Turi has given hundreds of public lectures and won awards for her public engagement work. In 2019 Turi guest-presented the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures in Japan, stepping in for Alice Roberts. She regularly gives keynote talks at science festivals, talks in schools both in the UK and abroad (Hong Kong, India, U.S., Canada), a TEDx talk and has spoken at a Congressional Breakfast on Capitol Hill.
She has gained much recognition and won numerous awards for her public speaking and the ability to communicate complex science to the public. She has been awarded the Queen’s Lecture by the British Council, the Genetics Society’s prestigious JBS Haldane Lecture and an Archaeological Institute of America Joukowsky Lectureship which is for given to distinguished archaeologists worldwide and entailed a lecture tour of the U.S. She was awarded the 50th Anniversary Wade Lecture and the Irving K Barber Lecture.
Solving a 500 Year Old Cold Case – with Turi King
Fingerprinting: From Discovery to Legacy
Transcript: DNA Fingerprinting: From Discovery to Legacy
Right, so I’m just going to introduce you all. You all know Alec. Now we have David Gyimah who was involved in the very first immigration case. We have got Linda Eaton who was involved, you’re actually the sister-in-law of Kath Eastwood who is over here and then we’ve got Barbara Ashworth and then we have got David Baker. So, Barbara is the mother of Dawn Ashworth and David Baker was Chief Superintendent at the time who led the investigation into the Enderby/Narborough murders. So, I’m actually going to start with you, David, because this was the very first case where DNA fingerprinting was actually used. So, I actually teach this, and most people don’t realise that actually the first case where DNA fingerprinting was actually used was actually an immigration case and David was part of the family that was involved in that. So, what do you remember from that period?
I’m probably, if you’ll allow me, I’m also journalist and an academic, so I’m about to spin your question around.
Go on then.
As you do, so if you don’t mind just a sort of little caveat before because, I want to tell you a bit of the backstory because Turi will say please come and chat and you’ll notice that I’m not here with my brothers and sisters because it’s a really deep emotional thing for them. I know one person who would have loved to be here and that would be my mum. She was the tour de force behind this, liaising with your good self and the law society, but sadly she passed away around this time last year. So, in itself it’s quite an emotional thing and the family really felt that they would rather sort of pull back. But having said that, I thought, you know what? Why don’t we just use this opportunity to thank fantastically, two main people, and that is Professor Alec Jeffreys and that is also my mum because really without my mum, keeping this family together and pursuing what she did, you know, this wouldn’t be the situation today.
So, I’m sort of stealing your question away from you, to use this as a platform to thank, and then there’s a sort of, there are these sort of bits and pieces I can add afterwards which are strange little arcs of how I’ve got to where I am as a consequence of this. But I might let you ask that question.
You can tell I’m a journalist.
So, talk us through the story of what happened and how were you involved in it?
Okay, again, I’m going to be quite guarded because I don’t really want to make it about an individual. It was a situation where it was traveling back after a long holiday and there was confusion amongst Immigration about the status of the family, said person, brother and it seemed to, it was, you know, nobody seemed to want to believe that we were a family unit. That we knew one another. And I’ll say something which is actually quite interesting here. And I’m reflecting on something that Stormzy… Stormzy? Stormzy said something recently when they asked them the question. He said ‘hundred percent’ and it was misinterpreted as to say the whole of the UK is hundred percent racist, he didn’t mean that. ‘Hundred percent’ just means ‘true.’ Now coming from Ghana there’s… it’s easy to call someone who is your mum, ‘Auntie.’ It interchanges. And so that word was used, and immigration thought well ‘why in heavens would you call your mum, “auntie”? And the consequence of that therefore became this kind of confusion and it sort of laboured, it went on and mum was the nurse.
She was up and down to-ing and fro-ing. If you search the TV archives, I think there’s even some stage where on This Life, with Esther Rantzen, good God, but what then happened is I remember it was a last straw. It was this kind of last gasp attempt. So how do you resolve this? What do you do and not of my doing but of the Law Society and I was just speaking to Professor Jeffreys, who tells it much better than I do actually I suppose. No, you do. And it’s just an article that was printed in the Guardian and it was a paragraph, was it?
One paragraph, that this amazing solicitor, stroke, lawyer picked up and thought well let’s go for this, why not? And my mum said ‘yeah, okay.’ And the consequence of that was the case going before immigration. And you also tell me another story today that I’ve just heard for the first, that within two minutes or so they went ‘Yep’ and just dropped it. So, two years of angst, in two minutes was just wiped away. And that’s really how, you know, that was, that was it. That, that sort of, that we are where we are today. And mum as I say again was the real fighting force here, in ensuring that you know she didn’t give up and on behalf of our family absolutely grateful to you, for what you did.
Now there’s a little flip funny side to this because the consequence of that was, I found what, you were Dr Jeffreys at the time weren’t you?
You was, you see. I thought ‘Wow, this is really interesting’ at the time I was applying to go to uni, so I went to, at this time was called Leicester Polytechnic, and then I did a degree in applied chemistry thinking, oh, I like this. There’s someone in the house today who broke me into radio, Vijay Sharma. Thank you. Dr Vijay Sharma and at radio because of that when I did my post grad, my dissertation was on genetic fingerprints and Huntington’s Disease and at the time I got to interview him and Baroness Warnock, the late Baroness Warnock. I didn’t let on. I sort of just did the interview and then pulled back, he doesn’t know this, but the flip side to that as a way of acknowledging the impact was that when I was doing my doctorate at UCD we were looking at narrative storytelling and patterns. And I remembered really well, patterning, and how you can take a story and you can identify where it comes from, in terms of neo-realism or whatever it is, third way. When you look at news, we do news in a certain way, but you can look at areas and through the pattern identify where it comes from. And some of those ideas actually emerge from that itself. So that’s the sort of arc which I sort of take away from me as to what it’s, and how it’s, kind of helped me and what he’s done for me and the family at large.
Fantastic, so I mean for Alec, obviously for you it was the first time it was actually ever used. Was it a case of Sheona whose, who can’t make it today but sends you know tremendous hugs and kisses to all of you basically, but did she just simply ring you up and say I’ve got this case?
Yeah, I think the… I can’t remember if it was a phone call or a letter, but it was certainly within weeks of publication.
I mean she’d approached it saying that we’ve got a very, very difficult immigration dispute. I’m representing the family, it’s been dragging on, I think, for two years. So, this this is a long, protracted business. I think it was a significant health cost for your mum, she was suffering, and anyway as Dave said it went to an immigration tribunal and they just dropped the case. And I, sometimes people ask me about, you know, all the things have happened to you, was there ever a magic moment and I know exactly what it was. It was at that immigration tribunal where Sheona was inside the tribunal, I was outside with your mum. Sheona came out, they dropped the case against your brother, and she recovered and said go, go, go, go tell you, this lady that everything’s okay. And it was this big hug and the look in your mum’s eyes of this sudden lifting of this terrible burden she’d been carrying for two years. That was the magic moment, forget all the rest of it, because that’s the moment that uh I will truly value, very important.
Thank you, Sir.
Right, so we’re going to turn to the first forensic case now and obviously it’s not appropriate to go into it in detail but in short, in 1983, Linda Mann was killed, in 1986, Dawn Ashworth was killed and these incidents happened in Enderby and Narborough and I suppose what I really want to do is concentrate on the girls and I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about your daughters. Tell me about Dawn what was she like?
Oh, she was a wonderful daughter. I was lucky enough to have a girl, being the first born and then Andrew, son. 17 months between them. They were like that for each other and, um, you think you have every blessing and then you get the rug pulled from under you. And that’s the only way I can describe it because you lose the camaraderie that you had between your children within the house and life has to carry on for them. But Dawn was very sensible for her age. She lived a very full life. She had a Saturday job, which she loved and even with the small amount that she earned when she went on that Saturday job, it was amazing there was always a bunch of flowers from me. And there was even one there when she was, went missing, you know.
She sounds like a lovely girl.
Yes, she was. Well, you know, I made the most of the time that I had with her since you know. Thinking, good happy thoughts, that’s all you have left.
So, tell me about Linda?
Well, a daughter the same but she’d already got a sister of two when she was born. Born in the July. So, it was nice summertime and from then on it was all activity. Colour, she loved colours. She loved to draw fashion and lady sketches and things. And it was just full-on. Full-on family. Very busy, very happy and the local community was brilliant. And very good at school, both of them and they go on, you know, and grow up and become, as they get too teenage, you know, it’s that age coming up, yeah. And she knew where she wanted to go. She had the direction, she’d got the strength, she’d got the brain and she knew. And life just carried on as normal until, suddenly, that’s it. It stopped. Changed. And there’s nothing more to say. You just can’t put words to it.
I know you had quite a lovely story about Linda, about how she was a bit shy wasn’t she in a photo, you were telling me a one point.
Yeah, our wedding photo. My husband is Kath’s brother and when we got married, on the wedding photos Linda wouldn’t look up. She was only about two or three, wasn’t she? Can’t remember how old she was.
Just coming up to three, I think.
Yeah, so everybody’s saying, ‘everybody look, everybody look at the camera, smile.’ And there was Linda, like this. And we kept saying ‘Linda look at the camera, please look at the camera’. No, like this. And then we realised what it was. She’d got chicken pox and she didn’t want anybody to see her spots on our wedding photo. So, we’ve got some lovely wedding photos with Linda with her head down. And you can’t…
I’ve got all the others, don’t worry about that.
That’s fine but she, she was a cheeky little thing. And as soon as she looked at you with those big, brown eyes, you knew that whatever she was asking for she was gonna get, because she just looked at you like and you’d gone, absolutely.
She sounds lovely.
She was. Well, she’s, she was a part of our family wasn’t she and she still is. Both the girls still are. Very much.
So, David, this was where you came in, obviously leading an investigation into these two murders which must have been of incredibly high pressure. How did you come to know about Alec’s work and come to contact him? What was the story there?
Well, the story was that we’d got a young man in custody who was admitting, or making certain admissions, to the murder of Dawn but was totally denying any involvement in the murder of Linda. We’d got other circumstantial evidence which went along with what he’d said and as a result of that we charged him with the second murder.
We interviewed him at some length, but there was a total denial of any involvement in the murder of Linda Mann. So, in consequence of that we needed something else. We’d got his blood group, which was similar to samples from both girls, but that was 40 percent of the population. And I’d read an article which appeared in the Leicester Mercury, which involved Sir Alec and the paternity tests which he’d done, which brought the DNA into being. And of course, that could bring the blood sample down to the individual as opposed to a percentage. The lowest percentage that we could get was 12 and a half percent by the way of subgrouping, so we asked Sir Alec ‘can you do this for us? Can you do the DNA test?’ So, we sent the samples off of the young man and Linda Mann and the result came back that he wasn’t responsible for the death of Linda. So, in consequence of that I sent the samples from Dawn and asked for the same test to be done. And that test came back negative. And, of course, what also came back was the fact that the man in custody wasn’t responsible for either murder. That there was a man out there in the community who had committed the murder on both girls, leaving his samples behind.
So, of course, we’ve got to start from somewhere, then from square one. Now we’d already been through the inquiry once and twice, with house-to-house inquiries and various interviews and interrogations of people and it had to come back negative.
So, we needed then to put something else to the equation and so we decided to use DNA as a sample, of obtaining a sample from every young man that lived in the vicinity of the villages of Narborough, Enderby and Littlethorpe. And so, we set about obtaining blood samples from all of the men in an age group of 18 to 34 and these were sent away to Aldermaston to be examined. Of course, at that stage, we needed, you know, quite a lot of blood from everybody and we needed doctors and phlebotomists and other medical people to do it. So, it was quite a big job.
So, what was it like in the villages? I know you were saying the uptake was great. You were saying the atmosphere in the village was actually quite good, wasn’t it?
Yes, yes, it always has been. I mean, you know, it was like stepping back in time. It was very sort of everyone knew everyone else and I never noticed the fear and that that was going around because we were too busy. I mean our lives were shattered and we were trying desperately to sort of cling on to some sort of normality and you know vetting every phone call that you had. All this that and the other. People trying to get some response, you know, back from you. So, I was never privy, really, to, to how frightened the community was as a whole.
I mean, when you think about the implications of having, you know, someone else and people looking over the shoulder. And, um, but I don’t know, we were, we’d switched off from all that.
You know, it was, it just, we didn’t register anything really at all.
And Kath, do you remember what was it like? Quite a few people took part, didn’t they? They seemed to be very pleased.
Everyone seemed quite happy about it.
But it was the fact that it was bringing up obviously family disputes along the way and the community was beginning to fraction, break up a little bit. Change, you could feel a change. But the people who took part were amazing they just walked in, in dozens. Very pleased with that. I mean you couldn’t ask for more, but we didn’t know at the time, you know, how it would work out because it never been done, as far as we knew. We didn’t know what it was about, this DNA, you know, quite a very new thing.
And this was your idea, wasn’t it? It was based on something that had been done previously with fingerprints before, wasn’t it?
There’d been a case some years earlier where manual fingerprints had been requested from the occupants of a village where a murder had been committed. And, of course, it was the process of taking the fingerprints which led to the arrest and conviction of the individual in that village.
So, it was presumably with that in mind that you thought, right let’s try this with blood samples and go around the villages.
Well, we needed, we certainly needed something else, because we were looking at everybody who lived worked or played sport or visited the area, so we got quite a database of people to go through.
And there’s a twist to this story though isn’t there because it didn’t work out quite how you thought it was going to.
We’d anticipated what you know may happen that somebody would try and dodge the system or would refuse to give a blood sample. And then, of course, we would be able to hone in on them and identify who that was. And one of the things that we did was, we sent a letter to everybody we wanted the blood from and asked them to bring with them a passport or driving license or some other photographic identification because we knew then that if somebody got somebody else to do it, then somebody else would know that there was something going on. And, of course, that’s exactly what happened, is that there was a party from a bakery where our man worked, and he wasn’t there. But there was a number of his fellow employees and during the evening a young lady, that was in the company, overheard a conversation from his accused that he’d taken the blood test for this man. And in consequence of that, she came forward and told a police officer some days later, that she knew. And it was immediately passed on to us in the incident room and of course we identified the two men responsible, and we arrested both of them on the same day. The one that had taken the blood test and the one that had asked him and supplied the passport and of course he was arrested and charged. And as soon as he was arrested, he admitted the murder of both girls. Subsequently we did a DNA test on him and that corresponded with the samples that we’d obtained from the two girls, so it was game set and match.
That must have been an incredible feeling to have all of this sort of come together, all the police work, plus the genetic work. How did that feel once you’d kind of, once it all come together?
It was a sense of relief. I mean it was, I realised that it was a job well done and, of course, it was the consequences of the work we’d done with DNA which enabled us to come to the conclusion that we did.
I mean it was such an extraordinary story. Did you, did you know then just how big it was going to be? Did you feel it then?
Yes, we realised the importance of it because it brought the samples of an individual down to one as opposed to a high percentage of the population. So instead of being 40 percent, it was down to the individual. And I mean that has proved paramount in all the investigations using DNA today.