British prosecutors were able to convict a killer by matching the DNA readings in cat hairs found on the victim's body to the suspect's own pet.
David Hilder was charged with manslaughter after eight hairs from his pet cat were found on the dismembered torso of David Guy last July.
Constables sent the feline hairs to a lab in California for analysis. Researchers there confirmed that Hilder's pet and the hairs found on Guy's body had the same rare genetic code in the cat DNA readings, the Daily Mail reported
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The results were proven conclusive by California scientists who compared the DNA strand with 493 randomly sampled animals in a U.S. cat database.
To further strengthen their argument in court, British investigators also compared the DNA to that of 152 cats in a cat DNA database in the United Kingdom that is overseen by researchers at the University of Leicester. The conclusion was the same: the cat hairs found on Guy's body were especially unusual in the U.K. and belonged to Hilder's cat..
Hilder was convicted last month in Winchester Crown Court and sentenced to life in prison.
"This is the first time cat DNA has been used in a criminal trial in the UK," said Jon Wetton, the University of Leicester geneticist who led the cat DNA project . "We now hope to publish the database so it can be used in future crime investigations."
"This could be a real boon for forensic science, as the 10 million cats in the UK are unwittingly tagging the clothes and furnishings in more than a quarter of households," Wetton added.
Wetton, who as a former employee with Britain's Forensic Science Service had previously created a similar database for dogs, was tracked down for the cat DNA project by Hampshire police, NBC News reported
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Wetton reportedly constructed the cat DNA database through blood samples volunteered by veterinarian offices across the country.
"Animal DNA offers a way of linking people to places and items through the transfer of their pet’s hairs," Wetton said in the press releases.
Despite being conducted at the University of Leicester, the project was primarily funded by the Hampshire Constabulary, according to the school.
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