The story of the history of forensic science and its role in criminal investigations is set to become a major new tourist attraction in Leicester.
Sir Alec Jeffreys: centre
to explain role of DNA
and forensics in investigations
The project, a collaboration between Leicestershire Police, the city council, the University of Leicester and the King Richard III Visitor Centre, is set to begin a £300,000 feasibility study later this month to develop the idea.
Provisionally titled the Leicester DNA Centre, the attraction would tell the story of the pioneering work of Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys at the University of Leicester, who first devised the technique of DNA “fingerprinting” in the mid-1980s.
Initially used in immigration and paternity cases, the first criminal use came in 1986 when Leicestershire Police approached Sir Alec for help with a case involving the rape and murder of two local women. DNA first exonerated a mentally unstable suspect who had confessed to one of the two killings and later identified Colin Pitchfork as the guilty party.
Martin Traynor, chairman of the King Richard III Visitor Centre board of trustees, said: "We are at the early stages but we are very excited. We know there is tremendous interest in crime and forensics and Leicestershire Police have a huge array of artefacts from the Pitchfork investigation, but they are locked up in cabinets where nobody can see them.”
Professor Kevin Schürer, from the University of Leicester has been involved in setting up the project. He said: "Modern forensic work played an important part in the identification of the remains of King Richard III and this led to the idea for the proposed new centre. The aim of the new attraction will be to provide an engaging explanation of the role that forensic science and DNA have played in solving and preventing crime.
"It is highly appropriate that such a centre is based in Leicester, not only because of Richard III and the landmark research of Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys, but also due the world-class applied forensic research that has and is being undertaken in Leicester."
The feasibility study is likely to be completed by the late summer when it will be known if the project is viable. Various sources of funding are being looked at from charities to sponsorship from large companies with a connection to DNA research.