A grieving mother says the inclusion of her innocent son's genetic details on the DNA national database, after a woman at a train station falsely accused him of flashing, drove him to suicide.
Robert Chong was arrested by an off-duty policeman at Waterloo station in May, handcuffed, held and forced to provide a DNA sample, after the woman – who subsequently disappeared, and whom police acknowledge was a problem complainer – accused him of exposing himself to her. A cursory check of CCTV tapes would have proved his innocence, and that his only interaction with the woman was when she swore at him on the station concourse.
Mr Chong, a 41-year-old wood machinist from Hendon, north London, was "traumatised" by the event, and complained to his mother that he felt criminalised. He worried that his arrest and his inclusion on the DNA database would scupper his hopes of moving to the United States or Australia to work.
He was released on police bail with an instruction to return in July. The police said they sent him a letter telling him they were dropping the case – but it never arrived. He became moody and distant. "He wasn't eating, he wasn't sleeping," said his mother, Josephine. "He told me: 'I'm on the criminal database now, I have got a record'. He said it was for life. He wasn't a criminal. Now I want him taken off the database."
She saw him alive for the last time on the morning of 11 July, when he put his head around her bedroom door and said goodbye. She went out later and returned to find a note from him on her bed, telling her: "I can't face life any more." She raised the alarm and a few hours later received the news that his body had been found hanging from a tree at a secluded spot in a nearby park.
Mrs Chong criticised the Government last night: "These people have to realise that not everybody who is put on the database is thick-skinned enough to deal with it. Robert thought he was being branded a criminal for absolutely nothing."
She added: "The database should be for criminals, not for the innocent. You are meant to be innocent until proven guilty in this country."
An inquest has been set for November, with coroners' officers asking police for information about Mr Chong's arrest. The British Transport Police, which is responsible for security at railways stations, declined to comment on the case.
Anyone picked up for an arrestable offence now has to provide a sample, which stays on record indefinitely, regardless of whether they are either charged or convicted.
More than four million DNA profiles are now contained on the national database, far more than in any other country.Reuse content