This story is a great example of how new technology is being used by law enforcement to solve cold crime cases and catch criminals who almost got away.
Police in West Mercia, United Kingdom used new DNA testing technology to link a man to a cold criminal case from 1987 that involved the rape of a 16-year-old schoolgirl in Alvechurch, Worcestershire, UK.
Steven Hearl was sentenced to over six years in prison last week for sexually assaulting the girl 28 years ago.
Hearl confessed to the sexual assault after DNA testing linked him to the attack during a cold-case review of unsolved rape cases.
Hearl received concurrent prison sentences for his sex crimes after he also pleaded guilty to two indecent assault charges and as well as one charge of attempted buggery.
Police say that Hearl was never identified as a suspect in the 1987 rape case due to a lack of DNA evidence and testing at the time.
However, this past July, new DNA testing revealed a match for Hearl, which led to his arrest.
The lead investigator in the case, Detective Paul Hardman, said that Hearl’s victim had to suffer with worry and grief for decades, knowing that her attacker was still free for all of these years.
Detective Hardman said that he hopes Hearl’s capture and sentencing will finally give the victim some closure and peace of mind.
The West Mercia Police have a team of investigators in their major crime division that use the latest forensic technology to analyze archived evidence for solving cold-case crimes like this.
In some cases, the major crime division has been able to solve cold-cases that were over 30 years old and convicted criminals who had remained at large for decades.
In recent years, advances in forensic technology and DNA matching have allowed criminal investigators around the world to solve cold cases from long ago.