The University of Leicester in Britain reported Wednesday that its DNA database of British cats helped convict a man of manslaughter, demonstrating how crime scene investigators can use the genetic material of pets.
When investigators found 30-year-old David Guy dismembered and hidden in a trash bag on a British beach, they were able to match a cat hair to the man’s neighbor, Hilder.
However, the strength of the sample could only be determined when compared to a collection of other feline hairs. From a database of 152 samples, only three matched the hairs from the scene of the crime.
“This is the first time cat DNA has been used in a criminal trial in the UK," Jon Wetton, who led the project, said. "This could be a real boon for forensic science.”
While the cat hair was just one element in a myriad of evidence, it was certainly helpful in deciding on a life sentence for Hilder, who must serve a minimum of 12 years before he is eligible for parole.
"No one's going to be convicted on this alone,” Wetton said, “but if it's helping to reinforce other sorts of evidence then you can paint a picture in the jury's mind."
Authorities say that Hilder’s motive remains unclear, though it is possible an argument may have begun over the cat.
The cat, Tinker, is alive and living happily with a new family, according to prosecutors.