Bottle spit DNA gets robber jail

18 August 2016 - 09:31 By SHAUN SMILLIE

Matota Sithole's thirst got him into trouble. The serial burglar left an empty cooldrink bottle at the scene of one of his crimes and this proved to be the key evidence that linked him to three other cases across the southern Cape.The SAPS forensics laboratory was able to extract Sithole's DNA from the bottle and last week he was sentenced to 15 years in jail in the Mossel Bay Regional Court.The conviction, say experts, is an example of how the thorough investigation of less serious offences using technology could get arrests for other, bigger crimes.Sithole's crimes included burglaries from businesses in 2013 and 2014.He targeted chain stores. He and his syndicate would gain entrance through roofs, then, using grinders, would open safes and make off with money and other valuables.They were caught when they fled the scene of a burglary. But it was the empty bottle that linked him to other crimes. His crime sprees had included businesses around Da-Gamaskop, Hartenbos and Ladismith areas.Further investigation into Sithole's background revealed that he was a career criminal from Gauteng who possessed an illegal firearm.Criminologist Johan Burger said that in the past, crimes like burglary were often neglected. Forensic evidence, like collecting fingerprints, was not often taken, he said."It is under acting national commissioner Lieutenant- General Kgomotso Phahlane that police appear to be investigating cases with new vigour," said Burger.Forensic trainer Tanya Mottalini, who works with the DNA Project - an NGO with a focus on training in forensic science - said police were now better trained to gather genetic material."They are more aware of what can be used to gather DNA," she explained.Mottalini said police were now using equipment that could get results from smaller samples.

This article is reserved for Sunday Times subscribers.

A subscription gives you full digital access to all Sunday Times content.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Registered on the BusinessLIVE, Business Day or Financial Mail websites? Sign in with the same details.

Questions or problems? Email or call 0860 52 52 00.