25 years ago Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys solved the mystery of what happened to notorious Nazi war criminal
25 years ago yesterday (18 November, 1990), the Leicester Mercury ran an article about genetic fingerprinting pioneer Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys, covering his sensational breakthrough to help identify the Auschwitz 'Angel of Death'.
Professor Jeffreys extracted DNA material from the alleged bones of Nazi Dr Josef Mengele. By stretching DNA technology at the time to its limits, he astonished even himself, because the suspected remains of Mengele – accused of killing 400,000 Jews – were buried for six years.
Mengele brutally experimented on tens of thousands of inmates at Auschwitz death camp. He then fled to South America at the end of the war and died in a swimming accident in Brazil, aged 67.
What were believed to be his bones were dug up by Brazilian police in Embu cemetery, Sao Paulo, in 1985 - and extensive forensic examination confirmed with a high degree of probability that the body was Mengele's.
Professor Jeffreys invented DNA fingerprinting in his lab at the University of Leicester in 1984, in what he described as a 'eureka moment'. Looking at DNA samples of his lab technician and her parents, he suddenly realised that the human genetic code provided a way of uniquely identifying each individual - literally a genetic fingerprint.
Earlier this year Professor Jeffreys's discovery inspired the ITV drama Code of a Killer. The fictional drama, based on the first criminal case to be solved using DNA fingerprinting, starred Doctor Who actor John Simm as Sir Alec and Shameless actor David Threlfall as Detective David Baker who first approached Sir Alec about his technique.