Blast probe: A strand of hair,modern science and a DNA match with ‘bomber’

A strand of hair,for example,can help nail suspects,as experience of Bangalore police has shown.

Written by Johnson T A | Bangalore | Published:August 9, 2012 3:47 am

As the Pune police and the National Investigation Agency investigate the latest serial blasts in the country,they only need look as far as Bangalore for a lesson in how important the minutest piece of evidence can be. A strand of hair,for example,backed by modern investigation aids like DNA tests,can help nail suspects,as the experience of the Bangalore police has shown.

In the course of the investigations of the April 17,2010,serial blasts at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore,police found several hair strands in the packaging of an unexploded bomb and relied on DNA tests to confirm the role of a key accused,Mohammed Qateel Siddiqui,following his arrest in November 2011 by the Delhi police special cell.

Siddiqui was killed under mysterious circumstances in the Yerawada prison in Pune on June 8,allegedly by two fellow inmates.

The DNA match is currently one of the strongest pieces of scientific evidence to prove his role. Five bombs had been placed at different points around the stadium before an Indian Premier League match. Two of the bombs exploded,injuring five people. It was the other three,which were defused by explosives experts,that provided some of the early clues in the investigation.

Forensic experts who sifted through every layer of the unexploded bombs found the strands of hair. These were noted as evidence,packaged and sent for DNA profiling immediately.

Following the arrest of Siddiqui,30,and four others — Aftab Alam,24,Mohammed Tariq Anjum Hassan,31,Gayur Ahmad Jamali,21,Gauhar Aziz Khomaini,31 — the Bangalore police got their custody in the Chinnaswamy case and obtained their blood samples for DNA tests under the supervision of a magistrate.

“The DNA tests were conducted on blood samples of three of the accused. The samples were drawn and sealed in the presence of a magistrate to preserve the sanctity of the evidence. The DNA of the blood samples were matched with the DNA of the hair samples found with the unexploded bombs of April 2010. We got a match for Siddiqui,” said a police officer,echoed by forensic scientists.

The DNA match for Siddiqui has been submitted as part of the evidence — besides statements of several witnesses who interacted with the suspected attackers — that police submitted to a local court on July 16 along with the chargesheet in the case.

According to the investigations,the bombs used in the attacks were primarily assembled in a house in Tumkur,around 60km from Bangalore,by Siddiqui and Yasin Bhatkal,the elusive frontline leader of the Indian Mujahideen. The two were also primarily involved in planting the bombs,according to a statement Siddiqui reportedly gave to the police during his interrogation. While two others,Gayur Ahmad Jamali and Aftab Alam,are said to have been present during the assembling of the bombs,the DNA evidence suggests these two’s roles were peripheral compared to Siddiqui’s.

“The DNA evidence that was gathered was crucial for the case to establish the role of Siddiqui and to validate other evidence including statements by him and others,” a source said.

The important thing in gathering such evidence was the fact that the hair strands were DNA-profiled as soon as they were found and kept aside. The DNA match happened over a year later,once the blood samples of the arrested accused were taken,sources said.

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