New SA rape kit 'like CSI'

2011-03-14 22:40
Professor Sean Davidson and Dr Eugenia D Amato of the UWC forensics laboratory that have developed the DNA rape kit pose in their lab. (Picture provided)

Professor Sean Davidson and Dr Eugenia D Amato of the UWC forensics laboratory that have developed the DNA rape kit pose in their lab. (Picture provided)

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Cape Town - The rape kit developed by the University of the Western Cape's forensic lab is a quick process that will aid police in the investigation of sexual crimes.

"This technology was really needed in the country. We extract DNA form a crime scene sample and have the results in two to three days," Professor Sean Davidson told News24.

He said that the kit was developed at UWC and it closely mimics that kind of work seen on TV shows like CSI or Law and Order.

"We developed it [the kit] at UWC using our own resources. You can look at a tiny trace of DNA and identify the person.

"When we look at the Y-chromosome sequence, we can discriminate between any individual, but we need a sample from the crime scene," said Davidson.

Multiple suspects

He added that the kit was no magic bullet for every sexual assault case, but that it gave law enforcement agencies an extra tool to solve cases.

Particularly in cases of child sexual assault where there were multiple suspects from the same family, the kit might be able to narrow down suspects to the range of father, son or brother, for example.

However, the rape kit was effective in excluding suspects completely. It is similar to those made in America and Europe, but is more accurate with South Africa's population groups. The breakthrough was headed by Dr Eugenia D Amato, also of UWC.

The forensics lab had been involved in the identification of anti-apartheid activists and Davidson said that they were looking for the "greatest need" for the use of DNA technology.

"The procedure will involve the reporting of a crime and the collection of medical samples. But we also hope for the establishment of rape centres nationwide," he said.

For criminals who would question the integrity of the lab's results, especially given controversy created around Tony Yengeni when it was revealed that the former commander of the Goodwood police station, Siphiwe Hewanahad, had ordered the destruction of the docket in the former's drunk driving case, Davidson had bad news.

"We are about to get our lab ISO accredited and the results will stand up in court."

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