Skip to comments.Phantom killer was a myth: Police track DNA of a cotton bud maker for two years
Posted on 03/26/2009 11:53:26 AM PDT by LibWhacker
Police in Germany hunted a sinister phantom killer for two years after finding the same DNA at 39 different crime scenes - only to discover that the source was a woman who made the cotton buds used to collect the sample!
The case was one of the most puzzling in recent times. Hundreds of detectives in six specialist committees were set to work hunting the ominous female serial killer.
But there was no progress, despite investigators finding her DNA at so many crime scenes.
The police were stumped. They eventually offered a 300,000 euro reward to find the killer.
It's no surprise the money was never claimed, however, because the so-called phantom killer was a complete myth!
Detectives had apparently been tracking the DNA of a factory worker who packaged cotton buds used by the police to collect samples, according to Stern.de.
Police linked the 'killer' to seven murders.
The most notorious case was in April 2007 in Heilbronn where a 22-year-old policewoman was shot dead and her colleague (25) seriously injured. On the back seat of the police car, detectives found what they thought was DNA from the mysterious killer.
As part of the investigation, 800 previously convicted women were questioned - but there was no match to the sample.
Her DNA was found over and over again: in bottles, tank lids, on bullets and once even on a biscuit!
Traces were found in southern Germany, Austria and France. Thousands of saliva tests were taken but there was still no answer.
In April 2008, detectives ran out of ideas, so an internal inquiry was launched.
And yesterday Bernd Meiners, a spokesman for the public prosecutor's office in Saarbrucken, revealed: There are considerable doubts about the existence of the phantom killer. The DNA has instead been linked to investigation materials.
An employee at the cotton bud manufacturer has apparently been pretty careless!
According to reports, the maker of the buds is a company in Hamburg, with branches in Baden-Wurttemberg and the Saarland as well as Austria and France.
The company has been supplying the police investigators with cotton buds since 2001.
OJ’s gonna be dissapointed.
Almost choked on my bier.
quality control ain’t what it used to be.
her 15 minutes of ‘fame’ sure stink huh?
When I used to ID type convicted felons for entry into the federal CODIS database; one of the FIRST things they did was to get my genetic ID on file.
On the one hand, if any sample ever comes up with my ID it is obviously suspect and as such is thrown out and the original blood sample reanalyzed.
On the other hand, I am now in the federal data base with all the convicted felons.
But on the gripping hand, I don’t plan on any interstate crime sprees where my DNA would be left behind on any murder or rape victims; as I am a law abiding citizen.
how could they not realize? they must have caught people for some of those crimes.
Look out for Prawo Jazdy on the roads.
Those things aren’t machine made? Who knew?
"Oh!, I was supposed to wear these?"
Revenge by framing someone with their DNA is so easy these days.
That's what they all say.
Nice Pournelle reference btw....the gripping hand.
This is a bit disappointing in terms of their failure to account for the possibility of contamination. As a quality engineer, I’d say their problem solving methodology was pretty stunted. There is a point at which they should have sat back in their chairs and said, “OK, now what _other_ explanations could there be for this recurrent, omnipresent DNA being found at all these crime scenes?” A little brainstorming should have got them the answer.
Aw, ya beat me to it. Fiendish woman!
“How likely am I to leave my DNA at any rape and murder scenes?”
I considered the likelyhood to be somewhere between slim and none.
Not just Pournelle, Also Larry Niven (a.k.a. Nevinyrral of the destroying disk).
I bet they'll be running a blank on the cotton buds from now on.
What about your family members or future family members??
Genealogists have used DNA technology for years to identify unknown relatives, and law-enforcement officials have used the technology to identify criminals.
Now those two threads have merged. Today, investigators regularly use partial DNA matches to track down criminal suspects through family members who are already in a DNA databank.
If a close relative of mine is committing murders or rapes I would be proud to know that it was my DNA that helped identify them.
This is why there is no “CSI: Europe”
This has the makings of a great murder drama-comedy. I want the movie rights.
You assume that the uses of DNA won’t ever be expanded in the future to do other things than identify murderers and rapists. Short sighted.
I thought that was because there is a God in Heaven.
Although, there is now a Law & Order: UK
What they have on me in the federal CODIS databank is the number of repeats I have for 13 different short terminal repeat sequences (diploid). So all they have are 26 numbers that form a unique designator that identifies me.
What exactly do you foresee people doing with my DNA repeat numbers other than for purposes of identification?
What exactly do you foresee people doing with my entire genome, assuming anybody went through the time and expense to amplify and sequence it?
How about if he's an "illegal" gun owner or "enemy of the State"?
Do “enemies of the state” usually leave behind their DNA on rape or murder victims? How does the state get the DNA from an unknown “enemy”, and how do they know he is an “enemy”?
“DNA crimes” are almost invariably rapes or murders; where someone commits a crime and leaves behind their DNA.
If we need to violently resist our government, them knowing my DNA is not going to help them- as I will make no secret of my identity or my general intent; I will however keep secret my location and my tactics.
However I also see the likelihood of a second armed American revolution within my lifetime as somewhere between slim and none.
We had our revolution; so far it is a success. The people get the government they vote for. If they vote for stupidity, on their own head be it, and hopefully a few years of socialist incompetence will teach them better.
Incorrect. Somebody can leave behind their DNA on a cigarette butt, a napkin, some fallen hairs. The reason why DNA analysis is connected with serious felonies is that it's mainly in serious felonies that authorities can justify the expense of going for DNA analysis.
From the Office of the Obama Nationalized (and only) Healthcare
Dear Mr. Allmendream: We've recently analyzed your DNA and have identified several troubling genetic deficiencies in your genome. Your genetic material indicates a higher instance of heart disease and diabetes can be expected from you.
Therefore we will no longer cover you for any health care expenses. Sorry, but better luck next time on the genetic lottery.
By the way, since these things tend to run in families, we've also dropped every single one of your family members as well. I'm sure you'll understand the need to cut costs, and I'm sure you'll do the patriotic thing and just have the good decency to go somewhere and die and remove yourself from the herd.
Your loving and benevolent Messiah
B. Hussein Obama
a) they had the perp’s DNA (from a rape or murder IIRC)
b) they had a suspect who they thought might match the DNA
c) the cop followed the suspect and grabbed his littered cigarette butt
d) they matched the cigarette butt DNA to the crime scene DNA.
I guess if a bank robber smoked a cigarette and left the butt behind it might well be used as well; but it would only “work” if the guy's DNA was already in the system, otherwise all you have is DNA with no identity to match it to.
What scenario are you envisioning whereby a non violent criminal gets identified by DNA? They find his DNA where exactly? What type of crime scene?
Hardly an earth shattering scare mongering scenario.
Socialized medicine might decide to withhold care due to my DNA?
Socialized medicine is going to be a nightmare anyway, them knowing my particular DNA is not going to make in any worse or better; if they are going to sequence my entire genome they are going to demand EVERYONE’s genome data.
Genetic based or customized medicine is the future anyway. There is already a drug on the market that only works for people with a particular set of genetic alleles.
Yes, that is the goal. Or don't you see that??? There are now laws written or being written to require DNA be given if you are merely arrested, not charged, not prosecuted, not convicted. You stand up for your rights some day, some Barney Fife slaps the cuffs on you for "interfering with a police officer", the charge gets bounced, but they've got your DNA. Happens in the Merry UK all the time.
There won't be any insurance groups any more. Socialized medicine is happening. The State will be the insurer, and the State will determine if you get any care.
Or one of his family members, didn't we just go over this????
Not Anymore, I'd guess.
Yes, but as I stated, the original DNA sample was left at a crime scene that involved rape or murder.
If someone is leaving behind their DNA at rape and murder crime scenes I WANT them identified, even or ESPECIALLY if they are closely related to me.
Didn’t we just go over that?
If someone is leaving behind their DNA at rape and murder crime scenes I WANT them identified, even or ESPECIALLY if they are closely related to me.
Didnt we just go over that?"
No, you can now be forced to give a DNA sample for merely being arrested, even on a misdemeanor, even if you're never convicted. So no the DNA doesn't have to be found at a murder or rape crime scene originally to be in CODIS. I'm sure you know this though, but choose to gloss over it.
Run into the right JBT, and still cling to the notion that you have Constitutional rights, and bam, your DNA will be collected and put into your system.
To be used in the future for god knows what.
a) identify that any biological sample belongs to you (semen, skin under fingernails, saliva, hair, etc).
b) see if you have any genetic traits that cause disease or are correlated with disease.
c) tell who is related to you.
and potentially some time in the future....
d) tell what population group you belong to, your eye skin and hair color, some personality traits, likely height and IQ range, etc.
So far I have no objection to (a) as I don't leave biological samples at crime scenes, and generally want police to identify the people that do.
People knowing (b) (assuming they amplify my entire genome and not just the ID markers) could either save or cost someone money on insurance; or effect how they are treated by the hypothetical socialized medicine.
Paternity testing or identification of remains is the most common use of (c), and if the child is mine I would want to know.
And so far (d) isn't very likely within our lifetimes and doesn't yield much useful data, considering the expense.
So what exactly are YOU afraid of if your DNA was on file?
You certainly glossed over and minimized b). But then that’s expected as you worship dna at the altar of evolutionary beliefs.
You certainly glossed over and minimized b), and also your hypothetical d).
I worship Jesus the Christ, not a molecule. Are you a mind reader that you can tell me what my religious beliefs entail?
What does the presence of disease associated genes have to do with evolution?
Do creationists reject the notion that genes can and are associated with diseases?
Not exactly expecting a RATIONAL answer considering your posting history; but what does my knowledge and acceptance of the theory of evolution through natural selection of genetic variation have to do with the fact that DNA can be used to assess your likelihood of disease?
What do you need the first amendment for??? Or are you afraid you might say something unpopular???
My DNA is not on file anywhere, and I will fight to keep it that way. The government is a monster that must always be kept at bay at all times. Just because you think something is unlikely to happen in our lifetime, or is now to expensive, does not mean that it won't happen, or become really cheap like RFID chips.
Government power and intrusion is damn near unstoppable these days because of people like you who take a "well if you've got nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear" mentality. Screw that.
I don't trust my government. Neither should you. Government is a necessary evil. But evil nonetheless because it allows an all powerful government to come down on a single citizen who does not have the resources to fight back anymore. Given unlimited power, what do you think the likes of Obama and Barney Frank would do with it?? That ought to scare you.
The big fear behind b) is that health insurers might accurately assess your risk.
I have no fear behind d). They have my height weight hair and eye color and fingerprints from my time in the US military. They know that any sample of my DNA is me, because I am in the database.
If they really want to amplify and sequence my entire genome to find that I am a white guy (they knew that), that I am over average in height and intelligence (they knew that), and have a risk adverse and non novelty seeking personality (they probably don't know that, but I see little risk in someone having the potential to find out).
But if you feel I have “glossed over” the inherent risks and fears behind an interested party using DNA information to identify biological samples (a), identifying genetic risks (b), telling who is related to you (c), or getting a detailed map of your genotype (d); please expound upon them at your leisure.
WOW - anyone taking bets on how long until DNA convictions are being challenged based on contaminated materials stateside. Some enterprising young lawyer will claim that ALL DNA evidence must be suspect based on methodological faults.
I am not for the wholesale collection of DNA identification.
The Constitution provides for “reasonable search and seizure” and I feel that the state has a compelling interest in the search and seizure of DNA identification for convicted felons.
So far you have tried to raise DNA information as some sort of bogeyman; but have not identified what exactly it is you are afraid of if the FBI had your DNA identification.
As I said all they could do with it presently is...
a) Identify biological samples
b) Assess health risks
c) Tell who you are related to
d) Identify genotypic traits.
Which exactly is the one that raises your ire or fear?
None particularly frightened me, and as such I took the job, it payed well and was doing good work, we got an update from the sheriffs department on all the cold cases we solved monthly (all rapes and murders from what I saw).
Your amazing lack of imagination of what they "will be able to" do in the future is not a matter of solace to me. 20 years ago people would be amazed at the internet and modern computers. 20 years from now, we will be amazed at the amount of progress in computing power. I expect to be around for another 40-60 years. There's no telling what will happen technologically in that time frame.
Your obtuseness to the ever forward marching scientific advances of mankind has to be a contrivance to further your arguments here.
I want you to tell me what that “something” you fear is.
And I am a biologist, in my imagination we may soon be able to cheaply and efficiently figure out the genotype of any given DNA sample (i.e. this is a half Puerto Rican half Norwegian guy with blue eyes and brown hair, about six feet tall, likely average IQ, a risk taker, prone to being overweight, likely to die of heart disease, etc).
Currently all a DNA sample tells “the man” is “I do not match anybody in the database” or “I do match someone in the database”, or the interesting case your raised “I am most likely a very close relation to someone in the database”.
Are you currently against the collection of DNA markers from convicted felons?
I have already given you a very important example, genetic profiling for the denial or acceptance of medically necessary health care. Life, liberty, pursuit of happiness.... the first of those being life. You seem to scoff at the idea that our loving bureaucrats won't someday mandate the denial of service to cut costs based upon genetic profiles. Those in the UK are now currently being euthanized:
A British "end of life" care protocol approved for use by the National Health Service (NHS), has created a systematic, and legal, method of euthanising elderly and disabled patients, even while "mercy killing" remains officially illegal, says a prominent expert in elder care. The "Liverpool Care Pathway" will be used to eliminate patients deemed to be "blocking beds" in the increasingly financially strapped public health system.
If the thought of some Tom Daschle somewhere deciding whether you live or die is not something to "fear", then I don't need to waste anymore time on you.
And it is my understanding that the "samples" from which you make your digital CODIS profile, may not be destroyed, but kept in storage.
"Police were asked to supply the policies their evidence-room technicians keep at their desks that describe how long DNA samples are maintained for the crimes of murder, rape and kidnapping and for missing-persons cases.
Of the Colorado policies, only Denver's specifically addresses DNA storage, saying that DNA samples are to be placed in "long-term" storage. But even Denver's policy doesn't define what it means by "long-term." The department says it means "indefinitely."
So I assume that there are lots of long term storage areas around that haven't bothered to destroy the physical sample yet, if ever. There goes your theory that the only thing that exists is "the number of repeats I have for 13 different short terminal repeat sequences (diploid). So all they have are 26 numbers that form a unique designator that identifies me"
They most likely still retain the physical sample somewhere. That can be subjected to future tests that haven't been invented yet, looking for things that you don't have the imagination to dream up. Welcome to Gattaca.
No thank you.
And yes, I admitted the possibility of them taking my sample back out and gleaning more data from it (such as predisposition for disease, personality, etc); what I said was that all they on me by way of data in CODIS was the diploid repeat number of those 13 markers. The sample wasn't sent to the database, only data was sent to the database.
And like I said, it doesn't bother me that they know who I am and can identify my DNA as being mine. It was a good job and it did good work solving ‘cold’ rape and murder cases, usually from someone already in custody, and often they could be changed with the crimes they had “gotten away with” before their release (there was a backlog before the State of Virginia hired the company I worked for to do the DNA analysis).
So are you against collecting DNA data on convicted felons?
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