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Aussie Cops Seek Rapist Via DNA

April 8, 2000

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) _ Police hunting the rapist of a 91-year-old woman began conducting DNA tests Saturday on the entire adult male population of a small rural community.

Police say the mass testing in the town of Wee Waa, 310 miles north of Sydney, is aimed at cutting down the list of potential suspects in the beating and rape of the woman in her home two years ago.

Villagers were free to refuse the test, and Assistant Police Commissioner Clive Small has said those choosing not to come forward will not automatically be thought of as a suspect.

But that argument was rejected by New South Wales state lawmaker Richard Jones.

``The DNA testing at Wee Waa is not really voluntary because any person who refuses to do it will obviously be deemed to be guilty by the rest of the community,″ he said.

Critics have questioned the value of the tests, saying the rape occurred during cotton-harvesting season when the village was flooded with itinerant workers who have long since left.

Civil liberty groups also have criticized the screening. Michael Antrum, chairman of the New South Wales state Law Society’s human rights committee, said it offered ``a frightening glimpse of a future police state.″

About 600 men over the age of 18 were expected to undergo the screening. The first men to take the tests were the village’s police officers, who gave saliva samples on Friday.

Detectives declined to comment on the follow-up to Saturday’s measure, which marked the first mass DNA testing in Australia.

Such screenings are common in Britain, with more than 100 carried out in the last five years. One-third of the those resulted in arrests, the Sydney Morning Herald said.

The British program ran into controversy last year when the government proposed setting up a nationwide DNA databank using samples taken in mass testings. Previously, samples from those proven innocent were destroyed.

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