Sally Anne police call for DNA register

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The Independent Online

The policeman who led the hunt for Sally Anne Bowman's killer today called for a national DNA register.

Detective Superintendent Stuart Cundy said having everyone's DNA on file would speed up arrests and cut down on further offending.

The plea has the backing of Sally Anne's mother Linda who has previously petitioned for the move.

Killer Mark Dixie had 16 previous convictions in Britain but all were before DNA was routinely taken from suspects.

Detectives estimate it could have been two years before he was eventually tracked if he had not been arrested for a minor offence.

The breakthrough in the nine-month inquiry came when Surrey police placed his details on the police national computer at 3pm on June 27 2006.

By 8pm, Dixie had been arrested for Sally Anne's murder.

Dixie's DNA was then sent to Australia where officers in Perth were quick to reply with a match for the unsolved 1998 attack on a Thai student.

Dixie burst into tears when his DNA was taken after the World Cup scuffle at the pub where he was working 12 days before.

He was released on police bail but made no attempt to flee. "He probably thought he had got away with it when he did not hear anything immediately," said Mr Cundy.

Some 1,700 men in the Croydon area had given their DNA voluntarily to be eliminated.

Police were also working through 22,500 local suspects before widening their search to other parts of London.

Mr Cundy said: "If there was a DNA register we would have known who killed Sally Anne that day."

Dixie had 16 previous convictions in the UK. Five were for sex offences when he was a juvenile. Some of the offences were committed under different names.

In 1986, when Dixie was 16, he took part in a robbery in which the woman complained her breasts were fondled.

The following year he was convicted of burglary, robbery and attacking a doctor outside a hospital.

In January 1988 he was convicted of indecent assault and two indecent exposures when he approached a woman, exposed himself, knocked her to the ground and masturbated.

He asked for five similar offences to be considered. He was given two years probation.

Six months later, he admitted the assault and indecent assault on a Jehovah's Witness in a lift. She gave evidence against him at the murder trial.

A year later, he dropped his trousers and masturbated against the window of a woman's car.

And in March 1990, he assaulted a police officer who was trying to arrest him.

A Conservative MP said today that he could "see the merit" of putting more people on a DNA database in the wake of the cases of Mark Dixie and Ipswich prostitute killer Steve Wright.

But Richard Spring, who represents West Suffolk, said he would be against such a move because he feared the information would not be secure.

"I can see the merit in this," he said. "But the problem isn't with DNA being taken - it's what happens to the information afterwards.

"If you are going to go down this road of extending DNA then the public needs to be absolutely assured that a DNA base is going to be absolutely secure.

"And given our record on sensitive information I don't think the public can be sure."

Jacqui Cheer, Deputy Chief Constable of Suffolk Police, said the Wright case would widen discussion about DNA databases.

But she would not give an opinion.