ATaiwanese student has been charged with theft after her roommate asked the police to carry out a series of costly DNA tests to find out who had taken a £1.50 yoghurt drink out of the communal fridge at their university digs.
The police investigation and the student who filed the complaint have since been derided by the Taiwanese public, some of whom objected to the waste of taxpayers’ money in carrying out roughly £450 worth of DNA tests on five housemates under suspicion.
The student at the centre of the unusual whodunnit case has not been named, but lived with five other young women all studying at the Chinese Cultural University in Taiwan’s capital, Taipei.
According to local broadcaster TVBS, she returned home last month to find that her yoghurt drink had been consumed without her permission and the empty bottle thrown in the bin.
She confronted her housemates and asked the culprit to step forward, but when nobody owned up she took the bottle to the police and asked them to open a formal investigation into theft.
The police obliged but they could not find fingerprints on the evidence because the container had been wet when handled. The student persisted and asked them to use DNA forensics instead.
She and the other five women were then required to go to the station to submit DNA samples, at a cost of about £76 each, covered by the police department.
According to the Taiwan News website, the cost of DNA sampling and testing is the most expensive form of evidence collection and the Taipei Police Department’s 2019 budget for forensic investigations is set to soar over £550,000.
Speaking to the Apple Daily, one police officer described the resort to expensive tests to solve the yoghurt case as “using a cannon to shoot birds”, while Yeh Yu-lan, a former Central Police University professor, called it an “unheard of waste of police and investigative resources.”
Members of the public also expressed their frustration, questioning why the student who sparked such drama over a trivial matter had not been made to pay for the DNA costs herself.
The obliging actions of the police have also come under the spotlight. In comments translated by the BBC, one man called Mr Liu expressed what was on many people’s minds: “It is a waste of society’s resources. If I was a police officer, I would have just bought her a bottle to reimburse her,” he said.