Turi has done numerous interviews for television (BBC national and local stations, Sky, ITV, CNN, Global), radio (BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 5 live, BBC World Service, BBC Radio Leicester) and press about her work and commenting on current news stories.

Turi has featured as an expert on a number of radio and television programmes and documentaries both in the UK and abroad speaking on genetics, direct to consumer testing, genetic genealogy, ancient DNA and forensics.   In the last few years, these have included Britain’s Lost Battlefields, Crimewatch, Points of View, BBC Ideas, The Gadget Show as well as documentaries for the Discovery Channel, Global Television and Channel 4. On the radio she has appeared on The Life Scientific, BBC Inside Science and The Last Word and Material World on BBC Radio 4, among others.   She is Scientist in Residence at BBC Radio Leicester

Turi appeared in two documentaries as part of the Richard III project: The King in the Car Park and Richard III: the Unseen Story. She advised on and appeared in two of Michael Wood’s history series: The Story of England and Great British Story which also included appearing in live televised events. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/profiles/3lwl3Wd3NFL7FZrl9djCsFy/dr-turi-king

She is currently featuring in:

You can listen to her being interviewed by Jim Al-Khalili on The Life Scientific BBC website – https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0006m3f

Series One and two of DNA Family Secrets is on BBC iPlayer – https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episodes/m000sthc/dna-family-secrets

Examples of Turi’s television work

Ancient Murders Unearthed: The location where Ötzi the Iceman was killed

Professor Turi King is in the Italian Alps on the trail of Europe’s oldest unsolved murder, Ötzi the Iceman.

So, I’m really looking forward to this story because Ötzi the Iceman is an incredibly famous archaeological story. I teach this at university.

Named after the Ötzal mountain range where he was found. The frozen body of Ötzi was discovered in 1991.

Encased in a block of ice, he’s Europe’s oldest mummy.

And while many scientists have studied the Iceman, no one has ever truly solved the mystery of his 5000-year-old murder. Turi is heading straight to where the body was found.

We’ve got a crime scene at 10,000 feet, that’s extraordinary. And so, I’m going to go meet an archaeologist called Andreas, and he and I are going to go and see the site.

But this is no ordinary archaeological site. Located on Italy’s border with Austria, the crime scene is inaccessible by road and about three and a half hours hike from the nearest village. So Turi is being taken there by helicopter, alongside archaeologist Andreas Putzer.

This landscape has changed little in the last 5000 years. As altitude increases, the meadows and the valleys give way to subalpine forest, and then to snowy peaks.

It is really beautiful.


And the crime scene itself is even more remote.

In 8 minutes, we are in the exact spot.

There, straight ahead.

A ridge ten and a half thousand feet above sea level, that’s so rugged it would be difficult for the helicopter to land.

The find site is down there, now straight down, on this rock.

The body was revealed when the ice melted during an unusually warm summer. Today, a memorial marks the spot.

After the discovery, an alpine rescue team went up and they recovered the body.

A body so well-preserved rescuers thought it might be a modern climbing casualty. But later, analysis revealed the glacial conditions had created the oldest, fully intact human mummy ever discovered in water or ice.

The conditions might explain how the victim was so well-preserved, but why he was killed and why here, remains a mystery.

DNA Family Secrets: Who is my dad?

Nearly 1 in 12 children, in the 1970s, were raised by a single parent. 52-year-old Richard has always wanted to know the identity of his father and is wondering if testing his DNA can finally give him some answers.

Talk me through how is it that you don’t know who your father is?

I’ve just never got a satisfactory answer from me mum, and my mum’s passed away now, so that avenues closed. I have no idea who it was, not even you know a name, or where he’s from, or who he is, or anything. So, we decided to take matters into my own hands at about 19, and I went to the registry office, in Liverpool, and I got the birth certificate. Honestly Stacey, I was so excited, I was like proper, I’m going to find this out, this is going to be the day I find this out. And in the father’s name, it was just a false name.


So, not only do I not know who my dad is now, I’ve got a falsified birth certificate.

Hi, okay.


Nice to see you.

Nice to see you again.

Okay, when you came the first time, you really wanted to know about your ancestry.


And ideally about your biological father, and you really had nothing to go on.

No nothing, that side of the family tree is just a blank page.

So, this is where DNA can be really helpful in a case like this. We know your mum’s side, so your mum’s English.


So that’s really useful to us, because that allows us to kind of really concentrate on what must be your biological father’s side.


It was really clear; your father is Irish.

Okay, wow really?

You’re coming back as more than 50% Irish; you’re coming back as 56% Irish. Your biological father is Irish, you’re half Irish.

Really, oh wow, I’m a bit speechless. I don’t really know what to say, that’s blown me away. That’s amazing, that is amazing, thank you so much for that.

So, are you ready for me to go on, are you happy?

Yeah, is there more?

There’s more.

Our next thing we want to do is see if we can find out who your biological father is.


And I can actually tell you this took months of work by the team. They had to go back 170 years.

Looking at, you know, birth, marriage, death records, getting in contact with distant relatives, and that allows us to start putting family trees together.


And I can tell you that something did come out of it.

I’m sorry, I wasn’t prepared for it.

Not at all.

I’d kind of lowered expectations and things like that, but yeah, I’m ready.



So, all of that work led us to your grandparents, I’m going to draw you a family tree. It’s a lot, you tell me to stop…

No, I’ve waited so long and now it’s here, it’s like, wow this is real, and it’s amazing, it’s just a lot, you know.

It is a lot.

Yeah, but that’s fine, let’s see him take that blank page and make it into something real.

We are going to make it into something pretty amazing actually. So, your grandparents are from Galway.


They had three sons, one of those had to be your father. One of their sons took a DNA test for us, to help us narrow down on which one of these brothers was your dad.


We found your biological father for you.


Your dad is the middle brother, he was born in 1947.

I’m never speechless, is he still with us?

He’s alive and well, there’s more.


You have half siblings.


Four of them.

Four of them?

Three brothers and a sister.

Wow, it’s blown my socks off. Honestly Turi, that’s just, I can’t thank you enough, you’ll never know, you will never know what this means, thank you so much. Honestly thank you so much.

You’re welcome.

I’ll see you soon.



What did you find out?


Shut up.

Let me show you.


So, I’m Irish, grandparents, father, brothers and a sister.

What, no way.


Are bones found at Sudeley Castle the missing Princes in the Tower? Professor Turi King

Right, let me show you something.

It’s a box of?


Box of bones, what else would you have in your office.

Of course, well normally they’re kept in the bone lab, but they’re about to go back to Sudeley Castle.

Oh yes.

So, they say, bones discovered in the 1980’s near the Dungeon Tower.

So, Richard III owned Sudeley Castle, bones have been discovered so people start to think, oh…

Are these the princes?

Are they the princes?


Loads of them.

So, there were 4 sets of remains that we sent off for radiocarbon dating.


18th and 19th century, so yeah…

Well, we can say for sure, these are not the lost princes of the tower.

These are not the lost princes of the tower.

The Royal Institution Christmas Lectures

So, to tell us a bit more about forensic DNA evidence could you please give a warm welcome to the professor of genetics from the University of Leicester, Professor Turi King.

Thank you for joining us, and as you know we’re going to be talking about DNA. You have a great history in DNA, why don’t you tell us a little bit about your background.

So I got asked to be involved in a really amazing case, so I led the genetic analysis which proved that the remains of a skeleton, found under a car park in Leicester, was that of King Richard III.

Oh that was such an incredible case, and so I’d like you to talk to us about DNA, the floor is yours.

Okay, the DNA in our cells is in nice long strands, that contains our genetic code. So this is the double helix, this is what our DNA looks like. Now what I’m going to do is I’m going to show you some DNA, and the way I’m going to do that is actually with some spit. This is my spit, so it’s a little bit gross.

So, what I need to do is I need to break down the cell membranes, so the DNA can come out of the cells and into solution, the way I’m going to do that is by adding some washing up Liquid, just a few drops.

Just ordinary standard washing up liquid?

Yeah, I’m going to give this a swirl, because what I want to do, is I want to get those cell membranes breaking down, so we can release the DNA into solution. Now the next thing I’m going to do, we’re going to add some salt solution, so all this is, is just salt dissolved in water and what the salt does, is it helps the DNA strands stick together.

And then what I’m going to do is I’m going to add some really cold alcohol. And what the alcohol does is it precipitates the DNA out of solution, because the DNA can’t stay in solution when there’s alcohol. Where those two layers meet, you’re going to start to see the DNA and it looks kind of like clouds, and those are the little strands of DNA. There you go, so that’s DNA just there.

Now how do we use DNA for a crime scene? So what we do is we produce what’s known as a DNA profile, and I’ve actually got one here. And it’s not the entirety of somebody’s DNA, which is known as a genome, what we’re doing is it’s like we’re taking little snapshots of little sections of our DNA that we know are really variable between individuals.

So if we were to think about, we’ve got some DNA samples that are taken from the crime scene, do we have a DNA database?

We have a national DNA database, it’s not everybody’s DNA on it, it’s DNA from people who have committed a crime, they’re the ones who’ve got their DNA on it.

Nobody in this room then, absolutely none. So when we were looking at fingerprints we were able to get a match between some fingerprints in our scene and some fingerprints on the fingerprint database.


How would we go about doing that similar comparison for DNA?

Well, we need a DNA profile. Now you can think of your DNA as being a bit like a book. So our DNA is made up of four different building blocks, a-c-t and g. And we are looking at what’s known as DNA markers, so bits of our DNA where we know we differ between individuals, and you guys are going to be our national DNA database, that’s why you’ve got these booklets.

So the markers that we look at are like a stutter in the DNA, they’re known as an Str, a short tandem repeat. So, in our little booklet we have got 23 pairs of chromosomes, one chromosome one has come from your mum and one chromosome one has come from your dad, and that’s what we’ve got here.

Now then let’s have a look for one of these stutters, what I want you to do is I want you to go down to line seven, and I want you to look for the word cat. And I want you to count how many times it’s repeated, they have to be next to each other all in a row, if you see a cat on its own, not interested. I want you to do the same for the right hand side, find cat and count it up.

Cool, okay so that’s one marker, you’ve got two numbers, and we’ve done that for six markers and they’re all done in your book. I want to see if there’s a match to the profile that I’ve got here. So do any of you have a 10 for either of your chromosome ones, if you do give yourselves a little mark, like that. If you’ve got a five for either of your chromosome ones, give yourself a mark. Okay next one, chromosome two check your chromosome twos. If you’ve got a 10, give yourself a mark, if you’ve got a 9 give yourself a mark. You guys ready for chromosome three? If you have got a three give yourself a mark, if you’ve got a six give yourself a mark. So you’re either going to have zero, one or two marks. And finally chromosome six, if you’ve got a seven give yourself a mark, if you’ve got an eight give yourself a mark.

So now what I want you to do is I want you all to stand up. How many of you have got zero matches? Okay if you’ve got zero sit down. Sit down if you’ve got just one mark. How many have you got two? Sit down if you’ve got two. Oh, wow that’s going quick. Five sit down, six, oh who’s got sixes? So if you’ve got six matches, that means you could be a parent, or a child, or a sibling of a perpetrator. How many’s got seven? Eight? Nine? Ten? Eleven? Anyone got twelve? Okay you’ve got 12 matches that means you are a perfect match to our DNA profile, and so it’s not you who’s the perpetrator, but you are holding the sample that is a perfect DNA match.

So it looks like we’ve got to match to our crime scene in our DNA database and that’s really amazing because we’ve already got a match as well haven’t we for our fingerprints.

We have a match for the fingerprints and let’s know we might have a match for the DNA. And it’s not always perfect is it, in terms of a match, sometimes samples get degraded, there are issues, we don’t always get a perfect match and that’s why we’d go to the experts then for their opinion.


So, what else is available to us now, in terms of DNA, perhaps that we didn’t have before?

Yeah, so what you can do now is, if you want to use DNA and you’re looking for matches, is you could take DNA from a crime scene, look at a lot of different markers and upload it to a genetic genealogy database. And what that does is it’s not just looking for perfect match, you can get matches with somebody who’s like an aunt, or an uncle, or a cousin, or a second cousin, and that allows you to build family trees and allows law enforcement to start to hone in on who the perpetrator might be. Now it’s used in various countries around the world, it’s not used here in the UK yet.

So these days people are using DNA to try and do things like predict what a criminal would look like, it’s called predictive DNA phenotyping.

So that’s taking the DNA that you had in that little layer, and it’s saying if I analyse those little clouds in that little layer…


I can predict what somebody looks like? That sounds like science fiction.

That’s what they’re trying to do. So they’re looking at genes that we know code for things like hair colour, eye colour, people are trying to look for genes to do with face shape, and they’re even starting to analyse DNA where they hopefully are going to be able to say how old somebody was.

Thank you very much. I find it rather scary, I have to say, but isn’t that the wonderful thing about forensic science, this is just science pushing the next step forward.

It is.

Turi thank you so much indeed for taking us through, thank you.

BBC Morning Live

Over 25 million people have taken a home DNA test in the past decade, tracing the roots of their family tree to see what they have in common with the ancestors.

Yeah, we’re joined now by Geneticist Turi King, who is an expert on the BBC show DNA Family Secrets. It is lovely to see you Dr. King.

Lovely to see you.

Before we get to the show though let’s talk about Richard III, because it’s coming up to an anniversary isn’t it, the moment that you found him?

It is, it’s 10 years, this year and as you can imagine it was a complete dream project for a geneticist, like me. Super exciting and amazing because when the project started, I mean I had this email, back in June 2011, saying we’re going to be looking for the remains of somebody quite famous, who’s buried in downtown Leicester, but I can’t tell you who it is, and don’t worry we’re never going to find him. And I wrote back going, is this Richard III?

In a car park as well?

And a car park as well, I mean, so the precise location of where Richard’s grave had been lost, but we knew that he was buried in the choir of the church of the Greyfriars, and we knew that that was going to be in this particular area of these two car parks.

But I mean, obviously, it was this hugely amazing project, I’m incredibly lucky to have been part of it, it was really exciting.

And it was one of these things that like, obviously, we had to keep it really quiet whilst we were doing it. And I’ve got this like, so one of the things that happened was, my parents are back in Canada, where I’m from and they obviously wanted to know what the results were, but getting up at two o’clock in the morning, because we were doing this live press conference and if they want to watch it, my dad would have to get up at two o’clock in the morning, to be able to watch this thing. So, I was like, oh okay, I’m going to be right at the very end of this segment, which would mean he’d have to wait up for, you know, ages to see this. So, I said to him, look you know that pearl necklace that you got me for my birthday? I’m going to wear that, so if you turn on the TV and you see me on the panel.

Which you’re wearing here, it means its him, that’s brilliant.


I can’t believe your dad didn’t just stay up half an hour for an amazing moment.

He had work the next day, but it was a nice little code that I could tell him, if I’m wearing that, it’s him.

I mean, a fab story, gorgeous necklace as well, but tomorrow the next episode of DNA Family Secrets is on. It’s the second series, I mean, tell us how did you get involved in it all.

Well so my PhD was actually on the link between surnames and DNA. So, the question was, is everybody with the same surname, are they all related and you can test that through DNA, so it’s genetic genealogy. So, I was doing this over two decades ago and I got this phone call, would you like to be involved in this television series? Like oh my goodness, yes, I would love to, I’ve been doing this for decades. It’s absolutely fantastic, so yeah, I get to be part of it.

There are some incredible moments on the show and just to give you an idea, just tomorrow, night there’s a moment where you help someone find their biological father, have a look at this.

We know that they had three sons, Alan, Gerald, and Richard. So, we know Alan did not do any sperm donation. We know that from the DNA analysis that Richard is your uncle, so that leads us to Lilly and Harry’s middle son Gerald Ridyard. We strongly believe he is your biological father.

Really, oh my goodness.

It’s so emotional and it’s fascinating, Mel there, her father was actually a sperm donor and then you work it out, and then she gets the news like she did, it’s just remarkable, isn’t it?

There’s a big team on this thing, and I can tell you, it’s incredibly emotional. It’s so incredibly emotional just to film, they’re in tears, we’re often in tears, because its often people coming to us with really kind of, life-changing questions, something about who they are. And you can see when I’m talking to Mel there, it’s really emotional and you can see that her whole kind of, sense of who she is, is shifting.

Changes in front of your eyes.

I mean it must be interesting because, we’ve heard as well, that the law might be changing, that sperm and egg donors, well they obviously wanted to be anonymous, but this could change, because secrets are coming out like this.

Absolutely, I mean it’s something which, with Mel’s case, we were actually really lucky, it depends on who’s on the databases. With Mel’s case her cousin was on there and her dad’s cousin was on there, and that allowed us to kind of triangulate these trees and she’s descended from this family, must be one of these three brothers.

And it’s so easy to find people these days. So, this idea of people having donated sperm and if you donated sperm prior to 2005, it was on the idea that you would be anonymous, that’s not happening anymore, you can be found.

Interesting, yeah.

And it can have real impacts on people’s lives because, I mean, I’ve had people contact me saying, I donated sperm, I haven’t told my family and I’ve been found. And the impact on people’s lives is massive, not just for those who are donor conceived, but the donors.

DNA is fascinating, the show’s absolutely brilliant, we’ll see you and Stacey Dooley it’s tomorrow night, DNA Family Secrets 9pm and of course you can see it on iPlayer as well. Thank you so much for coming to see us today.

Thank you.

Thank you very much.

Steph’s Packed Lunch

Now my next guest’s life was blown a part at the age of 17 when she found out her dad wasn’t her biological father. After years of unanswered questions Mel finally uncovered the truth with the help of the TV show DNA Family Secrets. Here’s a clip of Mel with her mum, let’s have a look.

She was really devastated and of course I was upset because I’d hurt her, oh yes.

After my parents divorced, I think it was hard for my mum to tell me, but I’m so glad she did.

I didn’t ask much about the donor’s sperm because doctors were like gods then, you never questioned them, you just did what they told you.

I’m just hoping that we’ll get some answers and it’ll just make everything alright. I just need to know, who’s my sperm donor father?

And Mel joins me now alongside Professor Turi King, from DNA Family Secrets, the TV show you just saw there. So, Mel take me back, because you obviously must have been on an emotional roller coaster, so take me back to when you were 17, because that’s when you found out wasn’t it? So, what happened?

My mum just thought I had the right to know, you know, I was nearly an adult and didn’t want any secrets anymore.

Yeah, so what did she say to you?

She basically said, your dad’s not your dad, we went to a sperm bank, and I was just absolutely gobsmacked.

Yeah, and then what did you do on knowing that information?

There was not a lot I could do, because we didn’t have any information, the clinic wasn’t there, the guy had died. So, I just sort of put it to bed and just always wondered.

Yeah, and I guess there must have been times after that where you were just sitting thinking, wondering where are my genetics are from?

Yeah, I just always wanted to know.

Yeah, so then how did it come about that you ended up doing the TV show?

So my brother decided to buy me and my mum a DNA kit for Christmas, 2 years ago, I don’t know why, I think they were on 3 for 2 or something, and he needed a last minute present, because it was so random, because he had no interest, because the clinic said we were from the same donor. Anyway, surprise surprise we weren’t.

So, you found out from doing this DNA test that you weren’t the same… even though your mum thought that they were the same.

Yeah, the clinic promised that we would be from the same donor and just lied. So, yeah, we were absolutely gobsmacked again.


And then I watched the first series and there was a girl on there, she was from a sperm bank and there was a donor conceived register that you could go on. So, went on, registered and then I got an email from DNA Family Secrets, from Minnow saying, would you like to be on the show? And I was like, oh I don’t know.

Yeah, because it’s a lot of, kind of, your own personal story, to suddenly put on the television.

Yeah, it’s been put it in a box for sort of thirty years and I just though well I’ll fill the form in, nothing to lose, and then here we are.

Yeah, and so Turi when someone like Mel gets in touch with the show, what happens next?

So, the first thing we do is we get them to take a DNA test and we do that with a couple of companies. And then what we can do is download their raw data and upload it to a number of other databases. And what we’re looking for is DNA matches. So, people who share chunks of DNA with you and we were really lucky with Mel because we had, her cousin was on one database and her dad’s cousin was on the other database. And from that we could, kind of go, okay well let’s triangulate these, she must be descended from where these two families meet. And that gave us 3 brothers, to kind of look at, one we could tell couldn’t be her dad, 2 could be, 1 we found out he hadn’t donated sperm and then that led us to Gerald. Her biological father.

Gosh, so what was it like for you Mel, finding out that information, and for mum as well?

Amazing, I mean it’s been a total emotional roller coaster, from start to finish. And I’m not a crier, and every time they came to film, I was like…. Weeeh! Because it was just… yeah, I’d just, sort of, put it to bed and then it just opened up this box of emotions, but perfect, yeah.

So, then what happens when you find out this information, what did you do with it?

Well then it turns out that I have a half-brother, and he could fill in the blanks. So sadly, Gerald had died, so I didn’t get to meet Gerald, but I do get to meet his son, my half-brother.

Yeah, and what did that feel like?

That was just incredible, yeah so emotional and there was just an instant connection.

Yeah, and your brother is not in this country, is he?

No, he’s in Tasmania.

Yeah, so have you had a chance to meet him yet?

Yeah, they flew him over to meet me.

And how did that feel when you physically met him?

Just bizarre, but just, yeah, there was just an instant bond, I can’t explain, just so surreal.

Yeah, so you just, kind of, felt that you were related?

Yeah, it was so weird, but incredible.

And what’s it like Turi when, you know, because I guess you can’t predict what’s going to happen when people meet.

No, and I mean, this is the thing, Mel… she’s hugely courageous to do this, because she’s allowed national television to kind of join her on this journey, and it’s so emotional, we were both in tears. Because it is, and you can see how people, it’s like an idea of who they are, sort of, shifting I suppose, and where they fit into the world. And yeah, you don’t know how it’s going to go when you meet a half sibling and it’s turned out really well.

Yeah, it couldn’t have turned out any better, because yeah, I had no idea what I was going to uncover.

Yeah, and what’s it meant for your family then now? Has it, kind of filled in the blanks?

Yeah, I just feel complete really. It was just that not knowing half of where I was from.

Yeah, and you saw him, when was it in November, you last saw him?


Well, we had a little word with him and said. Can you send us a nice message for Mel? And he said yeah of course I will, so here we are…

The way that Mel has handled everything throughout the discovery, and the way that she has responded to the interest in her story, or our story, is just absolutely incredible, and I’m so proud of her. I just couldn’t be more proud of anybody who’s waited thirty years to find out who their natural father is. And then to turn out to be such a gorgeous lady.

Aww. Bless him.

Everyone’s just trying to make you cry.

I know, oh no I’m not crying again.

Can I ask you Turi as well, because there might be other people watching who might have been told something similar to Mel, when they were young. What can you do about it?

So, Donor Conceived Register, definitely first port of call, because they’ve been set up to do exactly this sort of thing. To help people find half-siblings and to find their donor fathers. The other thing you can do, and this is really increasingly happening, is you can go and get these DNA tests done, and you can look for matches that don’t seem to be from your mum’s side, in the case of a sperm donor.

And that is the thing with sperm donation now, is it’s becoming harder and harder for sperm donors to remain anonymous. And it’s quite an interesting thing because I get contacted by people who say, I gave sperm many years ago, I didn’t tell my family and now I’ve been found. So, this idea of anonymity now, with these direct-to-consumer testing companies, it is, kind of, going out the window.

Yeah, because I was going to ask about that, if you were someone who doesn’t want to be found, can you stop it?

Not really, because it doesn’t even have to be you on the databases. One of your relatives could be on the database and you’ll get the genetic match that links back to you. So, it is becoming increasingly difficult, and the Human Fertility and Embryology Authority are now talking about making it that, anonymity will no longer be the case.

So, if you’re conceived post 2005, the donor knows that when the child reaches 18, so next year, you can find out about who your donor parent was. They’re now talking about making it that the child doesn’t have to be 18, it can be lifted right from day one.

Isn’t it interesting as well Mel, that all of this came from, I know you knew when you were 17, but from getting this present from your brother, of this DNA test and getting… I guess you have to be careful…

Yeah, and I think people need to realise the consequences of doing these DNA tests, they might uncover stuff that they don’t want to know.

Which for you has worked out brilliantly, hasn’t it?

Yeah, but I can see the other side, you know, of people wanting to remain anonymous. I mean, I was never doing it because I wanted a dad, you know, I’ve got a dad, that I’m really happy with. I just needed to know, something, anything, just a name, a picture, something. And I would have been happy, and I am perfectly happy now.

Yeah, and you can see that, you’re absolutely beaming, its brilliant. Aw, well Mel thank you so much for coming in.

Thank you for having me.

Yeah, good luck with the reaction to the show. Are you watching it as a family, how’s it working?

Yeah, we’re watching it tonight, I do a lot of crying on it, so I’ll be like, oh no!

Crying watching it and someone’s filming you crying watching you cry. Well DNA Family Secrets is on BBC2 at 9 o’clock and continues for the next 4 weeks, you can also of course catch up on the episodes on BBC iPlayer.

British as Folk: The discovery of King Richard III in Leicester

Guys welcome to a car park in Leicester. In 2012 the skeleton of famous hunchback / King, Richard III, was discovered beneath this hallowed tarmac. His bones had lain undiscovered for over 500 years, rewriting the rules of long-stay car parks forever.

Not only is he here, we’re meeting someone that helped find him.

The car park attendant?

No, turns out there’s another King in Leicester, Professor Turi King. Best known for leading the Richard III identification project,

the Professor managed to crack one of the biggest forensic DNA mysteries in history.

So, Richard III is killed at the Battle of Bosworth on the 22nd of august 1485. We know that he’s buried in the choir of the church of the Greyfriars friary, in Leicester. Now the friary has been torn down, so we are starting an excavation and what we want to see if we can do is, can we find the friary itself. Well 6 hours in we hit a little bit of leg bone. So, we start to uncover him, and we find somebody with, battle injuries, severe scoliosis of the spine, he’s in the right place, youngish male….

Turns out having a car park as your main tourist attraction is too boring even for Leicester. So, they built a shiny new building over the actual spot where Professor King and her team discovered Richard’s skeleton. Oh! how very Goth.

That’s his grave, like, right there.


What’s this all meant for Leicester, has it made it a more visitable place?

It’s been fantastic for Leicester and obviously the year later we won the Premiership, which people say was actually Richard III was behind that.

Now I know you’re thinking, Richard III, isn’t he related to Danny Dyer?

So, we are all related to Richard III, it’s simply a matter of degree.

I’m not, my family’s Irish, really far back, the Brady’s were cattle thieves, there’s no way I’m related to the royals. Like there’s no way.

You absolutely will be, because if you think about it, you’ve got 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great grandparents. If you go back to the time, say of, you know, a thousand years ago, you’ve got more putative ancestors than there were people alive at the time.

Fern, just embrace your English heritage.

This is awful.

You will be related, we’re all related to each other, of course we are.

Oh, my goodness this is, my dad’s going to be so upset when I tell him.

We’re all related to each other, that’s just made sex really weird for everyone.

I mean I already found it difficult with you.

I think it’s going to be more likely than one of my relatives murdered King Richard than anything else, but let’s see.

I remove her royal highness Fern before the car park has another death on his hands.

It’s time for my DNA extraction master class.

You look fabulous.

You’re the actual scientist, and I’m the boy playing dress-up.

It might look like we’re just smooshing strawberries, this is pretty much the same method Professor Turi used to identify King Richard.

I had his tooth and I literally had, okay it’s bigger than this, but a mortar and pestle to crush his tooth up to a powder, to be able to extract the DNA from.


Yeah, basically it’s the same premise, you are breaking down the cell walls to get a hold of the DNA.

I remember my first day at Innocent Smoothies, crushing strawberries in washing up liquid in a freezer bag. Oh no…

Oh, what are you doing?

I’m afraid I’ve got over-excited, I’m afraid.

You need alcohol.

And I’m a little concerned that the Professor is trying to get me drunk.

DNA precipitates in alcohol, it can’t stay in solution. So, if we put alcohol in here the DNA is going to precipitate out and you’ll be able to see it. So, let’s pour…

I’ve heard a lot of excuses in my time.

So, if you get down.

All right, sorry.

Do you see all these, like, little kind of, it looks like cotton wool.

Yeah okay.

That’s DNA coming out of solution.

Amazing, like a sort of traffic light shot.


A genealogical slammer.

Absolutely, I think I’m going to have to start using that.

You’re very welcome to use the genealogical slammer in any of your future teachings.


Richard III: The Unseen Story

Geneticist Turi King had one of the toughest jobs, she had to find fragile DNA in bones that were 500 years old.

Actually, what you could do is just hold it in place.

When you’re working with ancient remains you have to be extremely careful about contamination. One of the biggest issues with ancient DNA is contamination with modern DNA. So, what I was ensuring was that while excavating and while lifting the skeleton Jo was working under extremely clean conditions. When we were looking at the skeleton we were fully garbed up in the suits, we had face masks, we were double gloved.

To ensure an accurate DNA result each step had to be double checked at two separate labs.

The skeletal remains were actually in extremely good condition. Now it doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you’ll be able to get ancient DNA out of them, because it completely depends on the soil conditions. And what I was hoping to get were teeth, that’s because they’re the most likely bit to remain, they’re usually very well preserved.

So, what you do is you take the teeth, and you take them into a clean room, you clean them extremely carefully and then you crush them into a powder and then from that you try and extract the DNA from that powder.

Sounds simple, but ancient DNA is broken into thousands of tiny fragments. Piecing them together takes months of painstaking work.

Right, well what I’ve got here is I have got a spit sample from Michael Ibsen and that contains an awful lot of his DNA, it’s got a lot of his cheek cells in there and what I’m going to be doing is I’m going to be taking some of this and I’m going to be extracting his DNA from it, and then I’m going to be sequencing his mitochondrial DNA and comparing it with any mitochondrial DNA we can get from the skeletal remains.

Unlike the skeleton, Michael’s DNA took Turi a matter of days to analyse and sequence because it was in so much better condition.

So, this is essentially part of the sequence of Michael’s mitochondrial DNA, and this is actually from my dad and what you’ll see is that not everybody has got the same DNA sequence. You can see that there’s differences between the two of them. So, my dad here has got a particular sequence and Michael has got a slightly different one. So that’s how you can tell mitochondrial DNA sequences apart from one another. And what I’ll be doing is trying to get the DNA sequence from the same region in the skeletal remains and then comparing the two sequences. And what we’re hoping is that we’ll get a perfect match.

I genuinely don’t know what the DNA result is.

Michael in here.


Hello, yeah.


If you look at the DNA of Michael and you look at the DNA from the skeletal remains, there’s a match.




Looking at the sequences the match was identical. Richard and Michael share one of the rarest types of mitochondrial DNA called Haplotype J1C2C. It’s carried by just 1-2% of the population. This made the match even more reliable.

When I started to see the first sequences come back and seeing that it was a match, I just went really quiet. It was very profound.

Turi also revealed that she had managed to isolate a Y chromosome, proving that the skeleton was male.

What was so exciting about the moment of being told, was that it meant that we could actually say, beyond reasonable doubt, that we’d found Richard III. Whereas without the DNA it might have been something like, the balance of probability is that it’s Richard III.

To reinforce the genealogical research Kevin Schürer and Turi King obtained a DNA sample from another female line relative from Richard III. They also matched.

And I can now tell you, there is a DNA match between the maternal DNA from the descendants of the family of Richard III and the skeletal remains that we found at the Greyfriars dig.

Richard’s skeleton is now undergoing further scientific tests, to tell us more about his life. Turi King is analysing his DNA in even greater detail. Investigating his Y chromosome, to check the male line of descent and searching for evidence of hereditary disease. The skeleton has more secrets to reveal.

Michael Wood’s Story of England: Romans to Normans

This is BBC Radio Leicester…

But the key clues came from the surnames of some of today’s villagers and from their DNA.

If you are an Iliffe, you may well be a Viking, will you text me because there’s a DNA test going on.

I’m there, that’s my father and it goes right back through Charles Henry, who’s known as Harry, then George Thomas. George Thomas is my great grandfather, and his father is John, and we go back to William, Richard, and John Iliffe, who apparently originated from Fleckney.

Terry Iliffe’s surname appears around Kibworth from the 1300s, it’s from a Viking name Eilifr.

My great, great grandfather’s niece gave it to me before she passed away.

So, this is a valuation list, value of properties…

Wayne Coleman’s family have been in Kibworth at least since Tudor times and his name could be Viking too.

And here Coleman, John Henry Coleman.

I’ve gone back to 1692, the connections in the village.

But Wayne’s connection with the area could be much further back than he thinks.

I’ve just looked at these markers known as Y-STR markers and essentially that stands for Short Tandem Repeat. So, it’ll put you into a broad group of Y chromosome type, and yours seems to fall into a broad group known as R1a. Now that’s actually found across all of the north of Europe. So, I’d need to do further typing to find out sort of where your Y chromosome type seems to be found, but when we see that type in England, we start to think Norway. We start to think Norse because it’s a type of Y chromosome type that’s found at high frequency in Norway. We know that these Y chromosome types arrived in this country, through the invasion of the Norse Vikings.

You can get a hat now.

Viking, I’m amazed.

Jamestown – The Search for Sir George Yeardley

400 years old and this guy’s looking pretty good, just as well because those bones are needed to provide the DNA that will hopefully confirm what everybody here thinks, that this is Sir George Yeardley.

What I’m interested in doing is getting a bone or tooth sample that I can take away to do DNA analysis. What I want to do is analyse the DNA from the skeleton and see if it matches that of a known relative.

To check him out myself I have to provide my DNA as a control.

All you need to do is breathe on these remains or touch them and you’re putting your DNA all over it, so one of the things I’m really worried about is contamination. So I need you to spit into that, up to that line, it’s actually going to take you longer.

That’s a lot of spit?

It is, it’ll take you quite a long time to actually do and then we’re going to close the lid, that’s got a buffer in it that will keep the DNA nice and happy and I’m going to take it back to the UK to do analysis.

I’m going to do this….

Yeah, take your time.

Once we’re tested and suited up we enter the gravesite to look for teeth.

Well this is amazing, so look over here we’ve got what looks like a tooth here, another one underneath there, so it’s looking good, it’s looking like we’ve got some teeth here that we’ll be able to do DNA analysis with, it’s amazing.

To make sure they were digging in the right place scientists used ground penetrating radar.

This is the first time that we have imaged a human skeleton with ground penetrating radar, it’s a really big deal because it’s not supposed to be possible, but i think this is going to open a lot of doors for new research for non-invasively looking at archaeological remains and potentially not even having to disturb them at all.

But why does anybody care about Sir George Yeardley?

This is where Sir George Yeardley presided over the first general assembly that established the rule of law in America and the principle of representative government, but there is a dark side to this story because Sir George was also one of the first English slaveholders in the colonies.

When George Yeardley first set foot in Jamestown, in the summer of 1610, the colony was on the brink of collapse. Barely 60 settlers had survived the winter and some had resorted to cannibalism. A decade later Sir George was in charge of a settlement that offered rich rewards.

In 1619 they also managed to get hold of the first enslaved Africans who arrived in this colony, which was about the same time as the general assembly and Sir George became one of the largest of those slave owners.

There are a thousand other graves at Jamestown, each with a story to tell and with every discovery emerges a more complete history of the origins of modern America. Jane Obrien, BBC News, Jamestown.

DNA Family Secrets: Series One (YouTube Playlist – 8 videos)

DNA Family Secrets: Series Two (YouTube Playlist – 12 videos)

Ancient Murders Unearthed: Series One (YouTube Playlist – 16 videos)