Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Britain's Bizarre 'Hair-in-Hand' Murder Case

Hair Analysis

Dr. Stuart Black
Dr. Stuart Black

As time moved forward to 2006 without any significant clues to lead to Heather Barnett's killer — and with Restivo still at the top of their list of suspects for reasons about which investigators would not yet talk — detectives turned to Reading University's Dr. Stuart Black, whose specialty is the forensic analysis of human remains. Using stable isotope analysis, which has revolutionized the science in criminal forensics, on the strands of hair found in Heather's hand, Dr. Black and his colleagues were able to work up a significant profile of the person to whom the hair strands had belonged.

According to Dr. Black, he and his team were able to determine that the strands of hair represented nine months' growth and belonged to a person who lived in the United Kingdom. The person, however, had traveled abroad on two occasions, and had changed their diet twice in the three months prior to the hair being cut. According to a Dorset Police document, the person in question had traveled to "the Valencia-to-Almeria area of eastern Spain and/or the Marseille-to-Perpignan area of southern France for up to six days," approximately eleven weeks before the strands were cut. Afterward, the person visited an urban area of Tampa, Florida., for eight days, approximately two to two and a half weeks before the hair was cut.

Armed with the new information, the Dorset Police Major Crime Investigation Team again appealed to the public for assistance, this time asking that anyone with knowledge of a person traveling to the aforementioned locales prior to Tuesday, November 12, 2002, the day of Heather's murder, to contact detectives.

"The results of the analysis on the hair are a very exciting and very significant development," Cooper told reporters. "We are pursuing a number of lines of inquiry and all possibilities are being investigated."

 

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