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The Cat Was Just a Bystander

Forensic researchers in the UK have developed a database of cat DNA, according to the University of Leicester. Researchers from the university pulled together genetic information from 152 cats from across the nation to form the database, which then used in the prosecution of David Hilder in the killing of his neighbor David Guy.

Guy's torso was discovered on a beach in Southsea beach last year, wrapped in a curtain — and eight cat hairs were found on that curtain. Those hairs were subsequently traced to Tinker, Hilder's cat, the University of Leicester says.

Initially, the police sent the cat hairs to a California lab, which determined through mitochondrial analysis that the hairs were of a rare mitochondrial type that matched Tinker and not 493 randomly sampled US cats. But the police wanted to know whether that type was common in Britain, particularly in the Southsea area, and turned to the Leicester researchers to develop a UK database. From that, they determined that only three cats in the UK sample had the same mitochondrial type.

"This is the first time cat DNA has been used in a criminal trial in the UK. We now hope to publish the database so it can be used in future crime investigations," says Jon Wetton, the project leader, in a statement. "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."

Hilder was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to life in prison, NBC News adds, noting that there was other evidence in the case, including some of Guy's blood at Hilder's residence.

The Associated Press notes that Tinker is living with a new family.