Clues: Scientists at Trinity DNA Solutions in Florida test clothing for DNA samples. No two people have the same DNA profile except for identical twins. *Photo supplied
Clues: Scientists at Trinity DNA Solutions in Florida test clothing for DNA samples. No two people have the same DNA profile except for identical twins. *Photo supplied
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WEDNESDAY, MAR. 2: Forensic evidence is playing a crucial role in the fight against gang-related gun crime in Bermuda.

It has been successfully used in court to help lock up the shooters and their accomplices.

Whether it is the gun, DNA swabs from a pistol trigger or bullet casings from a shooting scene, the forensic evidence is bagged and sent to laboratories across the U.S.

Firearms have to be escorted off the island personally by officers but other exhibits, such as bloodstained clothing or hair particles, can be couriered abroad.

Firearm

Often the evidence goes through two or three different units before the results are returned to Bermuda.

It is a “collective and collaborative” approach that police say is a vital network to cracking cases.

Forensic Pieces in Pensacola, Florida, is often the first port of call for a firearm, which has been seized by police.

Jan Johnson, who often rushes to the island after fatal shootings and other serious crime, is responsible for taking swabs off of the weapon.

These are then taken a few miles down the road to Trinity DNA Solutions and tested. Candy Zuleger, laboratory director, and her team determine DNA profiles from all sorts of items — bloodstained clothing, swabs taken from door handles, hair particles and the packaging used to wrap drugs.

She told the Bermuda Sun: “DNA determines everything from height, weight, eye colour to hair colour.

“More than 99 per cent of our DNA is the same from one person to the next but forensic DNA analysis detects areas where we differ from another.

“No two people have the same DNA profile except for identical twins.

“The laboratory is set up in three distinct areas — serology, extraction and amplification.

“The examination, photography and documentation of evidence begins in the serology lab.”

The evidence sample is compared with the DNA profiles from people involved in the case to determine the identity of the DNA profile.

Ms Zuleger said: “On average we get a piece of evidence from Bermuda every week.

“We have also developed a DNA database in Bermuda, so once we have picked up a profile we can see if it matches any of the profiles we have on the database.

“We have already begun to get results with this database and that is exciting.

“There are about 2,500 on the database at present. We will get more and more hits as time goes by.”

Bullets

For many pieces of evidence, this is the end of the road and the results are filtered back to the police in Bermuda.

But firearms and recovered bullets undergo a string of further ballistic tests at Forensic Expert Services in Broward, Florida. These tests can determine what gun a bullet has been fired from due to its unique markings and whether the gun has been used in previous shootings where casings have been recovered.

Dennis McGuire, a ballistics expert who regularly gives evidence in Supreme Court, goes through the process of firing the weapon and compares the marks found on the fired bullet to other bullets to see if they match.

This process can prove that a specific gun was used in a specific shooting.

For the final piece of the jigsaw we have to go to the RJ Lee Group in Monroeville, Pennsylvania.

Alfred Schwoeble and his team test items of clothing or small sample pieces of clothing for gunshot residue (GSR).

These particles are invisible to the naked eye but a person whose clothing has traces of GSR on it was in close proximity to a gun when it was fired.

Police chiefs are also keen to take advantage of other cutting-edge technology such as CCTV imagery analysis.

They have recruited LGC Forensics in Cambridge-shire, England, to help improve the quality of footage captured by CCTV cameras across Bermuda.

Superintendant Antoine Daniels told the Bermuda Sun: “The forensic process can take up to one to two months to complete because it involves many different agencies.

“But if we need results significantly quicker than that we can also get a turn around of between a week or two.

“There are various ways that evidence is dealt with and no two investigations are the same.

“So we use the resources at our disposal to the best of our ability and we have had some very good results.

“The database that has been created over the last few years has also been very useful to us.

“The link with forensic laboratories is a vital link for us.”

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