Thursday, 11 July 2013

How a rusty key found next to human remains unlocked identity of man who went missing 14 years ago

Not DVI, but still a fine piece of detective work worth reporting here..

The body of a missing man who had not been seen for 14 years has been identified - thanks to a rusty key.

A dog walker found human bones and a shoulder bag in February last year but police initially had no idea who the man was.

Crime scene investigators then analysed the contents of the bag and discovered a pair of reading glasses missing both lenses, a wrist watch... and the old key.

And when they scrubbed the key with solvent, it revealed a serial number.

Police linked the number to a house in Battersea, south-west London, and discovered a missing man - Carl Johnston - had links to the address and also Burpham, West Sussex, where the bones were found.

Officers from Sussex Police tracked down his family, who confirmed they had not seen him since 1999.

The body was subsequently identified - bringing an end to 14 years of uncertainty - and an inquest recorded an open verdict. Mr Johnston would have been 67 when he passed away.

Writing about the investigation on his blog, CSI officer Chris Gee said the investigation, which he carried out with colleague DC Alison Hoad, was like a 'jigsaw puzzle'.

He said: 'The bag was in close proximity to the bones, with a high potential the two were related.

'The forensic service provider performed a basic DNA comparison with the deceased’s relative, and came to the conclusion that there was a 1 in 40 chance of them being related.

'During the post-mortem at the beginning of the investigation, the forensic anthropologist gave an indication towards the age the person was when they died but no cause of death could be determined.

'The coroner was happy that no further work was needed and accepted this identity.

'We at Sussex Police strive to help and bring closure to families who need it.

'DC Hoad set a fantastic example of how persistence and attention to the finer detail can really pay off.

'Everyone else had overlooked the keys, but our two minds made this cold case heat up.

'I’m really pleased we could present our findings to the family and offer them their relative back, someone they had lost for so long.'

Thursday 11 July 2013


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