Published: 06:00, 21 July 2021
| Updated: 16:10, 21 July 2021
This year marks a decade since a murdered baby’s body was exhumed for DNA – prompting police to vow “no case is ever closed”.
The force still carries the newborn’s genetic codes following radical scientific progress in 2011, as the killer continues to walk free.
A passing couple discovered the girl’s 7lb body wrapped inside a Motaworld carrier bag dumped in Singleton Lake, Ashford, on April 3 1995.
She had been strangled with a pair of tights, wrapped in a Kleenex toilet tissue bag with paper stuffed in her mouth and tossed into the water, police said.
With no means of identification detectives named her ‘Baby April.’
A murder inquiry was launched but the baby’s parents were never found.
Operation Duke investigated 3,858 people to find the girl’s mother, including hundreds of teenage girls in east Kent absent from school at the time of the birth.
Medics were drafted in to help account for all expectant mothers.
A post-mortem revealed Baby April was born between March 26 and April 3 1995, making her a maximum of one-week-old before dying of asphyxiation.
Since then neither her parents or killer has been found.
An investigation into the death of the newborn was reopened in March 2011, where her body was exhumed and reburied in a private cemetery in Bybrook Cemetery.
“The forensic examination is now complete and we have therefore left Baby April to rest in peace,” said Det Insp Dave Withers at the time.
'We want to hear from you and hear your side of the story...'
“I am really pleased with the progress of this investigation so far. With the help of our forensic science providers we now have a full DNA profile of the child.
“Our next step is to identify the parents of the baby.”
The police boss appealed directly to Baby April’s mother vowing she would be handled “sensitively and compassionately.”
“We want to hear from you and hear your side of the story,” he said.
But the case remained cold until August 2011, when officers wanted to trace a couple in their thirties, who were seen visiting Baby April’s grave shortly after she was laid to rest for the final time.
Police in the same year eliminated the pair from the investigation.
Leading up to the 20th anniversary of her death thieves stole toys placed on the grave in February 2015.
A handwritten note was soon found on Baby April’s grave calling the thieves “sick and cruel,” warning them to stay away from the memorial.
It read: “To the person who stole Baby April’s toys. You are sick and cruel.
“Leave Baby April alone. Do you not realise she is watched over? You will be caught soon I hope. Stupid.”
Kent Police continues to urge witnesses to come forward.
'To the person who stole Baby April’s toys. You are sick and cruel...'
A spokesman said: “The cold case team carries out periodic reviews into unsolved murders, rapes and other serious offences, and while the evidence surrounding baby April’s death is not currently being re-examined it is important to remember that no case is ever truly closed.
“We continue to appeal for information that may help us identify new lines of enquiry, and urge anyone who can help to call us.”
Found in almost every cell in the human body, about 99.9% of DNA is the same apart from the remaining 0.1 per cent, which scientists use to help with identification.
Samples can be taken via swab, hair, blood, bodily cells and fluids, with the likelihood of two unrelated people sharing the same DNA being less than one in one billion.
In 1993 American biochemist Dr Kary Mullis was awarded a Nobel Prize in chemistry for inventing polymerase chain reaction (PCR), a central technique still used today in microbiology. It allows testing on samples that have deteriorated over time such as bodies exhumed, enabling scientists to make millions of identical copies of a DNA molecule from a minuscule sample.