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Sci-Enza: Hands-on Science! Wetenskap in Aksie!

Fighting crime with science

By Irene Schoeman

Posted on 20 October 2011

On Wednesday 19 October Vanessa Lynch founder and executive director of the DNA project gave a public talk about the use of DNA evidence to fight crime. More than 40 interested staff members and students attended the talk at Sci-Enza.

Vanessa LynchVanessa Lynch, a corporate lawyer by training started the DNA project after her farther was murdered in a tragic house burglary in 2005.  Her aim for this organisation is to “practically address the crime situation in South Africa through the expanded use of DNA evidence in conjunction with SA's National DNA Database”.

DNA is one of the strongest forms of evidence that can be collected from a crime scene, since everybody (except identical twins) has unique DNA in every cell of their body that does not change throughout their life time, according to Vanessa. The DNA project address several aspects such as crime scene awareness, police training, capacity building in forensic sciences and legislative reform to increase the efficiency of the criminal justice system in South Africa. At present South Africa does not have a Convicted Offender Database which means that our National DNA Database only consists of DNA profiles collected at crime scenes (called crime stains) and DNA samples of persons suspected of a crime/arrestees. A convicted offender database in addition to the crime stains and persons profiles will increase the chances of identifying murderers, rapist and other offenders and proving the innocence of wrongfully accused suspects.  It is only as a result of outdated legislation that South Africa does not have a Convicted Offender Database, as opposed to the rest of the world, where convicted offenders’ DNA profiles form part of the National DNA Databases. Vanessa encouraged people to become involved to campaign for the legislative reform in SA.

DNACSIStaff and students could enjoy a light lunch and continue their discussions about this interesting topic. Vanessa also gave six practical tips about what to do when you come across a crime scene to preserve DNA evidence and support the Crime Scene Investigators. See image on the left.

This talked formed part of Biotechnology month celebrated at Sci-Enza in October and was funded by SAASTA in association with PUB.  More information about the DNA project can be found at:



Vanessa Lynch with the Sci-Enza teamVanessa Lynch with Sci-Enza team

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