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Largest ever DNA sweep planned in 13-year-old unsolved murder case

Prosecutors investigating the gruesome murder of a 16-year-old girl are planning the largest DNA-gathering exercise ever undertaken in the Netherlands.

A pathway in Veenklooster near the spot where 16-year-old Marianne Vaatstra's body was found in 1999Marianne Vaatstra was found dead in a meadow in Friesland in May 1999. She had been raped, strangled and had her throat slit.

The public prosecutor’s office (Openbare Ministerie) said DNA found on a cigarette lighter recovered from the scene did not match the dead girl.

Because the lighter was bought near the scene of the murder in Veenklooster, prosecutors say the killer is likely to be from the local area.

They have now asked the senior administrative office of the Openbare Ministerie for permission to collect DNA from people living in a large area of Friesland. It is the first time such a wide-ranging DNA ‘sweep’ has been considered.

The investigation into the Vaatstra murder has been helped by developments in technology. Since 2007 a specialist research team has used 3D techniques to create a digital timeline and a virtual model of the crime scene.

Initial suspicions fell on an asylum seekers’ centre in nearby Kollum. An Iraqi and an Afghan asylum seeker who had recently left the camp were detained in the United Kingdom and Turkey, but DNA tests revealed they were not linked to the killing.

Three years later a DNA profile showed the murderer was most likely to be a white European male.

Police have already trawled the national DNA database for possible matches, but the exercise yielded no results.

Non-suspects cannot be compelled to give DNA samples, but the OM hopes to be able to narrow the focus of its inquiry and identify possible relatives of the killer.

Investigative crime journalist Peter R. de Vries, who featured the case on his TV show in May, welcomed the development.

Police said they had received 20 tips after 1.3 million people tuned into the programme. They now believe Marianne knew her killer and went to the meadow with him voluntarily, unaware of his intentions.

De Vries said on Twitter: “I am convinced that police will solve the murder of Marianne Vaatstra if they go down this route.”