INTERPOL'S I-FAMILIA DATABASE
This week we read about how the 'woman with the flower tattoo’ was finally identified after 31 years. The victim, Rita Roberts, has finally been given her name back, bringing closure to her family.
This case was part of Operation #Identify-Me, an appeal launched earlier this year seeking the public’s help in identifying 22 women believed to have been murdered. Operation #Identify-Me is an INTERPOL initiative aiming to enhance global missing persons' identification which is leveraging advanced forensic techniques and DNA databases like i-Familia to streamline the identification process. By utilising family DNA kinship matching and sophisticated algorithms, this operation helps empower international law enforcement agencies to collaborate effectively in identifying missing individuals, offering closure to families irrespective of borders. In June this year, we heard more about the I-Familia database from Dr Francois-Xavier Laurent (pictured above). Dr Laurent is the DNA Database manager in charge of the INTERPOL DNA Database & I-Familia whose presentation focused on 'Insights into Interpol's iFamilia DNA Database for Humanitarian Efforts in Africa'. While various methods aid these investigations, he highlighted how DNA plays a pivotal role, often crucial in affirming or disproving associations. Dr Laurent also spoke to us about situations when direct DNA identification isn't feasible due to the absence of reference samples, that indirect identification through relatives' DNA becomes vital. Utilising likelihood ratio values as an initial step, traditional DNA databases assess missing person fits within pedigrees but he cautioned that deploying DNA kinship matching on a global scale also poses challenges.
In response to these challenges, INTERPOL unveiled I-Familia in June 2021. This innovative database utilises family DNA kinship matching, employing software like BoNAPARTE and global allele frequencies to classify potential matches. By streamlining decision-making in missing person inquiries, especially with limited overlapping genetic markers, I-Familia aids international data comparison, offering closure to families seeking missing loved ones discovered beyond their native borders. You can watch his presentation here by following this link.