Kidnapped girls: DNA process begins as four families avail themselves
The Ghana Police Forensic Science Laboratory professionals have assured the families of the four missing Takoradi girls in the ongoing investigation that the police are well equipped with human resource and equipment to conduct DNA tests, using the latest globally accepted method.
They have thus given an assurance of a good outcome of the exercise to establish the identities of four human skeletons discovered in two suburbs of Sekondi-Takoradi on August 2, 2019.
The Head of the Forensic Science Laboratory, Supt Dr Kofi Adjapong Afrifah, said the personnel of the unit would not downgrade their own credibility and that of the Ghana Police Service by altering the result or acting unprofessionally.
The leader of the forensic team gave the assurance yesterday when samples of the parents of the four missing girls which will help in the DNA tests, were taken at the Western Regional Police Command.
Supt Dr Afrifah revealed that it was a simple process which ended in about 40 minutes.
A sampling method known as Buccal Swab — collecting DNA from the cells on the inside of a person's cheek for analysis — was used.
The team, he said, was very much aware of the interest of the families and that of the entire nation and that “we are in to help confirm that the identity of the remains are those of the missing girls or otherwise, and I can assure all that we would come up with results that even if the same test is conducted anywhere in the world, the result would be the same 99.99 per cent if it is yes. If it’s negative, it would be the same result everywhere 00.00 per cent everywhere.”
Process not instant
The forensic expert said the results of the test would not be known immediately as the exercise would go through a thorough process to profile the remains before establishing their link with the sample from the living parents.
“After the initial extraction, we would then go through the process known as quantitation to give us the amount of DNA we have extracted and follow other processes before getting the DNA profiled,” he said.
“I must say again, that we will be very meticulous in our work, employ the globally accepted methods and come out with results that will be accepted by all, irrespective of where the tests are conducted,” Dr Afrifah emphasised.
Asked if the Ghana Police Service had the capability to conduct such an important test which was at the heart of every Ghanaian, Supt Dr Afrifah said: “We in the Ghana Police Service have had the human resource or the team since 2010.”
“I want to assure the public that the capacity of the police has always been there, we have highly trained DNA officers and every one of them is competent to handle the case at hand.
“The interest in finding solutions to the ongoing investigations in the case of the missing girls is very high, and we are going to ensure that the results are the same not only to help resolve the issue but also establish our credibility,” he stressed.
Supt Dr Afrifah said the team would also use a method known as GlobalFiler, which combined maximum compatibility with global data-basing loci standards, with dramatically reduced amplification time and superior discrimination power, helping to enable forensic DNA laboratories worldwide to maximise information recovery and improve overall efficiency.
“With the GlobalFiler, if the test is being done in Ghana, Canada, United States, Russia, Japan or wherever, I can assure the nation that the results will turn out to be the same, provided the samples are from the same source,” he said.
Common sets of short tandem repeat (STR) markers or "core loci" are required for entry of DNA genotype data into national or international databases used to link serial crimes and offenders.
“Rapid cycle DNA amplification” as used refers to completion of 30 cycles of amplification in 10–30 min. A new “high-performance” system requires about half as much time.
Meeting the families
“Assuming somebody wants a second opinion, they will know that we did not let ourselves, the service and our nation down; the results will be the same from same sample sources.”
Supt Dr Afrifah, who was assisted by Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Dr Alexander Dadu Boateng, said they met each family separately and they were counselled, made to sign a consent form and understood the process in order to cooperate with the process.
“I must say that samples were taken without any difficulty or hindrance to the process; we took the samples from four family members – mothers and fathers — as well as some of the siblings of the missing persons,” he said.
“I must say that in cases like these usually, mothers are of prime importance because the bones were discovered in one area. So the mothers were present to help the process,” he said.
Yes or No result
Supt Dr Afrifah said the process of taking the samples began with a counselling session for the families because of the emotional challenges involved and the willingness of the prime persons to go through the process.
They were made to understand and to assess their ability to accept the outcome which would be either ‘YES’ or ‘NO’.
“We have to first counsel them and let them know what they avail themselves to go through.
“Once they are made to understand the possible outcome of the test, we then take their samples because we cannot force anyone to go through the process, so we have to counsel them to prepare for the outcome, which is basically two,” he explained.
Supt Dr Afrifah further revealed that apart from the counselling, family members present were allowed to ask questions. “I must say that we had good interactions with them before the processes began,” he added.
When the Daily Graphic arrived at the venue where the samples were taken, the family members were already seated, looking more cheerful and calmer than they did during previous interactions.
They interacted well with the Regional Police Commander, ACP Vincent Dedjoe, and the forensic team at the Command before they were called in individually to donate samples.