Some of Wales’ most notorious killers might never have been brought to justice under new government rules for keeping DNA, experts have warned.
The Home Office is in the process of destroying six million samples in a move that has been labelled “impossible to understand” by one victims’ charity. They are all expected to be disposed of by the end of the month.
And the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 will mean new samples will have to be destroyed after six months.
It means detectives will no longer be able to rely on familial DNA testing to narrow down suspects using forensic material from relatives.
Lyn Costello, founder of Caernarfon-based Mothers Against Murder and Aggression, said: “If we were truly putting victims first in this country, government would be listening to the police and forensic experts over this issue with victims, and not offenders, at the forefront of their minds.
“It is clear that retaining DNA samples has enabled the prosecution of some very dangerous and violent offenders, securing justice for the victim and protecting the general public in the future.
“It is impossible to understand why such a valuable tool in solving serious crime is being removed from those who investigate and are tasked with solving these crimes.”
Former inspector Colin Rogers, who served in South Wales Police for 30 years and is now a professor of police sciences at The University of South Wales, said DNA was a “massively useful tool for detecting really serious offences”.
He said: “There are numerous cases where police have used this technique and it has come up trumps.”
Prof Rogers said he suspected those who had suffered at the hands of criminals would not support the plan.
“If I was a victim, or a family member of a victim, and this method was used to detect an offender, then as far as I am concerned it is a useful tool and the police should have it,” he said.
Cases including the killing of Cardiff prostitute Lynette White may never have been solved without familial DNA. Killer Jeffrey Gafoor was caught after police obtained a sample of his DNA in 2000.
They had no idea who he was as he was not in the police database.
But they found a match with a 14-year-old boy, his nephew. It led them to the 38-year-old loner, jailed for life in 2003.
Prof Rogers said it was “absolutely” true Gafoor might never have been arrested if the new rules had been in place at the time.
“If there was other supporting evidence they may have caught him,” he said.
“But the chances are they might never have caught him.
“When you see high profile cases like that you see how important the uses are.
“As long as the accountability process is robust I can’t see why it should not be retained.”
Forensic profiling pioneer Dr Jonathan Whitaker worked on the first ever use of familial profiling in the UK.
That saw cops finally crack the unsolved killings of Sandra Newton, Pauline Floyd and Geraldine Hughes.
Geraldine and friend Pauline were raped and strangled in woods in Llandarcy, near Neath, in September 1973 as they hitchhiked home from a club. Sandra had been found three months earlier in a nearby ditch.
The murderer was bouncer Joseph Kappen – dubbed the Saturday Night Killer.
He died of cancer aged 49 in 1990. But the brute was identified as the killer after his DNA was matched with car thief Paul Kappen, his son.
Formerly of the Forensic Science Service, Dr Whitaker now runs Principal Forensic Services.
He said: “Traditionally they kept available DNA for testing but with the new legislation these samples have disappeared.”
With familial testing investigators would search through the top 100 nearest matches of a suspect.
“You now have to go out and ask in the community for those 100 potential relatives and say, ‘Please could I have a sample?’” Dr Whitaker said.
“Even in very old cases there is a big incentive for closure to get these things resolved.
“When police have got very tight budgets it remains to be seen whether they prioritise these undetected cases in light of ongoing investigations.”
A Home Office spokesman insisted DNA was “a crucial tool” but “must be used proportionately”.
“Through the Protection of Freedoms Act we are restoring common sense to the system by ensuring only those convicted of a criminal offence will have their DNA retained indefinitely,” the spokesman said.
“Our changes will ensure DNA profiles are taken from the guilty and disposed of when people have done nothing wrong.”