The body of a missing man has been identified through the national missing persons DNA data bank in what Calgary police say is a first in Canada.
The database is operated by the RCMP and was established last year to help investigations into missing persons and unidentified remains.
A Calgary police investigator says the body of a homeless man was found in a tent at an encampment in 2017 by a Good Samaritan. His death was not considered suspicious.
“The belief is he had been there between five and six months over the summer. So there was a fairly accelerated state of decomposition because of the intense heat that year,” Const. Gord Fraser said Tuesday.
“Because of the condition of the body, getting a DNA sample we could use proved to be difficult. The first two were too decomposed unfortunately. With the third sample, which was much larger, we did end up getting a successful DNA profile.”
The only personal possessions the man had were a heavily damaged cellphone and a SIM card. Members of the Digital Forensics Unit were able to recover some data stored on the phone, which led investigators to several chain emails alluding to the phone owner’s identity.
“His family in Quebec believed he was in the Calgary area but they had not had contact with him for some time in 2016,” said Staff Sgt. Martin Schiavetta of the Calgary police missing persons unit.
Police say the man, who has not been publicly identified, was estranged from his family.
“Even though it’s a tragic circumstance where we’re notifying that a loved one has been found deceased, providing closure – in many ways it is part of the healing process instead of having those unknown questions throughout the remainder of their life,” he said.
The DNA data bank contains approximately 500,000 samples.
Fraser said a positive match was made because the individual was already on file in the RCMP’s known-offender DNA data bank.
“Normally we would need to obtain a familial sample for comparison. In this case we didn’t have to because the source of the DNA already existed within the offender data bank,” he said.
Kathy Murphy, manager of the National DNA Data Bank Missing Persons Unit, said this will likely be the first of many resolved cases.
“The more profiles we get, the greater our chances of making an identification and bringing more people home,” she said.
“We look forward to assisting more investigations in future.”
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