check on her story and she will be released with little fanfare, her life, her house, all destroyed. Her name and photo will forever be linked to all those horrible crimes. Every week somebody on the street will recognize her, only recalling that she did something bad. Probably her or one of her children will commit suicide from the resultant stress.

dom

Re:Just think... (1)

tftp (111690) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338851)

I understand what you are trying to say, however the example you gave is anything but an alibi:

  1. LOL that was the day of my birthday - irrelevant
  2. and I haven't been in France ever - not a proof of anything, just words of a suspect.
  3. Look this is my photo with my family that day - how do we know that it was exactly that day?
  4. it was funny because that water pipe broke and was a mess all over the town, here look at the broken pipe and thats John all wet because he's a jerk - the town probably couldn't fix the pipe within one day, so there were tons of possibilities to drive to somewhere, kill someone, and be back for breakfast (and to pose for a camera in front of a broken pipe.)

There is another concern - hardly any honest citizen can provide an alibi for a random day and time a few years ago. I don't even know what I did on each day in February of this year, just a month ago! If police comes and asks me "what did you do between 11pm and 8am on Feb. 03/04, 2009" the only thing I can say is "probably I was asleep, what else?" - and how good an alibi that is? Plenty of crime is committed at night. Even if you need an alibi for your usual work hours, in many places nobody can definitely say that you were at work (unless that happens to be a meeting or something else with an attendance record preserved.) I work at an office where people can come in the morning, disappear by 10am, be back by 3pm and nobody would even notice.

thats an interesting defence (1)

KevMar (471257) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338551)

So how do you explain your dna at the crime site?

I used to work in a cotton factory. its possible that cotton from that factory ended up to tbe the cotton they used. did you hear about that case where a woman's dna ....

Re:thats an interesting defence (1)

z0idberg (888892) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338629)

Good point.

I think I will try and take a second job in as many cotton swap factories as I can over the next couple of years. Looks kinda funny on the resume but could come in REAL handy some day.

Re:thats an interesting defence (3, Interesting)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338695)

So how do you explain your dna at the crime site?

I don't have to explain my DNA being at the crime scene, I have to explain DNA that matched mine being at the lab.

You took a sample of my DNA. You took it to the lab. Please prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you didn't screw up and contaminate a sample somewhere with my DNA. [nacdl.org]

Furthermore, spurious DNA matches are not as improbable as cops and prosecutors like to suggest [latimes.com] .

DNA is lousy forensic evidence, and should be used only for exoneration.

And the scary thing is that other forensic "science" is even worse [newscientist.com] .

Re:thats an interesting defence (1)

tftp (111690) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338935)

Unfortunately defendants aren't allowed to set rules of the Court. Judge usually does that, and if instead of answering questions you start a political speech in the witness box you'd be silenced pretty quick (and it's not a good idea to anger the judge.) The defendant is free to argue that the lab is at fault, but unless your name is OJ Simpson you aren't getting anywhere, statistically speaking.

Please prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you didn't screw up

Yes, tell the judge that you want a negative proven :-)

I guess it's possible to dismiss the DNA evidence, but labs handle millions of tests, so you will have to essentially demonstrate that either these labs were doing worthless job for years, or that this particular piece of evidence was mishandled in a specific, proven way (I recall that in Simpson's case there were such admitted violations.) You can't just say "I posit that you screwed up, now prove that you didn't!" Even if you show prior instances of errors done by labs, you'd have to show that this particular error was done this time by this lab - generalities have little weight. Hardly anyone in the courtroom (except you) has any strong feelings toward your innocence, and if the prosecution concludes by saying "his DNA was found at the crime scene, and he failed to explain it in any meaningful way" then your goose is cooked.

Re:thats an interesting defence (1)

Nikker (749551) | more than 5 years ago | (#27339027)

Now that this is in the news better believe you can use this as a defense ;)

I knew biotech would lead to this! (5, Funny)

seebs (15766) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338559)

We should NEVER have developed human-cotton hybrids.

Re:I knew biotech would lead to this! (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338605)

Indeed! Sheep-human hybrids would have worked out sooo much better!

Re:I knew biotech would lead to this! (1)

seebs (15766) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338837)

It's not as though people haven't been trying.

HeLa cells? (1)

jc42 (318812) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338571)

Whatcha wanna bet they're yet another case of contamination by HeLa cells?

(Google for it. It's an interesting story, and a good cautionary tale.)

negative controls?? (2, Interesting)

fatray (160258) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338585)

Police labs are incredibly sloppy. You have to either have negative controls or some sort of validation or acceptance testing on your chemicals and supplies. They have all of these chain-of-custody rituals, but then they use supplies from Wal-Mart.

Re:negative controls?? (4, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338771)

Police labs are incredibly sloppy. You have to either have negative controls or some sort of validation or acceptance testing on your chemicals and supplies. They have all of these chain-of-custody rituals, but then they use supplies from Wal-Mart.

In the Jayden Leskie [wikipedia.org] case the lab which searched for DNA on the victims body detected the DNA of an unrelated rape victim. Samples from the owner of the DNA had been processed by the same lab earlier in the same day.

Re:negative controls?? (2, Informative)

networkzombie (921324) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338791)

I work with a lot of labs and the errors are always caused by the lab technician. Controls and variances are standard procedure to identify Wal-Mart grade results. From my experience, the less you pay a lab tech, the more mistakes they make, but there are exceptions, like trying to find an honest cop. I'm sure there's one or two, maybe.

Could happen to anyone... (3, Insightful)

paulkingnz (830129) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338599)

If you worked in a clothing store and folded all the clothing and then later a murder victims clothing had your DNA on it then you're done aren't you! Circumstantial evidence is a bad thing.

Women and cotton... (1)

nscott89 (1507501) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338619)

Why can't they just convert to latex already?!? ... Seriously! It IS the future after all.

Re:Women and cotton... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27338841)

It's spelled LaTeX, you typographically impaired clod.

Question (2, Interesting)

Av8rjoker (1212804) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338673)

How the hell did this woman's DNA get on ALL of these cotton swabs?

Re:Question (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27338711)

SHe worked in a swab factory and shuved them all up her vagina.

Paging George Kaplan (2, Interesting)

agrippa_cash (590103) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338693)

I'd hate to be that woman. In fiction it's Hitchcock but in real life it would be Kafka (unless she is guilty AND works in a cotton swab factory).

I can't imagine... (1)

WSOGMM (1460481) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338713)

... had she been accused of murder, what her lawyer would feel like if the whole ordeal came into light after a massive epiphany.

I hope they throw her in jail! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27338733)

Getting her DNA in sufficient amounts on all those swabs pretty much means she was sabotaging the process. Either from malice, or just because of being a bitter old hag who feels compelled to disobey work instructions from her superiors.

It reminds me of when I worked at an assembly line and we got a new type of screws which had some pink goo on them to prevent the product from falling apart due to vibrations. We were also given gloves to wear at all times when handling the screws, and a colleague of mine refused to wear them since "the old screws could survive my dirty fingers just fine". I never bothered to tell her the pink goo would give her cancer.

control experiments (2, Interesting)

speedtux (1307149) | more than 5 years ago | (#27338911)

That's why scientists use double blind experiments and control experiments. So, with every cotton swab taken from a crime scene, forensic labs should get one or more "blank" ones to test, without knowing which is which.

keepen das cotten-pickenen hans in das pockets (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27338937)

Who'd think THAT prophecy of Blinken Lights will come true?

Dang. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27339007)

There goes my "Carmen Sandiego" theory.

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