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HONORARY DEGREE FOR PIONEERING POLICE DETECTIVE WHO HUNTED DOWN COLIN PITCHFORK

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THE lead detective on the first criminal case to be solved using DNA fingerprinting was awarded an Honorary Degree by the University of Leicester earlier this week.

David Baker is a former Detective Chief Superintendent and former Head of the Criminal Investigation Department at Leicestershire Police, who saw the opportunity to use the then pioneering technique of DNA fingerprinting to help identify the person responsible for the murder of two young girls in Narborough, Leicestershire.

Picture: University of Leicecester

At the University of Leicester, Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys developed a DNA profiling technique in the early 1980s, which identified an individual’s unique ‘fingerprint’. Whilst the technique had been used in 1986 as evidence in a paternity court case, it was under David’s direction that officers immediately set about asking local men for blood samples, which led to the capture and conviction of Colin Pitchfork.

Upon receiving his honour on Wednesday (January 19), David Baker QPM and Honorary Doctor of Science said: “If it wasn’t for the University of Leicester and the discovery of DNA fingerprinting by Sir Alec Jeffreys we wouldn’t have been able to arrest and charge a man for the murder of two teenage schoolgirls in Leicestershire, and make such an immense change to the use of forensic investigation of crime scenes. I am honoured to receive this honorary degree. Thank you.”

Professor Nishan Canagarajah, President and Vice-Chancellor at the University of Leicester said: “I am delighted to confer this most well deserved honour to David Baker QPM – his foresight to use the newly discovered technique DNA fingerprinting has led to a revolution in policing. 

“I am also immensely proud that this pioneering discovery was made here on this very campus at the University of Leicester by Professor Alec Jeffreys – he truly embodies what it means to be a Citizen of Change.”  

David’s collaboration with Sir Alec has changed the face of modern policing, with forces across the world using DNA evidence as a major pillar of many criminal cases. This work has led to the successful conviction of countless criminals and, crucially, has also helped exonerate innocent individuals who may otherwise have been linked to crimes.

Although around 99.9 per cent of human DNA sequences are the same in every person, enough of the DNA is different that it is possible to distinguish one individual from another (except in the case of identical twins).

Now retired, David was previously awarded the Queen’s Police Medal (QPM) for distinguished service to Leicestershire.

His role in the landmark case was immortalised by actor David Threlfall in ITV drama Code of a Killer, alongside John Simm as Sir Alec.

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