Perhaps the most high-profile DNA-cracked case in the West Midlands was that of 17-year-old Nicola Dixon who was raped and killed on New Year’s Eve 1996.
Senior Forensic Scientist, Hazel Johnson recalls “It was a shocking case…a brutal killing of a young girl out celebrating the New Year. It was a hugely challenging enquiry – for starters the murder scene had to be thawed out to help with the forensic examination.
“A DNA profile was obtained from samples found on Nicola’s clothing and within a month allowed detectives to eliminate one suspect from their enquiries. The profile was uploaded to the then fledgling national DNA Database (formed in 1995) and officers routinely monitored the system for comparison with new additions.
“The breakthrough came six years later, in 2002, when a man was arrested following a road rage incident in Birmingham city centre. That man, Colin Waite, had attacked a driver during an argument – and swabs taken from him returned a DNA hit against Nicola’s killer.
“I guess Waite didn’t realise we could seize his DNA or that science existed to compare it to samples taken several years earlier. Nicola’s mother said afterwards she had complete faith police would solve the murder and bring her daughter to justice…and that DNA would be the killer’s downfall. She was right.”
A jury took just 30 minutes to convict Waite of murder having heard the chance of Waite’s DNA not being that found on Nicola’s clothing was around a billion to one.