Work to establish forensic lab in Antigua continues

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DNA samples are currently sent abroad for analysis to confirm the identity of dead bodies (Photo courtesy labmanager.com)
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By Latrishka Thomas

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Plans to establish a much-needed forensic laboratory in the country have not been abandoned, as affirmed by Public Safety Minister Steadroy Benjamin in the latest update on the matter.

Benjamin told Observer, “It’s going well. The plans are in progress, and the Director of Forensic Services is doing an excellent job at the moment. I am satisfied with the progress.”

However, Minister Benjamin emphasised the need for patience, stating, “These things take time, you know. They don’t happen overnight.”

The Legal Affairs Minister had initially announced in June that the lab would come on stream within a month, but in late July he told Observer that plans were still ongoing and that the lab would initially begin operating from a temporary location.

He could not provide a specific timeline.

Minister Benjamin also indicated that, with the financial support of a relevant organisation, a state-of-the-art facility similar to the one in St Kitts would eventually be established.

The demand for a lab of this nature has persisted for years due to the extended wait times the police face when sending evidence overseas for analysis.

Currently, DNA samples also have to be sent abroad for analysis to confirm the identity of dead bodies – a process which can take several months, as in the case of a teenage boy believed to have perished in a house fire in Nut Grove in January 2022.

DNA was sent overseas after being discovered at the scene of the blaze, but it took 11 months for the results to be returned, and thus a long delay in the child being laid to rest.

At this moment, the Willikies family of missing autistic teen, Shamar Harrigan, is still awaiting results of tests from human remains found in close proximity to some of Harrigan’s personal effects during a search for the boy in December last year.

At least two other families are also awaiting results from DNA samples taken from remains found at the Diamonds Estate in June.

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