National Cat DNA Database Helps Convict Murderer

If anyone thought British prime minister David Cameron must have bigger things to deal with than Internet porn, you'd be right. Because over the pond, they've also been busy creating a database of cats' DNA.

Which has now helped convict a murderer.

The dismembered torso of a British man was found strewn with cat hair last July. (We just don't know how else to say that.) Investigators linked the hair to a cat, Tinker, which belonged to David Hilder, the neighbor of the deceased.

Prosecutors couldn't be certain that the match was exact, which is where the cat database stepped in. Dr. Jon Wetton of the University of Leicester has created a small-scale database of feline hair, and had previously done the same for dog hair.

"This could be a real boon for forensic science, as the 10 million cats in the UK are unwittingly tagging the clothes and furnishings in more than a quarter of households," Wetton said.

Well, yes, if 'tagging' is a euphemism for 'shedding.'

The database strengthened the reliability of the match, and Hilder will now spend the rest of his life behind bars. This is the first time cat DNA has made an appearance during a criminal trial.

Human DNA has been used as evidence in criminal trials for the last 20 years, and can often be more than 99 percent accurate. Last month, investigators matched DNA from long-dead Albert DeSalvo (also known as the Boston Stranger) to one of his alleged victims, finally allowing them to close the case.

But naysayers point out that it's not an exact science, and judges must be wary of deciding a defendant's fate based entirely on a DNA match. If we were to depend too much on it, argues the New York Times, it would undermine the entire criminal justice system.

Meanwhile, unsuspecting Tinker has been adopted by new owners, and police say the cat is doing very well.