Australian Federal Police launch national DNA program to identify decades-old bones and teeth
Unidentified human remains are going to be analysed for the first time with state-of-the-art forensic techniques in the hope of solving some of Australia’s longest-running missing persons cases.
More than 2500 people remain missing across the country, prompting the Australian Federal Police to launch a national DNA program to test hundreds of decades-old remains such as bones and teeth.
The program will bring together a team of forensic specialists at a dedicated lab in Canberra in the attempt to link 850 unidentified fragments to the long-term missing people.
AFP National Missing Persons Co-ordination Centre forensic DNA identification specialist Jodie Ward has been rallying for a program such as this for years and is excited to work with state and territory police and forensic partners.
“Once we have identified human remains cases that would benefit from specialist forensic testing, they will come here to Canberra and we will examine them,” Ms Ward told Sunrise.
“That could involve attempting to recover DNA profiling from them and the goal is to upload the profile to a national DNA database to link with missing people or their relatives.”
Ms Ward said it was extremely important for families of missing people as they have endured heartache and loss for multiple years.
“Some remains were located up to 70 years ago … some people are waiting decades for answers,” she said.
“We are hoping these new forensic techniques will restore the names and faces and reunite them with their families.”
Ms Ward said she was “extremely privileged” to lead such a unique program in Australia.
While each state has their own DNA databanks there has been no national approach up until today.
Scientists will analyse dental records and DNA profiles to search for matches while using tools to try to find the date of birth, death, ancestral origin, hair and eye colour, facial features and relatives of the remains.
Ms Ward is also urging for relatives of long-term missing people to participate in the program, especially those who were never formally reported to police.
“It’s time for us to be trying to close all the forensic gaps for these cases,” Ms Ward said.
The program received $3.59m in funding from the proceeds of crime and is expected to run for 2½ years.
Originally published as Australian Federal Police launch national DNA program to identify decades-old bones and teeth
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