DNA Evidence From Fingernail Clippings Leads to Scratched Burglar’s Arrest

A burglar was caught in Leicester, England, after DNA from fingernail clippings tied him to the scene of the crime. David Devlin, 26, was sentenced to 22 years after pleading guilty to two counts of robbery, one count of grievous bodily harm and two counts of handling stolen goods.

On March 11, Devlin and two unidentified men broke into the home of an elderly woman in West Knighton. She told police that one man began punching her in the face while demanding cash and gold. In an effort to protect herself, she grabbed the man’s balaclava and scratched his face. According to police, the man then cleaned the woman’s hands with water and cleaning fluid and trimmed her nails in an attempt to erase evidence. The robber also sprayed the woman’s face with cleaning fluid prior to stealing her wedding ring and fleeing the scene. The woman suffered injuries including a fractured wrist, bruising and damage to her eye.

The elderly woman wasn’t the only victim that night — the same three men broke into another house and robbed a woman and her children, demanding cash and jewelry and threatening the mother with a screwdriver.

When called to the scene of the first robbery, the woman was unable to give a description to the police because the men wore masks. However, when searching the house, authorities found the fingernail clippings, which Devlin had neglected to discard. The clippings were collected and sent for analysis, which resulted in a partial DNA match. Despite his efforts during the attack, Devlin was unable to destroy the DNA evidence he left under the fingernails of his victim. With a positive identification, authorities were able to bring Devlin in on suspicion of this robbery and other robberies in the area.

When police brought him in for questioning, Devlin confessed to robbing and assaulting the elderly woman and later also pleaded guilty to the robbery of the mother and children. Police are glad to have Devlin, who had been evading arrest for the past eight months, in custody. “People were attacked and left terrified in their own homes because of the actions of Devlin,” said Detective Inspector Gareth Goddard.

The identities of the remaining two assailants has not been determined and there is currently no additional DNA evidence tying any other suspects to the robberies.