“He would have been found guilty had it not been for DNA evidence”
Colin Pitchfork was the first murderer to be captured using DNA evidence. On 21 November 1983 15-year-old Lynda Mann went to visit a friend but never returned. Her body was found the next day on a deserted footpath; she had been strangled and raped. The semen at the scene was from someone who belonged to a rare blood group. The police investigation centred on nearby Carlton Hayes Hospital, which housed a number of sex offenders but led nowhere. On 15 July 1986, another 15-year-old schoolgirl, Dawn Ashworth, was raped and murdered. Her body was found in woods near a footpath called Ten Pound Lane. Both girls had attended Lutterworth Grammar School.
Then the police got a breakthrough — or thought that they had. Richard Buckland, a 17-year-old kitchen porter from Narborough, confessed and was charged with murdering Dawn Ashworth. Because of the similarities with the Lynda Mann case, police assumed the same man had committed both crimes.
Buckland’s father, believing in his son’s innocence, asked Professor Alec Jeffreys of Leicester University, who had perfected a system of identification based on DNA called genetic fingerprinting, to investigate. His conclusions were startling. Buckland had not killed either girl. His confession was completely fabricated. After serving three months in prison Buckland was released. Jeffreys said, “I have no doubt whatsoever that he would have been found guilty had it not been for DNA evidence. That was a remarkable occurrence.”
Following Buckland’s release, police decided to draw blood and saliva from every local male between the ages of 17 and 34 for DNA testing. Twenty-seven-year-old bakery worker Colin Pitchfork had previous convictions for exposing himself and feared the police might “fit him up” so he bullied co-worker Ian Kelly to act as a stand-in for him. Using a fake passport as proof of identity, Kelly took Pitchfork’s blood test.
On 1 August Kelly was drinking with three workmates and revealed what he had done. Six weeks later, after wrestling with her conscience, one of Kelly’s workmates told the police what he had done. Pitchfork was arrested on 19 September 1987 and became the 4,583rd male in the investigation to be DNA tested. It proved his guilt.
Narborough, Leicestershire, England
Monday 21 November 1983
Pitchfork, born in 1961, was jailed for life on 23 January 1988. He claimed that he had intended only to expose himself (something he claimed to have done to 1,000 women) but that it had turned to rape and, when he realized the girls could identify him, he murdered them.