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In May 1999, a disturbing crime shocked the inhabitants of Kollum, a small village in the Netherlands. A local 16-year-old girl was found raped and murdered in a field nearby, and some people said that Iraqi or Afghan residents at an asylum seekers’ centre in the village could be to blame. Tensions rose: a fight broke out at a planning meeting about the centre. With the case unsolved, the public prosecutor turned to a newly launched research database containing Y-chromosome profiles from men across the world. When forensic scientists compared DNA from semen collected at the crime scene with profiles stored in this Y-chromosome Haplotype Reference Database (YHRD) and elsewhere, they found that the murderer was very probably of northwestern European descent, showing that the villagers’ assumptions were unfounded. The discovery helped to calm social tensions — although the case was not solved for many years until, with the aid of more DNA work, a local farmer was found guilty.