The first ever mass fingerprinting involved over 45,000 men to solve one crime.

Police fingerprinted over 45,000 men to find the killer of June Anne Devaney, the first time mass fingerprinting had been used to solve a crime?

This case is unique in the fact that it involved the fingerprinting of the entire adult, male population of Blackburn, Lancashire. It was 12.45 on 14 May 1948, nurse Humphreys was doing her rounds of Ward CH3, of Blackburn's Queen's Park Hospital. When she reached the cot of four-year-old June Ann Devaney she was horrified to find the child was missing.

Under the cot was a Winchester bottle and on the highly-polished floor were the impressions of stockinged, adult footprints. The police were called and a search was made of the building and grounds. The childs body was discovered about 300 feet away in the grounds, huddled against a wall. She had been raped and it looked as if the killer had beaten her head against the wall.

The bottle found under the bed had some clear fingerprints on it and examination of the footprints showed that they had been made by the socks of an adult. By 15th June 2,017 people had been processed and eliminated from the inquiry. It was at this point that the police decided that the only way they were going to catch this man would be to widen the search. it was decided to fingerprint the whole adult, male population of Blackburn.

Going from house to house and using the electoral register as a guide, the police slowly fingerprinted every male over the age of 16. This included people who had since left the area or had travelled abroad.

It was on 12th August that all the hard work finally paid off. It was fingerprint set number 46,253 and belonged to Peter Griffiths of Birley Street. He was a 22-year-old packer at a flour-mill. He was arrested the following night and soon admitted his guilt. He had once served in the Welsh Guards, was of low intelligence and beleived to be schizophrenic. On the fatal night he had been out drinking and had set out to 'get sobered up'. He made no mention about the rape and killing but said that he picked the girl out of the cot and she had put her arms around his neck.

Peter Griffiths was charged and tried at Lancaster Assizes. It took the jury only 23 minutes to return a verdict of guilty and he was hanged at Walton Gaol on 19th November 1948 by Albert Pierrepoint.

Picture (Peter Griffiths) credit: murderpidia

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