On this week’s episode of the Dark Poutine podcast, we hear the tragic story of Shirley Anne Duguay.
In rural Prince Edward Island, on Oct. 7, 1994, a car was found abandoned, away from the main road and in a field. The licence plates were missing and there appeared to be blood spatter on the windshield and throughout the vehicle’s interior. The car was found to belong to a 32-year-old mother of five named Shirley Anne Duguay.
RCMP investigated and were told by Shirley’s family that she had not been seen in days. She’d disappeared, but thanks to evidence found by searchers, police believed that Shirley had been murdered.
Shirley’s body was found months later in a shallow grave. Douglas Leo Beamish, Duguay’s ex-common-law spouse and father of three of her children, was arrested and charged with Duguay’s murder. Some of the evidence used against Beamish had never been utilized at trial before — cat hair.
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Police contacted a laboratory specializing not in forensics, to test the feline DNA found on the scene. A cat has been seen near Beamish’s home and its hair could be a match for the hair found at the crime scene.
The test included a fail-safe method of randomly testing 20 other cats from Prince Edward Island, in order to establish the degree of genetic diversity among cats in the area, to rule out the possibility that the hairs found in the jacket came from a close relative of the family cat, Snowball, or if all the cats on the island had a common ancestor, rendering the DNA test useless.
The tests revealed that the hairs did come from the cat; Beamish was subsequently convicted for the murder of Duguay.
Since then, testing cat and dog hairs has been firmly established and studied, and can be admissible to court as evidence.
Beamish was convicted of second-degree murder and is serving a life sentence in an Ontario prison. His request for parole in 2013 was denied.
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R. v. Beamish, 1999 CanLII 4537 (PE SCAD)
Douglas Leo Beamish at Murderpedia
Forensic Files – Season 7, Ep 7: Purr-fect Match
The New Detectives – Season 8, Ep 3: Material Witness
The Guardian – Parole Denied
Tears of the Cheetah by Dr. Stephen J. O’Brien
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