In an earlier post, I related how I got so peed off with the ignorant credulity of the Independent on Sunday’s science writing that I switched to the Observer. Yesterday’s front page story gave me cause to start rethinking my decision:
Forensic DNA tests ‘reveal traces of Madeleine’s body on resort beach’
. This reported how a “former detective renowned for locating abducted children” with the aid of some super-secret technology he had developed, had gone to Portugal at the request of the McCanns and identified an area of a beach where their missing child’s body was. Police dug over the area and bought in sniffer dogs, but found nothing. The headline and reporting (“DNA sample” “GPS satellite technology” etc) made it all sound as if this Mr Krugel was using real scientific forensic methods.
However, taking a closer look at his methods, they’re about as forensic and scientific as my left tit!
Danie Krugel is a South African ex-policeman. The report says, accurately enough, that he is “of the University of Bloemfontein”, which makes him sound like a proper professor-type scientist. In fact, he’s the head of the University’s security and has no scientific training whatsoever. Neither will he reveal anything about how his technology works; all he comes up with is vague stuff like “The technology I use picks up a trace using DNA and complex and secret science techniques” A single hair clipping is, he says, all that he needs; his machine extracts the DNA, then searches for, and amplifies the unique signal given out by the rest of the body – signals that Krugel picks up by GPS satellites.
All that makes me think he’s deluded rather than a conman. A conman would at least try to make his quack device sound scientifically plausible. To enumerate just some of the errors in that paragraph: hair without some follicle attached does not carry DNA; DNA does not give out a signal that can be picked up by satellites; forensic scientists would be cheering if they could extract, sequence and analyse DNA simply by popping it into a magic box for a few moments.
There’s also a serious logical error in his claims; since we shed hairs and skin cells all the time, won’t our DNA signals be coming from every single place that we have ever been?

Danie Krugel has been at this since 2004 and has yet to patent his device, explain properly how it works, or subject it to any kind of examination. Neither has he submitted it to a real test. Despite that, he’s managed to get a group of businessmen involved in his scheme; I would guess that his claims to find oil and diamonds by the same methods have something to do with this (and no, I didn’t know that diamonds and oil have DNA either…). This summer, he was propelled into the limelight when he fooled a South African TV show, where he was supposed to find the murdered bodies of five girls. Leading the police to a vacant lot close to the (now-dead) killer’s house – a place where nobody would think of looking for his victim’s bodies – he pinpointed an area the size of a rugby pitch (although he had previously claimed to locate bodies up to only two metres). The lot had been used a a rubbish dump and a farm-worker’s camp; it was also in the water runoff zone from a cemetery. It should therefore have been no great surprise when the investigators, sorting through the considerable rubbish dug up, found a few human bone fragments. The fragments seemed to come from five bodies; three of them were male and the DNA of all the fragments was too degraded to be analysed. This didn’t stop the TV show from proclaiming that Krugel’s “technology” worked and he that had found the missing girls.
It’s a pity that they didn’t interview the South African couple who hired him to find their missing son in 2006. He told them that the young man was alive and moving around the country. In fact, his remains were found undisturbed in the remote forest where he had last been seen hiking; he appeared to have died from a snakebite.
If you want to judge Danie Krugel’s successes for yourself, you can go to, which lists all of the missing persons cases that he has solved.
All three of them. Yes, three; and only in one of which did he actually find the missing person. This was a teenage runaway; 90 minutes after her mother had given him some hair to analyse along with a photo, Danie Krugel discovered the girl alive and well in a nearby street. During those 90 minutes, he had talked to some of her friends and walked around her haunts with the photograph; the mother never saw him actually use his marvelous machine. Impressive – NOT.

Still, at least he didn’t tell the McCanns that Madeleine was alive and travelling around. When police failed to find a body, he came up with the decidedly lame excuse that perhaps she had been buried there temporarily. So – why didn’t he pick up where the body is now?
Just how much of the £1M+ Find Madeleine fund has been spent on paying this charlatan?

ETA: Most of the above info should be credited to Moonflake, who has dug deep into the mire to expose this fantasist.
Bad Science is also on the case.

More ETA: The Daily Mirror has published a story rubbishing Krugel’s claims