“Increased recognition for added value forensic evidence”

POSTED: 11/25/11 12:36 PM

NFI-scientist Robert Bink

St. Maarten / By Hilbert Haar – One man followed the Regatta-murders trial on Wednesday and Thursday with a special interest in mind: forensic scientist Robert Bink. He was deeply involved in analyzing the dozens of samples taken from the crime scenes at laboratories of the Dutch Forensic Institute NFI in Ypenburg near The Hague. Bink came to St. Maarten to follow the trial and to give presentations about DNA analysis to the police, the public prosecutor’s office and the RST.

Bink is a specialist in human biological traces and DNA-typing. Until the arrival last year of forensic investigator Jos van Deventer at the police force in Philipsburg, forensics was an underdeveloped tool in St. Maarten. Even fingerprinting was not common practice, for lack of a databank.

The fingerprint databank is now being developed, as is a databank for DNA-profiles. Over time, as these databanks will collect more fingerprints and more DNA-profiles, their importance for solving crimes will increase.

Bink said that the NFI in the Netherlands employs 600 people. “We have all forensic disciplines under one roof,” the 36-year-old scientist says. Among these disciplines are, apart from his own field of expertise, micro traces (examination of fibers, shotgun trace evidence), a chemical department (examination of for instance paint and tape), pathology (establishing cause of death), medical forensics (examining wounds), digital technology (examination of phones, computers and navigation systems), and toxicology.

The NFI conducts most of its investigations for police forces in the Netherlands. “St. Maarten made a deal with the NFI about the number of cases we will handle for them. The island has to pay for the service but it gets a ten percent discount.” Deals with Curacao and Aruba are in the works.

Bink worked on several cases that fall under the Regatta-murders umbrella. He looked for instance at the Aqua-case (whereby the defendants raped a young woman multiple times). “We have a sexual assault kit. When a victim reports a rape this package is used to take samples from the victim’s body and from for instance underwear. In the Aqua-case we also did a sperm-examination. The DNA-profile matched defendant Sherwan R.”

Bink also examined samples taken from the Foidel Luis murder-scene. “There was a lot of trace evidence. The blood traces again matched the Sherwan R.’s DNA-profile. We also took samples from his trouser pockets because they had been searched. What we found there also matches Sherwan R.’s profile.”

Bink said that he did not find evidence matching Curtley R.’s DNA-profile on any of the samples he examined. “That does not mean that he was not involved. All we do is examining samples that are submitted to us and we compare the profiles we find with those of defendants. We examined samples from the black car they used and we found more than ten traces that matched Foidel Luis’ profile. But there were also other blood traces that did not match any of the suspects, or any of the victims.”

The NFI examined dozens upon dozens of samples for the Regatta-cases. From the car alone, investigators took fifteen different traces. “A simple examination takes two to three weeks. More complicated cases take between three and six weeks,” Bink says, adding that DNA-tests are expensive – anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars to several thousands.

Bink studied biology at university-level and after his promotion at a lab in Utrecht he wanted to do something socially relevant with his knowledge. That’s how he ended up at the NFI. “In 2003 I started at the biology-department and followed a 2-year internal training,” he says.

His work focuses on heavier crimes, like sex crimes and murder. “I also worked on the Holloway case. Forensically that was so far not a big success,” he says. From St. Maarten, the next big case is already coming his way after the eight recent arrests in the Vesuvius-investigation.

Forensics was in its early stages when Bink joined the NFI in 2003. “There was no CSI (crime scene investigation) series on TV yet. When those series started, schooling on HBO and university level in the Netherlands took off. Currently there are too many places, so not everyone who graduates will be able to find a job at the NFI. There are also jobs available at the police and at other forensic labs.”

The importance of DNA-analysis has increased since Bink started working at the institute. “The added value of forensics is more and more recognized. It is a strong piece of evidence, especially because defendants increasingly refuse to talk to investigators. Up to a couple of years ago the main question was who DNA-traces belonged to. These days we focus more on another question: how did that DNA get in a certain place? That is interesting, because the sole presence of someone’s DNA on a crime scene does not necessarily mean that that person committed the crime.”

For more information about DNA-profiling go to www.dnasporen.nl or to www.forensischinstituut.nl.

 

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