Bot­tle spit DNA gets rob­ber jail

The Times (South Africa) - - NEWS - SHAUN SMIL­LIE

MATOTA Sit­hole’s thirst got him into trou­ble.

The serial bur­glar left an empty cooldrink bot­tle at the scene of one of his crimes and this proved to be the key ev­i­dence that linked him to three other cases across the south­ern Cape.

The SAPS foren­sics lab­o­ra­tory was able to ex­tract Sit­hole’s DNA from the bot­tle and last week he was sen­tenced to 15 years in jail in the Mos­sel Bay Re­gional Court.

The con­vic­tion, say ex­perts, is an ex­am­ple of how the thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion of less se­ri­ous of­fences us­ing tech­nol­ogy could get ar­rests for other, big­ger crimes.

Sit­hole’s crimes in­cluded bur­glar­ies from busi­nesses in 2013 and 2014.

He tar­geted chain stores. He and his syn­di­cate would gain en­trance through roofs, then, us­ing grinders, would open safes and make off with money and other valu­ables.

They were caught when they fled the scene of a bur­glary. But it was the empty bot­tle that linked him to other crimes. His crime sprees had in­cluded busi­nesses around Da-Ga­maskop, Harten­bos and Ladi­smith ar­eas.

Fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Sit­hole’s back­ground re­vealed that he was a ca­reer crim­i­nal from Gaut­eng who pos­sessed an il­le­gal firearm.

Crim­i­nol­o­gist Jo­han Burger said that in the past, crimes like bur­glary were of­ten ne­glected. Foren­sic ev­i­dence, like col­lect­ing fin­ger­prints, was not of­ten taken, he said.

“It is un­der act­ing na­tional com­mis­sioner Lieu­tenant­Gen­eral Kgo­motso Phahlane that po­lice ap­pear to be in­ves­ti­gat­ing cases with new vigour,” said Burger.

Foren­sic trainer Tanya Mot­tal­ini, who works with the DNA Project — an NGO with a fo­cus on train­ing in foren­sic science — said po­lice were now bet­ter trained to gather ge­netic ma­te­rial.

“They are more aware of what can be used to gather DNA,” she ex­plained.

Mot­tal­ini said po­lice were now us­ing equip­ment that could get re­sults from smaller sam­ples.

‘ Caught when gang fled a bur­glary

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