Revolutionary DNA kit designed to help find missing children goes on sale in Portugal from Sunday

Rolling out on the International Day of the Child is a revolutionary DNA ‘kit’ that promises to help and speed up investigations into any kind of missing child case.

“Unique in Europe”, the initiative is being spearheaded by Portugal’s association for missing children (APCD), an entity that deals every with all manner of child disappearances – very often involving parental ‘abductions’ as a result of acrimonious splits and divorces.

But the beauty of this ‘kit’ – which parents can purchase for €24.90 – is that in cases like the disappearance of Ben Needham from the Greek island of Kos 24 years ago, or even that of Madeleine McCann from the Algarve in 2007, any ‘possible leads’ transpiring years later could be checked for DNA.

Detectives searching for Ben Needham in Kos last month said that they were keen to interview a man called Nikos who was known to have been in the company of a blond younger man.

If this young man is found to be a possible grown-up Ben, then a kit with his DNA stored within it would help hugely in establishing this.

“O Meu ADN”, as the kit is known here, has been developed by APCD in collaboration with GNR police and Interpol consultant Derek Forest.

Designed also to carry fingerprints, the idea is that parents keep it safe at home in the event that their child ever does go missing.

The kit would then be handed over to police, who would thus have a ‘head start’ in any investigation.

APCD’s president Patrícia Cipriano has told Público that with the data, national authorities would have the possibility of “identifying missing people more rapidly, and comparing forensic evidence with samples taken on the ground”.

The kit includes a kind of cotton bud to take a sample of saliva, sterilised gloves, finger-print cards, a DNA memory card and a form for parents to list other identifying characteristics of their child.

APCD has also created a website (www.meuadn.pt), explaining these kits could also go a long way to funding the association, which does not benefit from any State subsidies.

Patrícia Cipriano also explained that the national DNA database is “insufficient” in the extreme and mired by bureaucracy.

Almost every sample on it “belongs to individuals who have been condemned to jail terms of more than three years” and, according to the database’s last annual report ´released earlier this month, of the 6601 samples, “only four come from volunteers”.

This is massively short of the 30,000 samples that PJ police have said they hope to amass.

The kits will be going on sale from Sunday at Pingo Doce supermarkets, and will have a shelf life of 20 years, adds Público.

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