International

DNA advancement solves 47 year old murder

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1972 was the year that eleven Israeli athletes were killed in a terror attack at the Munich Olympics, that the Watergate scandal which would eventually bring down President Nixon first came to light, and when the average price of a house in the UK was £7,374. It was also the year that college student Pamela Milam was murdered in Terre Haute (Indiana) a crime that was unresolved until this week, almost 47 years after the event.

19 year old Ms Milam disappeared on the night of 15 September 1972 after leaving a party at the Indiana State University in Terre Haute. Her bound and gagged body was found in the boot of her own car 24 hours later. There were no witnesses or physical evidence, at least nothing that forensics at that time could do anything with. As there was no hard evidence the police turned to profiling and a sex offender, Robert Austin, was strongly linked to the crime. However despite the suspicion around him the lack of physical evidence means he was never charged.

DNA played its first significant appearance in the case in 2008 when new technology was able to clear Austin using evidence retained from the crime scene. However the case remained very much a cold one until the announcement this week that DNA testing proved within a 99.9% probability that Pamela’s killer was a man called Jeffrey Hand. He had been arrested for murdering a hitch-hiker in 1973 but released three years later as he had been judged to be insane at the time. DNA from the scene and surviving members of Hand’s family proved that Pamela had been another victim of his killing spree and the case is now closed. However the killler will not be facing trial, as he was shot dead by police in 1978 during an attempted kidnapping. Ms Milam’s sister said “We are happy to know he hasn’t been out there living a great life for the last 47 years” as she finally closed a sad chapter in her own life.

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