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Ancient DNA academics help try to identify a little girl found dead in a suitcase in South Australia -

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MARK COLVIN: It's the story haunting the public and seemingly baffling police in South Australia.

Who is the little girl whose little girl with no name whose remains were found in a suitcase beside a highway.

Nearly two months on, no one has come forward to identify her.

As police try to unravel the mystery, they've sought help from what may seem an unlikely source - the University of Adelaide's Centre for Ancient DNA, which mainly specialises in extinct species.

Natalie Whiting.

NATALIE WHITING: A little girl murdered. Her remains found in a suitcase, abandoned by a highway at Wynarka in South Australia's Mallee region.

The crime in itself was enough to shock the public. But the concern and mystery has only depended as weeks wind by without anyone coming forward to identify her.

As police try to work out who she is, they've reached out to associate professor Jeremy Austin at the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA.

The University of Adelaide based facility mainly works on extinct animals and plants.

JEREMY AUSTIN: The techniques we use are broadly very similar, with an extinct animal bone or a human bone we still have to you know powder the bone, extract the DNA and then analyse the DNA.

NATALIE WHITING: It's not the first time the team has been called upon to help out in a police case.

JEREMY AUSTIN: We probably get asked maybe once or twice a year from police agencies around Australia, I also do a lot of work with the Australian army looking at identifying war dead.

NATALIE WHITING: Why is it that police will turn to you as opposed to their own forensics, what sort of speciality is it that you can offer?

JEREMY AUSTIN: Well the standard forensic laboratories are really kind of focused on DNA analysis of volume crime samples, so these are things where the DNA's reasonably well preserved and there's reasonably large amounts of it.

You need quite specialist facilities to be able to get DNA from degraded bones and teeth.

What we can do is not only get the DNA out of these degraded human remains better than the traditional forensic laboratories, we also have a broader range of analytical techniques to be able to characterise that DNA in a way that allows the police to either indentify someone or narrow down who they might be.

NATALIE WHITING: Associate professor Austin says the process of matching the DNA is the time consuming part.

JEREMY AUSTIN: You know I did some work on the Daniel Morcombe identification and due to a number of different things that were going on at the time, I actually did all of that work in about three to four days.

So you know, you can push these samples quite quickly if necessary, you know some of the work on the Australian Army war dead is taking years because not the analysis of the bones, but actually finding living relatives who can donate DNA samples to do comparisons to.

So the actual analysis of a human bone can be done in the space of days or weeks, doing the comparisons to living relatives - potential living relatives can sometimes drag on for years.

NATALIE WHITING: Police believe the girl was aged between two-and-a-half and four-years-old and had blonde hair.

A number of items of clothing and a quilt were also found with her.

Police have been showcasing those in the hope someone will recognise something and come forward.

Associate professor Austin says for many cases involving degraded DNA, the process could be sped up if Australia established a national missing persons DNA database.

JEREMY AUSTIN: Where we can actually load up the DNA reference samples for all missing people so that when a set of remains is found, we've actually got a database to do a comparison to straight away, rather than having to go out and ask people to buy DNA samples for particular cases.

It may not necessarily be useful directly, for example in the case of the missing child from Wynarka because clearly you actually have someone who's reported a person as being missing and in this case, no one's come forward to say they're missing a child. So a missing persons DNA database probably wouldn't be of much use in this particular case, but certainly for people who have reported someone as being missing then that would be really helpful.

NATALIE WHITING: Police say the DNA work is ongoing. Officers are also working through more than 250 possible names identified from various government databases as they try to find out who the little girl is.

MARK COLVIN: Natalie Whiting.