Year
1968
Month Day
February 07

Forensic evidence solves a crime

Bernard Josephs returns to his house in Bromley, England, and finds his wife Claire lying under the bed, her throat slashed and severed to the spine. Defensive wounds to her hands appeared to be caused by a serrated knife. No weapon was found at the Josephs’ house, and police had no other clues to go on. However, the murder was solved, and the killer convicted within four months, through solid forensic investigation.

Authorities first pinned down the time and circumstances of the crime. Ingredients of a meal that Claire had been preparing were still in a bowl in the kitchen. There was no sign of forced entry into the house and a half-empty cup of coffee was left out on the table. Investigators were fairly certain that a friend or acquaintance had dropped by while Claire was making dinner and so they began to concentrate on family and friends.

One of the people the police questioned was Roger Payne, a recent acquaintance of Bernard and Claire, who had earlier convictions for attacks on women. Police discovered several scratches on his hands, which Payne ascribed to a fight with his wife but his alibi for February 7 was far from airtight.

Forensic evidence focused on Payne’s clothing. Claire Josephs had been wearing a cerise woolen dress at the time of her murder. Although Payne’s clothing had been laundered, the seams and hems still contained over 60 cerise wool fibers matching Josephs’ dress. Investigators then examined Payne’s car and found traces of blood matching Josephs’ blood type, as well as additional clothing fibers.

Payne was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in May 1968. While DNA evidence has captured the public’s imagination in recent years, and is a powerful crime-solving tool, basic fiber and blood tests remain the backbone of forensic investigation. They are reliable, relatively inexpensive, and easy for lay people to understand.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Full U.S.-Cuba embargo is announced

On February 7, 1962, President John F. Kennedy issues an executive order broadening the United States' restrictions on trade with Cuba. The ensuing embargo, which effectively restricts all trade between Cuba and the United States, has had profoundly negative effects on the island ...read more

The Great Baltimore Fire begins

In Baltimore, Maryland, a small fire in the business district is wind-whipped into an uncontrollable conflagration that engulfs a large portion of the city by evening. The fire is believed to have been started by a discarded cigarette in the basement of the Hurst Building. When ...read more

Navy captain becomes the first human to perform an untethered space walk

While in orbit 170 miles above Earth, Navy Captain Bruce McCandless II becomes the first human being to perform an untethered space walk, when he exits the U.S. space shuttle Challenger and maneuvers freely, using a bulky white rocket pack of his own design. McCandless orbited ...read more

European Union treaty signed

After suffering through centuries of bloody conflict, the nations of Western Europe finally unite in the spirit of economic cooperation with the signing of the Maastricht Treaty of European Union. The treaty, signed by ministers of the European Community, called for greater ...read more

Beatles arrive in New York

On February 7, 1964, Pan Am Yankee Clipper flight 101 from London Heathrow lands at New York’s Kennedy Airport—and “Beatlemania” arrives. It was the first visit to the United States by the Beatles, a British rock-and-roll quartet that had just scored its first No. 1 U.S. hit six ...read more

President George W. Bush announces plan for “faith-based initiatives”

President George W. Bush announces his plan to federally fund faith-based initiatives. Bush started his day at a National Prayer Breakfast held in the ballroom of the Washington Hilton Hotel, where he explained the basic philosophy behind his plan. In service to others, he said, ...read more

Earthquake causes fluvial tsunami in Mississippi

On February 7, 1812, the most violent of a series of earthquakes near Missouri causes a so-called fluvial tsunami in the Mississippi River, actually making the river run backward for several hours. The series of tremors, which took place between December 1811 and March 1812, were ...read more

Plea bargaining gains favor in American courts

Albert McKenzie pleads guilty to a misdemeanor count of embezzlement in Alameda County, California. McKenzie had originally been charged with a felony for taking $52.50 from the sewing-machine company for which he worked. However, rather than go through a trial, the prosecution ...read more

Benjamin Franklin publishes “An Imaginary Speech”

In London on February 7, 1775, Benjamin Franklin publishes "An Imaginary Speech" in defense of American courage. Franklin’s speech was intended to counter an unnamed officer’s comments to Parliament that the British need not fear the colonial rebels, because “Americans are ...read more

Josef Mengele, known as the “Angel of Death,” dies

Dr. Josef Mengele, the infamous Nazi doctor who performed medical experiments at the Auschwitz death camps, dies of a stroke while swimming in Brazil—although his death was not verified until 1985. When war erupted, Mengele was a medical officer with the SS, the elite squad of ...read more