Stacey Dooley and Turi King

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, Point 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

Examples of Turi’s television work

BBC Crimewatch (Pre-record)

It does seem that the perfect environment really doesn’t it for these amazing creatures and also a perfect final resting place for a King, but King Richard III’s surroundings weren’t always quite so grand.

It was a discovery that made headlines around the world. Five years ago a skeleton was found buried under the foundations of a council car park in Leicester. It was believed to be that of King Richard III, famously killed in battle. And experts here at the University of Leicester were called upon to unravel this ancient murder mystery.

I was asked to look at the skull and it arrived in the lab with various tool marks on it and what we were interested in is working out what tools have been used to create those injuries. This large injury to the right-hand-side to the base of the skull was likely to have been caused by a substantial weapon. So we think this was caused by a halberd which is a pole weapon which has an axe on the blade and would have been capable of doing this.

Some of the injuries penetrated to considerable depth, so they went for example right through the base of the skull, through the brain and onto the inside of the skull. So we could say that that had to be a weapon that was long and thin and it was likely to be a short sword or a long dagger, but what we found was that all the injuries that we saw were consistent with the stories that we’d heard about the battle and they were consistent with him having been pulled off his horse in a mire and then those final injuries being inflicted while he was on the ground.

The physical injuries seemed to match what was known about the way the monarch had died, but to confirm that it was indeed Richard the third professor Turi King was able to link DNA taken from the skeleton to 21st century relatives on Richard’s mother’s side. Richard himself had left no known living descendants but we do know that he’s got female line relatives who are alive today and I can look at their mitochondrial DNA and see if it matched that of the skeleton.

The DNA taken from the skeleton and the relatives alive today was practically a perfect match. The identity of the long-lost King was confirmed but what else could Richard’s DNA tell us about him. At the moment what I’ve been doing is I’ve been looking at Richard III’s entire genome, now that was interesting for me because there’s no contemporary portraits of Richard, they all post-date his death from about 25 to 30 years but looking at somebody’s genome you can actually say probably what their eye colour is and hair colour, so we know that he had a 96 percent chance of having blue eyes and that he had a 77 percent chance of having blonde hair but that would’ve been a childhood hair colour and it could have darkened with age, but obviously you can do this sort of thing you can apply it to crime scenes so these are known as externally visible characteristics, so EVC’s, so even without seeing the criminal you can start to say something about what they might look like and this sort of thing.

As well as using DNA to work out what people might look like the team is developing a way to narrow down names of potential offenders by examining DNA found at crime scenes. As things progress into the future there’s only going to be more ways in which you’re able to work with the police? Absolutely it has been suggested, now what if we had a database that had Y chromosomes attached to surnames and you go to a crime scene and you type the Y chromosome you put it into your database and you see what surnames it brings up. If you’ve got someone in your suspect list who sought that surname go to them first. So it’s investigative because you use the normal DNA fingerprinting to do the rest of the work with it, but it helps police prioritise and the other thing about is it doesn’t have to be you that’s on the DNA database as it is now, just somebody with the same surname as you and they would get that hit.

It seems the possibilities of DNA analysis are endless, I want to see first-hand just how revealing this information can be so Turi is going to take a sample of my DNA. So what is the method for testing? Right I need to get some of your saliva I’m afraid, to get to your DNA. So what you need to do is spit in this rather glamorous spit kit, you need to spit and collect saliva up to that line. That’s a lot of spit Turi. It is quite a lot of spit so you might want to go off somewhere and just sit by yourself. When you come back we will close that and then from that I can extract your DNA and type your mitochondrial DNA type for you.

What are you going be able to tell about me? I can’t tell you precisely where your female line ancestry comes from but it tells you a region. I could tell you what your eye colour is and your hair colour is. I can tell you whether or not you’re lactose intolerant or whether or not you’re sensitive to caffeine and this sort of thing. And that’s just all for a bit of spit? That is amazing. Yeah it’s amazing what you can do these days.

Well I’m very intrigued to find out what my DNA results are that’ll be coming up later in the program, now experts here in Leicester have gained a well-earned reputation for their forensic brilliance and it’s not just with ancient bones, their actually working alongside the police to develop new technologies to investigate crime, joining me now is Professor Robert Hillman and PhD student Jody from the University of Leicester, we’re going to get a little experiment going here aren’t we? So I’m going to put my fingerprint on this metal slab and whilst the experiment is in progress and let’s have a bit of a chat so tell me a bit more about the work that you do Robert?

My background is in chemistry and we’ve been developing a number of reagents and imaging methods to reveal so-called latent or non-visible fingerprints on a range of objects made of metal, paper and other substances. Now if we look at this bullet casing the fingerprints are clearly very visible on here aren’t they? Yes. So how are we going to make my fingerprints on that metal slide visible? Well what we have here is a reagent we’ve developed that contains some silver and all of your fingerprint ridge marks that you’ve left on there, blanket off parts of the surface and what the silver reagent is going to do is to react with all the bare copper that’s in the brass and we’ll have a silver deposit that will give us an image of the fingerprint, and this is a different approach to traditional methods. And that is so clear isn’t it, is this a technique that the police forces are using at the moment? No they’re not using it at the moment this is a method that we developed in the research laboratory and we’re in the process of trying to transfer that technology to the practitioner laboratories and the police have been very interested in this. Well clearly you can see it’s very effective and would be brilliant to you know work alongside the police as we said, am I able to take this home as a souvenir? Of course you can. Thanks guy, there you go real state-of-the-art technology, you saw it here first.

BBC Crimewatch (Live)

I’m with geneticist Professor Turi King, one of the team of forensic scientists at the University of Leicester and Turi it was your colleagues that were the first in the world to use DNA profiling techniques to solve a murder case?

Yeah so this is Professor Alec Jeffreys one of the most amazing inventions in forensic science back in the 1980’s, still used today.

It is amazing, now I actually came to your lab didn’t I Turi and you took a sample of my saliva to test my DNA and I’ve been waiting for this all day, what did you find out?

Well so I was looking at a piece of your DNA known as mitochondrial DNA which comes down through the female line, so it’s come from your mum, your grandma going back to through time and one of the nice things about yours is it shows us that you have got what looks like European ancestry, so I don’t know if you know about this in your family tree but it’s a mitochondrial DNA type that’s found at its highest frequencies in Europe, so did you know that?

Well my mum’s mixed-race there’s Ghanaian and British.

Ah, so what’s your mum’s mum is she British?

Yeah.

Well that’s showing up in your mitochondrial DNA is that it’s, a sort of a Northern European type, so it’s the sort of thing that if you didn’t know this then it’s a starting off point for looking at your ancestry, but it’s really nice because without knowing anything about you, without even having met you I could say something about your ancestry and this is what’s going on in forensics these days, is that you can use a person’s DNA to say we’re not they were lactose intolerant, where their ancestors are likely to come from, what they look like hair and eye colour.

It’s just so fascinating isn’t it, what, as you say, what you can find out about someone, without even meeting them.

Without even meeting them and this is the way obviously this is what we want to be able to do with forensics is if you’ve got no suspects and you want to start to build a profile of what somebody looked like, these are the bits of DNA that we’re interested in looking at, and it’s moving all of the time.

Yeah it’s a great way to work alongside the police really isn’t it, it’s so fascinating Turi thank you for spending the time investigate my saliva, now my DNA’s on profile there I better behave myself.

Absolutely.

Amazon Prime The King in the Car Park (Documentary)