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A 1981 file photo of 14-year-old Dana Bradley.

THE CANADIAN PRESS

New DNA evidence has provided a "breakthrough" in the 34-year-old unsolved murder of a teenage girl in Newfoundland and Labrador, say police.

The brutal killing of 14-year-old Dana Bradley in 1981 launched one of the largest and most costly murder investigations in the province's history.

On Thursday, the RCMP said its major crime unit was using the latest DNA technologies to further the investigation and some exhibits were sent to a DNA lab for additional testing.

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Insp. Pat Cahill said the testing provided DNA evidence connected to an unknown male suspect and further testing is now underway.

"It is a significant breakthrough in the investigation," Cahill said in an interview.

"In my experience DNA evidence is always what you want to find. And you want to find unknown suspect DNA from which to compare suspects and to eliminate them."

Cahill, who heads the major crime unit, wouldn't discuss details about the type of exhibits that yielded the DNA discovery and he was unable to say when the results of the additional tests would be available.

He said investigators are optimistic because of the "relatively new" evidence in the case, but he wouldn't say whether police are any closer to a potential arrest.

"We're working through all the tips and we are working through the suspects. There is no one specifically identified right now."

Bradley was last seen entering a car while hitchhiking, according to witnesses.

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She was reported missing on Dec. 14, 1981 and her body was found four days later at Maddox Cove, a wooded area just south of St. John's.

Her skull had been fractured by blows from a blunt object and she had been sexually assaulted.

A suspect, David Grant Somerton, was charged with the murder, but information he gave police that led to his arrest turned out to be false. The charges were eventually stayed.

It was another twist in a case that over the years has stymied police in the form of several wrong turns and through a lack of hard evidence.

Bradley's death captivated the public to the point where in 1991 Newfoundland Broadcasting re-enacted the murder in segments during its evening news program over several days.

Her tragic story was also recounted in a 2003 book by author Darrin McGrath entitled "Hitching a Ride: The Unsolved Murder of Dana Bradley."

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Legendary singer-songwriter Ron Hynes also released a song about the killing in 2003 called "The Ghost of Dana Bradley."

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