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Putting a New C in CSI
August 14, 2013 10:32 AM   Subscribe

For the first time in the United Kingdom, cat hair DNA has led to the conviction of a killer.

Police found eight cat hairs on the dismembered torso of David Guy, which had been abandoned on a Southsea beach. Investigators turned to an experienced forensic zoological geneticist, who assembled a massive database of mitochondril feline DNA from veterinary blood samples. That database identified Tinker the cat as the likely killer animal companion of the killer, one David Hilder, who was convicted last month of manslaughter.

Tinker was not charged with any crime and is "alive and well and living with new owners."
posted by Etrigan (39 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
THE C IS FOR CAT.
posted by jcreigh at 10:36 AM on August 14, 2013 [11 favorites]


“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.”

Everyone's afraid of their cell phones giving them away. But it's the cats you have to fear. It's always been the cats...
posted by vacapinta at 10:37 AM on August 14, 2013 [17 favorites]


Uh, what? My dog sheds like crazy and I would bet that every single person who's ever visited my house or even been near my clothes has her fur on them. Wouldn't this merely prove that they knew each other?
posted by thewumpusisdead at 10:39 AM on August 14, 2013


TINKER IS KEYSER
posted by Foci for Analysis at 10:40 AM on August 14, 2013 [9 favorites]


How does this work? I know that mutations in mitochondrial DNA are more common than regular nuclear DNA, however there is usually no change in mtDNA from parent to offspring. So that cat's mother and littermates would likely be indistinguishable, and it's hard to tell how far back one would have to go to really see any variation. And why didn't they just compare nuclear DNA in the first place?
posted by aubilenon at 10:46 AM on August 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Cut to: cat laughing quietly to itself.
Voiceover (cat): I think I've "shed" myself of that dry-food-only problem. But these new 'owners' just might want to wake their ideas up a little in the kitty-litter department...
posted by yoink at 10:46 AM on August 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


Uh, what? My dog sheds like crazy and I would bet that every single person who's ever visited my house or even been near my clothes has her fur on them. Wouldn't this merely prove that they knew each other?

It seemed from the article that the DNA was only one small piece of the evidence, like, for example: "traces of Guy’s blood discovered at Hilder’s residence." Still kind of neat, though.

BTW I am a cat.
posted by MoonOrb at 10:47 AM on August 14, 2013 [8 favorites]


“Hilder’s violence may also have been triggered by the fact that his friend was not taking care of his cat,”

does a hi-five bro move and gesture
posted by angrycat at 10:49 AM on August 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Collect all of the DNAs!
posted by srboisvert at 10:50 AM on August 14, 2013




Looking at other write-ups of the story, the truth seems to be:

David Guy's body was found wrapped in curtain which had cat hairs on it. The DNA from the cat hair (presumably with hair cells still attached?) was matched to David Hilder's cat Tinker, as the police already had Hilder as a suspect. The police then ask scientist to find out how common that DNA is among cats in order to establish that the hairs must have come from Tinker and not another cat. Scientist builds a database of 152 cats and showed that only a few matched the DNA, meaning that the hair most likely come from Tinker, and thus the curtain from Hilder's house.
posted by Thing at 10:52 AM on August 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


Awesome, instead of being continually embarrassed that I can't get out of the house without finding a dozen cat hairs on my clothing even after I've vigorously lint-rolled, via cross-transfer I can feel confident that I've managed to implicate everyone in the greater SF Bay Area.
posted by jamaro at 10:53 AM on August 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


Fun fact: The original treatment for this movie involved a plot twist related to Jerome/Vincent's feline companion. It didn't read well and the story thread was removed. Ultimately, the project name was changed from Cattaga in the final draft.


/mew
posted by tilde at 10:53 AM on August 14, 2013


So...it was curtains for Guy, eh?
posted by yoink at 10:55 AM on August 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Hilder will surely introduce the toxoplasmosis defense on appeal, if he can break free of the mind control long enough to file one.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 11:06 AM on August 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I could use some DNA analysis to solve a recent crime at my place. Cat shit everywhere, a destroyed foamy ... but which neighbour's cat snuck in my window and did the deed? Everybody thinks it was the weird one with hardly any fur, but I'm not so sure.
posted by philip-random at 11:08 AM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


The BBC News article about this case is very simple and straightforward. The headline of the article in the OP which says "Massive first-of-its-kind cat DNA database" is highly misleading: only 152 cats are in the "massive" database.
posted by Thing at 11:11 AM on August 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


I went to the WaPo article hoping for a picture of Tinker. No dice.

The National Post tried to get around this by posting a photo of Trixie the cat.

Who taught these people about journalistic integrity?
posted by mykescipark at 11:12 AM on August 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


only 152 cats are in the "massive" database.

Oh, sure, put a spotlight on just how overweight those cats are, why don't you. You'll be laughing out of the other side of your face when you wake up next to a dead body covered in cat hair, buster.
posted by yoink at 11:16 AM on August 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


You try doing anything with 152 cats and see if you think that's a small number.
posted by maryr at 11:24 AM on August 14, 2013 [27 favorites]


How do they know it wasn't the cat who done it? Sounds like this guy was framed.
posted by three blind mice at 11:27 AM on August 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


feline fatale
posted by stbalbach at 11:27 AM on August 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


THE CALL IS COMING FROM INSIDE THE CAT
posted by nathancaswell at 11:38 AM on August 14, 2013 [10 favorites]


that doesn't even make any sense, nathan
posted by nathancaswell at 11:38 AM on August 14, 2013 [12 favorites]


"And the reason Hilder killed his neighbour and friend David Guy may have been because of the cat.

“Hilder’s violence may also have been triggered by the fact that his friend was not taking care of his cat,” Stuart Ellacott of the Crown Prosecution Service told the BBC."

posted by Bwithh at 11:41 AM on August 14, 2013


For those twisted readers sinisterly curious about cat-perspective and other-animal-perspective tales of homicide and revenge, I recommend Patricia Highsmith's (probably best known for The Talented Mr. Ripley series of books) excellent The Animal-Lover's Book of Beastly Murder
posted by Bwithh at 11:45 AM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm dog-sitting. I'm pretty sure I could an entire second dog just out of the fur the dog has shed this week.

How can I best use this new-found power?
posted by RainyJay at 11:50 AM on August 14, 2013


felines helped convict a man of manslaughter...

On July 30, Hilder was sentenced to life in prison


So I guess manslaughter means something different in the UK than the US?
posted by grog at 11:55 AM on August 14, 2013


For those twisted readers sinisterly curious about cat-perspective and other-animal-perspective tales of homicide and revenge...

There's also Three Bags Full, in which a herd of sheep solve the murder of their shepherd.
posted by Etrigan at 11:58 AM on August 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


So I guess manslaughter means something different in the UK than the US?

Much the same I think. However in the UK "life" doesn't necessarily mean life.
posted by epo at 12:19 PM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


On July 30, Hilder was sentenced to life in prison

This reporter's phrasing is incorrect. A life sentence in the UK ( unless it is the rare "whole life sentence" for those judged to be extremely dangerous or infamous convicts) does not mean a life sentence of imprisonment, however it does mean serious government restrictions on the person convicted for the rest of their life. Hilder was given a life sentence with a "tariff" of 12 years meaning that he must serve 12 years before being eligible for parole ( successful parole is more likely and routine in the UK than in the US, so with good behaviour, he will probably be released ). 12 years in prison for severe (this case is particularly bad with the dismembering for coverup) voluntary manslaughter is about on par with a US conviction for the same.
The life sentence means though that he will have to live with certain restrictions imposed by the UK parole authorities for the rest of his life - these vary and are specific to each case (e.g. stay away from the area where you committed the crime ; don't associate with certain kinds of people ; stay away from cats etc. etc. ) but breaking the rules means the possibility of being sent directly to prison. The parole authorities can also make a general assessment that the parolee is a danger and send him back to prison. I don't know how it work in the US, probably varies by state and federal regimes.
posted by Bwithh at 12:46 PM on August 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


RainyJay: "I'm dog-sitting. I'm pretty sure I could an entire second dog just out of the fur the dog has shed this week.

How can I best use this new-found power?
"

I started a dog-of-the-month club.
posted by wierdo at 1:41 PM on August 14, 2013


"Snitches get scritches! Yes, they do! Yes they do!"
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 2:00 PM on August 14, 2013 [13 favorites]


Cop: We ran those cat hairs on our victim through the database.
CSI Guy: That’s how our killer got caught. Something about the cat
Puts On Sunglasses
CSI Guy: made them paws.
YEEEEEEEEEEEAAAHHHHH!

posted by Schadenfreude at 3:12 PM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


AAACK! Thbbft!
posted by Smedleyman at 5:14 PM on August 14, 2013


I can has guilty verdict?
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:25 PM on August 14, 2013


So it was not the purr-fect crime?

I'll get my coat.
posted by Dr. Zira at 6:34 PM on August 14, 2013


I'm dog-sitting. I'm pretty sure I could an entire second dog just out of the fur the dog has shed this week.

Who am I kidding? I can't build a cat.

I hate to be picky, but pumas aren't really known for flying.
posted by maryr at 7:25 PM on August 14, 2013


If I ever get murdered, I guess all my neighbors will be suspects, because I can't resist cuddling every single cat that crosses my path.

Sorry neighbors ;o;
posted by Gordafarin at 2:32 AM on August 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


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