Hello, Lovelies! Welcome to this week’s blogpost featuring crime solving versions of Rebecca’s patronus! (She actually got a swan when taking the test but she’s in denial). Below you’ll find Rebecca’s notes (and sources!) and information on the podcast featured during this week’s drink break!
This week’s drink break is brought to you by Fataliteas! Fataliteas is a podcast where host, Alysa Lucas, explores true crime cases over tea with the help of her friends because without tea, friends, and good conversation, there is nothing but darkness and chaos.
On October 3, 1994, Shirley Ann Duguay disappeared. Shirley was a 32-year-old mother of 5 and was in a common law marriage.
On Prince Edward Island, October 7, 1994, an abandoned car without plates was found in a field, away from the main road. The car was eventually traced back to Shirley.
As if finding her abandoned car wasn’t concerning enough, blood spatter was found on the windshield and on the interior of the car
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) started investigating and discovered pretty quickly that Shirley’s immediate family had not seen her in a few days.
Blood samples were sent to the RCMP for testing that later showed the blood was from Shirley.
Three weeks after finding the car, a plastic bag was found that contained a man’s leather jacket and a pair of shoes.
Examination of the jacket showed that Shirley’s blood was on this jacket.
Suspect immediately fell to Douglas Beamish, who was a part of Shirley’s common law marriage. It was reported that their 12 year relationship had been rough. Women who were associated with Beamish reported being the victim of domestic violence.
The night Shirley vanished neighbors reported hearing screaming coming from the turbulent couple.
At the time of Shirley’s disappearance, the couple had been separated for 2 years, with Beamish living with his parents. He insisted he had NO idea where Shirley might have gone or what had happened to her.
The shoes found with the leather jacket just happened to be Beamish’s size. This alone was not enough for an arrest.
During the investigation, Constable Roger Savoie noticed while interviewing Beamish that the family had a cat. A white cat, named snowball.
When the jacket was found there were 20 white cat hairs embedded in the back of the jacket.
At the time of this case, DNA evidence had only been introduced about 7 years earlier in Britain. But, the thought of using this technology with animal fur was yet to be done.
This meant that Savoie had a hell of a time finding a lab that would that this evidence, which was cat hair, seriously as a potential source for DNA.
Eventually he found Stephen O’Brien, a geneticist with the U.S. National Cancer Institute and who happened to be the world’s foremost authorities on feline DNA.
O’Brien got to work assembling a lab team while Savoie obtained a subpoena to draw a sample of Snowball’s blood. The contents (hair and blood) were so important Savoie made sure to be the one to hand over the evidence to O’Brien himself.
It was a match, and O’Brien estimated that having a cat with the same profile was roughly 45 million to one
Another source stated that 20 random cats were tested on Prince Edwards Island to help show that the population was diverse enough for the DNA evidence to be viable
Snowballs contribution was done by the time on May 6, 1995, a shallow grave, about 10 miles from where Shirley’s car was originally found, was discovered by a pair of local trout fisherman.
Shirley’s hands were found tied behind her back. There was evidence that Shirley was beaten so forcefully one of her teeth ended up in her lung.
It was at this point Beamish was arrested for first degree murder.
Evidence during the trial included:
- A letter from Beamish to Shirley, threatening to kill her, with his signature written in blood
- A testimony from another girlfriend who described horrible beatings had the hands of Beamish
Beamish’s attorney reportedly stated during the trial “Without the cat, the case fell flat”
On July 19, 1996, with the help of O’Brien’s data, the jury found Beamish guilty of second degree murder and sentenced him to 19 years.
Beamish is serving time in an Ontario prison and, in 2013, had his request for parole denied.
In an episode entitled “Purr-fect Match,” Forensic Files outlined the story on February 12, 2002 (Episode 7 of Season 7). It was also aired on The New Detectives on December 10, 2002, on episode 3 of season 8.
While this case did gain popularity and had many pun-filled headlines, this case set a precedent
Today, there are DNA databases for cats and dogs in the United States and Great Britain, but it’s worth noting that due to the domestication process of our furry companions that their DNA isn’t as reliable as a human’s… but it’s still a tool that investigators can use to make or break a case.
But this isn’t the only case that animal DNA has helped
In July 12 of 2012 on the Southside Beach in the UK the torso of David Guy was found by a group of students, wrapped in a shower curtain. Later, his pelvis and legs would eventually be found. The legs were found by divers.
Guy’s head, arms, some internal organs, and genitals were never found
Inside the shower curtain a couple of fibers were found. These fibers would eventually lead back to David Hilder, who lives in a flat that was nearby to the camper owned by Guy.
The two had what some would describe as a love-hate relationship, with Hilder being the dominant of the two. It’s worth noting one source stated Hilder had an IQ of 65 and was known to suffer from depression.
While Hilder referred to himself as Big Dave and sometimes to Guy as Little Dave, the exact nature of their relationship is not known. But Hilder would often let Guy use the facilities and offered him food.
It’s unclear exactly what happened, but it’s believed the two had an argument, during which Hilder attacked and ultimately murdered Guy by stabbing him in the chest.
Afterwards, Hilder carefully dismembered the body and is believed to have used his “distinctive” bicycle (he was a scrap metal dealer) with a box on the the front to transport the body to different locations
The fibers found on Guy, as stated earlier, pointed back to Hilder’s flat, where trace’s of Guy’s blood were also found.
Some of the fibers used to convict Hilder were, you guessed it, cat hair. Which belonged to HIlder’s cat, Tinker.
Hilder was eventually convicted of manslaughter and given a lifetime sentence, with a minimum of 12 years in prison.
These two cases set a precedent for future cases to allow animal DNA as evidence. While there are many things to consider when admitting animal DNA, such as the fact that most cats and dogs which are domesticated shared ancestors, meaning many animals share sequences. However, this type of evidence could still prove useful during investigations.