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Crime-fighting leech collars crook -

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Crime-fighting leech collars crook

Felicity Ogilvie reported this story on Tuesday, October 20, 2009 12:56:00

ELEANOR HALL: It may sound farfetched but Tasmanian police have used a leech to solve a crime.

Eight years ago two men broke into an elderly woman's home in Northern Tasmania. They threatened
her and stole $550.

The men didn't leave any fingerprints - but police have now discovered that they did leave other
evidence of their presence as Felicity Ogilvie reports.

FELICITY OGILVIE: Before the police got to the robber a leech got to him first.

The robbery took place in 2001 at an elderly woman's bush block near Lilydale in Northern Tasmania.

Two men armed with sticks stole $550 from the woman.

But while one of the men was getting into her safe - a leech was getting into him.

Inspector Mick Johnston.

MICK JOHNSTON: The leech was found on the floor near a chair in which the victim had been tied
during the robbery. It was found in the usual course of a forensic examination of that crime scene
that took place.

FELICITY OGILVIE: And where did the idea come from to send the leech off to Forensic Services?

MICK JOHNSTON: It was fairly clear that the leech had recently fed. It was fully engorged. Through
the process of elimination, we were able to determine that no police who had been there had been
bitten and certainly the victim hadn't been bitten by a leech.

So it had obviously arrived on the scene with someone who wasn't there at the time. It seemed
logical that it was possibly from one of the offenders and therefore offered us an opportunity to
be able to identify the offender.

FELICITY OGILVIE: Pam Scott from Forensic Services has told ABC Local Radio in Hobart that it was
quite easy to get a DNA sample from the leech.

PAM SCOTT: We have special paper that has chemicals impregnated in it that preserve the DNA so the
blood from the leech was put onto this paper, made its way to the lab and we tested that blood on
that paper and obtained a DNA profile.

FELICITY OGILVIE: The robbery happened eight years ago and the DNA sample sat in a police database
until there was a match last year.

A Lilydale man called Peter Alec Cannon was matched to the leech sample when his DNA went into the
database for an unrelated crime. Yesterday the 54-year-old pleaded guilty to aggravated armed
robbery.

Inspector Johnston again.

MICK JOHNSTON: Oh, it is fairly pleasing, yeah. Very pleasing. More so for the victim than on a
personal note. She has waited a long time for closure to this matter and it is nice to be able to
deliver that.

FELICITY OGILVIE: The use of a leech to solve the crime has impressed an academic who is studying
the value of forensic science.

Sally Kelty works at the University of Tasmania.

SALLY KELTY: I would say that this is a world first. I would be very surprised if there was another
case similar; certainly not in Australia.

FELICITY OGILVIE: Now you look at the value of forensics to solve crimes. Just how valuable has
this leech been?

SALLY KELTY: I think what this shows is that you can leave your DNA almost anywhere in all sorts of
mediums and eventually someone might find it. I think it is amazingly, amazing, amazing that this
really shows the value of DNA especially for solving crime.

FELICITY OGILVIE: The robber who was identified by the leech - Peter Cannon - will be sentenced in
the Launceston Supreme Court on Friday.

The police are still trying to find the other man who robbed the woman with Cannon.

ELEANOR HALL: Felicity Ogilvie in Hobart.