Offbeat

Leech Provides DNA That Proves Robber Guilty

Last fall an Australian man faced the music (as it plays favored tunes in jail) for an armed robbery committed in 2001 after police made an unusual DNA match using blood from a leech!

Peter Alec Cannon, aged 54, and an accomplice robbed and assaulted a 71-year-old woman at her home, stealing $500 from her.

leech

Leeches are parasitic, ugly worms that feed on blood and tissue and they have been the subject of scientific study down through time. In centuries past, doctors often used leeches to draw blood. Some “barbers” performed surgery as well as cutting hair, and they used leeches for their “procedures.”

When a barber finished surgery, he took the bloody bandage and wrapped it around a pole as proof. Hence, the origin of the white and red swirled barber pole. Today, American and European scientists are studying leech saliva and its ability to stop blood clots, which may one day be used to help humans.

It’s another matter, however, for those humans on the wrong side of the long arm of the law. The Supreme Court in Launceston on the island state of Tasmania was the site where Cannon pleaded guilty to aggravated armed robbery. In an odd twist of fate, a policeman at the scene of the crime had picked up a leech from a nearby safe, from which forensic scientists were able to extract blood and a DNA sample. (It was the only evidence the police had.)

Cannon was sentenced to two years in prison where he must serve a minimum of nine months before he is eligible for parole.

It is not known if the leech that cracked the case will receive any praise for its important role in apprehending this criminal.

Bloody unfair, some might say.

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