NSW Branch News

09/09/2023 | General

Familial DNA and Y-STR Searching – Solving the Beast of Bondi – 3 rd May 2023

On 3 rd May 2023, the NSW branch had three fantastic speakers who gave us even more ammunition
as to why DNA is known as the gold standard in Forensic Science and can help solve cold cases. We
had D/SGT Khaliph Fitzmaurice from NSWPF, Forensic Evidence & Technical Command, whose
current role is in the DNA management Unit. D/SGT Fitzmaurice gave us an introduction into familial
DNA and Y-STR database searching and how it can be useful for missing persons and major crime
cases. We also had Carole Field, a Senior Forensic Biologist with FASS, who has been the Group
Manager of the Database and Case Management Unit within Forensic Biology since 2008.

We first learned about the NSW databases versus the national databases (NCIDD), and how the
numbers compared of offender and suspect profiles. Familial searching was first used within NSW
back in 2013, as it can be a useful intelligence tool, especially as criminality can potentially run in the
family. However, the power of the search depends on whether a relative is on the database and the
size/composition of the database. The relative also needs to share a sufficient amount of DNA. The
ability to use this tool also relies on the quality of the crime scene profile itself. It is important to
note that this tool may not pick up every potential sibling. This is because as the amount of DNA
shared goes down, the likelihood ratio goes down, and there is the potential to miss true relatives,
and the number of adventitious candidates also increases.

From a historical perspective, the first conviction in Australia using familial searching was in South
Australia. An unknown male DNA profile was obtained from a sexual assault in 2012, a match was
made with a potential candidate from the list who would have been in the area. This shows that
“pushing boundaries – taking it to the limit” is very important in driving forward the future and
benefit of DNA.

In 2013 there were five unsolved cold cases which resulted in the establishment of Strikeforce
Doreen – the pilot for familial searching. 12 cases had been linked by DNA (1987-2000); this was the
first familial match that was recorded where a matching Y-DNA profile was obtained.
Finally, we had Joshua Smith who specialises in Forensic Genetic Genealogy and went through the
family tree used for the Beast of Bondi investigation, and how they traced back to the unknown
offender, now known as the Bondi Beast, to a specific individual. If anyone would like more
information on this case, you can head to the 60 min episode detailing the Bondi Beast case.

YouTube Video Link

Quote of the night by Joshua Smith.. “Biology is the truth of everything”…