Serial Killers or Kidnapping for Ransom Gone Wrong? Forensic Identification of Commingled Human Remains of Four Female Victims Retrieved from a Septic Tank in Takoradi, Ghana

Wednesday September 20th, 2023 // 2:40 pm - 3:00 pm // Hyatt Regency at the Colorado Convention Center, Centennial Ballroom

Rapid identification of human remains following civil wars, natural disasters and excavation of mass graves is essential for bringing speedy resolution to family members of victims.


Although human identification using forensic DNA profiling has made enormous advancement over the past two and a half decades, disaster victim identification, missing person identification, and forensic casework analysis are often complicated by sample degradation due to exposure to harsh environmental conditions. Under such harsh environmental conditions, the total deterioration of soft tissues leaves skeletal remains as the only available sample for DNA testing in order to identify missing persons, victims of natural disasters, or exonerate suspect(s) in a criminal case. Forensic DNA profiling provides enormous genetic data from a variety of biological materials and individuals to help solve many important criminal and civil cases that confront society.


The interval between the disaster and receipt of victim samples at a laboratory is critical to correctly estimate postmortem interval.


We report the findings of a case involving commingled human remains of four missing women submitted to the Forensic Science Laboratory of the Ghana Police Service for forensic DNA profiling in comparison to alleged living relatives of the victims. The police later revealed that the women were kidnapped, sexually assaulted, killed and dumped into two septic tanks in two different houses where the suspect lived.

Materials and Methods:

DNA from skull and femur bones as well as buccal swabs of alleged relatives (mother, father) of the deceased were extracted, quantified and STR profiled using Qiagen’s Investigator kit, Applied Biosystem’s Quantifiler trio, and GlobalFiler kits respectively.



Full STR profiles were generated for both the skulls, femur bones and the buccal swabs from the alleged relatives.



The skulls and femur bones were positively identified genetically to be that of the victims. The remains were thus handed over to the relatives for final funeral rites and burial to bring closure to the long search for the victims.


Kofi Adjapong Afrifah

Assistant Professor, Department of Criminal Justice, Bowie State University

Dr. Kofi A. Afrifah has 12 years experience as a forensic DNA analyst with the Ghana Police Forensic Laboratory, where he served as the technical leader. His research interests are in low template DNA and microbial forensics

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