Russian authorities hunting a serial killer asked New Zealand police to search their DNA database in a bid to catch the dangerous and wanted murderer.

The request is one of at least 38 for DNA searches made to New Zealand police from international law enforcement agencies hunting foreign killers and criminals since a law change in 2016.

Most of the requests have come from Australian police (19) to help solve homicides, robberies and sex crimes.

However, information obtained by the Herald under the Official Information Act shows the Russian Investigative Committee made a DNA database search request to New Zealand authorities on October 6, 2016 to help catch a serial killer.

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The Herald asked police for information relating to the Russian request, including whether New Zealand police had actively looked for the alleged murderer. However police were unable to respond yesterday.

Several requests from United States police departments, including in California, North Carolina, Massachusetts and Virginia have been made since the 2016 amendment to help solve homicides and rapes.

Police in Manchester, Cheshire, Buckinghamshire, Radnage and the Metropolitan Police in London have all made requests.

This year, a DNA search request to help solve a homicide was made by Forensic Science Ireland on February 26, while Swiss police also made a request on April 11 as part of a separate homicide investigation.

Despite the increased sharing of police intelligence and resources, there has only been one known DNA hit in New Zealand's database relating to overseas requests - connected to a cold case in South Australia.

On November 16 last year the South Australian Police requested a DNA search to help solve an 18-year-old unsolved murder.

Robert Peter Sabeckis, 42, who was shot dead on January 13, 2000 in a carpark in Maslin Beach, a southern coastal suburb of Adelaide.

South Australian police officer Mike Symonds holding the weapon used in the murder of Robert Sabeckis. Photo / Supplied
South Australian police officer Mike Symonds holding the weapon used in the murder of Robert Sabeckis. Photo / Supplied

South Australian Police alleged the shooter drove off in Sabeckis' vehicle, which was then found crashed near the crime scene.

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The alleged killer was seen running from the vehicle across paddocks and police found a sawn-off shotgun and jacket in the area.

The shotgun and another firearm, were stolen during a break-in at a house just days before Sabeckis was murdered.

The house was then burned down, destroying potential forensic evidence, but DNA believed to belong to the killer was taken from several items.

The Australian 2017 DNA search request came back with a match - the first breakthrough in the case.

Robert Sabeckis was killed in South Australia in 2000. Photo / Supplied
Robert Sabeckis was killed in South Australia in 2000. Photo / Supplied

Then in March, the Herald revealed that police had arrested a man from Piha in West Auckland for Sabeckis' murder, on a warrant issued in the South Australia Magistrates court in January.

The alleged killer's DNA was collected in July last year when he was arrested for a minor crime - his first - in New Zealand.

Just days after the arrest, the accused was revealed to be Paul Beveridge Maroroa who was extradited to Australia to face the charge.

He will appear in an Adelaide court again next month.

Paul Beveridge Maroroa was arrested for the murder of Robert Sabeckis and extradited to Australia. Photo / Doug Sherring
Paul Beveridge Maroroa was arrested for the murder of Robert Sabeckis and extradited to Australia. Photo / Doug Sherring

The arrest, however, would never have occurred before the New Zealand Criminal Investigations (Bodily Samples) Act 1995 was amended in 2016 to allow access to and disclosure of information on the New Zealand DNA database under the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act 1992.

"Since legislation was changed there have been several requests from overseas law enforcement agencies, however this (Maroroa's case) is the first search that hit against a profile held on the New Zealand national DNA database," Detective Superintendent Dave Lynch said earlier this year.

Despite the usefulness of DNA to help solve cold cases in particular, there is also the potential for human rights and privacy violations.

Last November, the Herald revealed that thousands of New Zealanders had their DNA illegally taken and stored by police over a four-year period, after using a faulty consent form which omitted several statutory rights.

Inspector John Walker, the manager of the police's national forensic services, said 3677 Kiwis had their DNA unlawfully taken from September 2010 to August 2014.

In 2015 police wrote to the 3677 people and those who had not subsequently been convicted of an offence for which their DNA could be held, advising them of their right to have their DNA removed from the database.

Walker said 115 people responded and their DNA was destroyed.