Code of a Killer

Code of a Killer tells the true story of the discovery of genetic fingerprinting and the first use in a murder case

Code of a Killer tells the true story of the discovery of genetic fingerprinting and the first use in a murder case

Broadcaster: ITV

Year: 2015

Genre: Drama, docudrama, true-life fiction

URLs: This programme was broadcast in two episodes (each 65 mins)
1: http://bobnational.net/record/287750
2: http://bobnational.net/record/288977

This two-part drama tells the story of the invention of genetic fingerprinting by Alec Jeffreys in the mid 1980s, and the first uses later that decade to solve the murders of two Leicestershire schoolgirls. Aside from minor artistic licence (and some name changes), the account is pretty faithful to the actual events.

Having been a student at Leicester in the late 1980s, I have always been familiar with the story. However the fact that a University Challenge team in 2014 struggled to answer a question on the discovery of genetic fingerprinting (before Jeremy Paxman generously accepted their answer “DNA testing”) is a reminder that these events took place long before most current students were born. There is therefore certainly merit in recommending that they watch the programme in its entirety.

If you wanted to focus more on the science of genetic fingerprinting, this 3-minute clip (actually two shorter sections combined) shows the first successful demonstration of the principle. A second 3-minute clip shows the moment Alec Jeffreys reveals to DCS David Baker, the police officer heading up the investigation, that the man who confessed to the crime (given the pseudonym Gavin Hopkirk in the programme) was not in fact the killer, but that a different man – later proven to be Colin Pitchfork – was guilty of both murders.

Warning: as well as some distressing scenes, the full programme includes swearing. 

The IMDb page for this programme can be found via this link.

Incidentally, the real Prof Sir Alec Jeffreys makes a cameo appearance.

Doing a "Hitckcock": the real Alec Jeffreys walks past in this scene with John Simm and David Threlfall

The real Alec Jeffreys does a “Hitchcock” cameo, walking past in this scene with John Simm and David Threlfall

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