Is it hard for you to remember that there was a time when there was no such thing as DNA evidence? Well, I think it's hard to remember that fingerprint evidence had to be invented, too!
On this date in 1905, the first murder case was solved through fingerprinting. The police had been taking fingerprints for a few years, and a court had admitted fingerprint evidence in a petty-theft case a few years ago. In the current case, police believed that two shopkeepers were killed in a robbery, and they dusted the cash drawer for fingerprints. There was one print that did not match either of the shopkeeper victims. Could it belong to the killer?
The detectives consulted the tiny file of fingerprints that Scotland Yard had gathered in the past few years. None of those prints matched. It was looking like fingerprint evidence wasn't going to be helpful in the case.
The police did what they'd always done—what they still do—which is to interview people near the scene of the crime, hoping somebody had seen something. They discovered a local milkman who had seen two young men near the murder site. Based on the milkman's description, the police narrowed down the search to the Stratton brothers, and they finally tracked them down.
Unfortunately, the milkman couldn't be positive the Stratton brothers were the men he'd seen.
Fortunately, the police had another way to get an ID—they fingerprinted the two brothers. And, lo and behold, Alfred Stratton's right thumb was a perfect match for the print on the victims' cash box!
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