JonBenet suspect is cleared after DNA tests

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The teacher being held for the killing of the child beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey - a crime that gripped and shocked the US a decade ago - will not be charged with her murder.

Officials said last night that tests on DNA taken from John Karr and a sample recovered from the scene where the murdered six-year-old was discovered proved to be negative. As a result, prosecutors decided not to charge Mr Karr, 41. Experts had previously said that a DNA match would be crucial if prosecutors were to make a case. Prosecutors said Mr Karr will be held in prison to face child porn charges in California.

Seth Temin, one of Mr Karr's lawyers, said: "The warrant on Mr Karr has been dropped by the district attorney ... We're deeply distressed by the fact that they took this man and dragged him here from Bangkok, Thailand, with no forensic evidence confirming the allegations against him and no independent factors leading to a presumption that he did anything wrong."

The revelations came after days of growing scepticism among observers over Mr Karr's claim that he was present when JonBenet was killed in 1996. He claimed she died as the result of "an accident", though investigators say she was deliberately garroted and possible sexually assaulted.

The announcement came just hours before Mr Karr was due to make his first court appearance. Under Colorado state law, a suspect must be charged within 72 hours of their first court appearance.

It was reported that prosecutors made their decision after receiving the results of tests carried out on samples of Mr Karr's saliva and hair, taken last Thursday evening upon his arrival in Denver from Thailand, where he had been working as a teacher.

JonBenet was covered in a blanket when her body was found. Hair fibres were found on that blanket and they did not match any of the Ramsey family or another 100 people tested.

Mr Karr was brought back to the US after telling reporters in Thailand that he was present when the girl died on 26 December 1996. He was brought to Denver via California, from where he had jumped bail in 2001 after facing five counts of possessing child pornography, and was being held on suspicion of first-degree murder, first and second-degree kidnapping, and sexual assault.

After Mr Karr's statements in Thailand, questions were raised about whether Mr Karr was involved in JonBenet's death. His family insisted that he was not in Colorado at the time of the crime. Yet officials had said it appeared Mr Karr knew information about the circumstances of JonBenet's death that has never been made public.

JonBenet won a number of beauty pageants including National Tiny Miss Beauty. She was found strangled in the basement of her parents' home, hours after the discovery of a ransom note. Her skull had been fractured. Evidence suggested she had been sexually assaulted. Her mother, Patsy, died of cancer earlier this summer.