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With Nearly Identical DNA, Identical Twin Suspects Confound Serial Rape Investigation

Update Date: Feb 11, 2013 11:57 AM EST

Police in the southern French city of Marseille are dumbfounded over a case of identical twins. Identified only as Elwin and Yohan, the police have arrested both of them on charges of sexual assault against six women with ages ranging from 22 years old to 76 years old. However, despite the fact that they have DNA evidence and victim testimony, police do not know which twin is to blame - because their DNA is virtually identical.

According to the BBC, police know that one, if not both, of the 24-year-old unemployed delivery truck drivers is behind the serial rape crimes. The investigation has uncovered CCTV footage shot on a bus that featured one of the twins. The police also found a cell phone stolen from one of the victims in the twins' possession, RT reports. The victims have pointed to them as the perpetrators. However, the victims were not able to tell the pair apart.

The investigators also have DNA evidence linking the pair. According to United Press International, the DNA was too similar to distinguish between the twins. As an expert explained, a normal investigation would mean that the laboratory would analyze 400 of the base pairs of nucleotides of which DNA consists. However, in order to conclusively distinguish between twins, researchers would need to analyze billions of base pairs. That analysis could cost upwards of $1.3 million.

The chief investigator of the case, Emmanuel Kiehl, said that these tests were so burdensome and expensive that they were rarely performed in French laboratories, the National Post reports.

In 2011, Canadian researchers who were investigating the genetic origins of schizophrenia found that identical twins' genetic material was not exactly identical. That finding upended years of traditional genetic theory, and held particular import for police officers.

Police officers have long been stumped by the crimes committed by identical twins. As recently as 2009, identical twin brothers evaded charges in Germany that they committed a robbery in a department store, when police could not conclusively determine which twin had left his DNA behind in a latex glove.

Unsurprisingly, both of the suspects deny involvement in the attacks. 

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