Congenital cataracts facial dysmorphism neuropathy (CCFDN) syndrome (OMIM 604168) is an autosomal recessive developmental disorder that occurs in an endogamous group of Vlax Roma (Gypsies; refs. 1-3). We previously localized the gene associated with CCFDN to 18qter, where a conserved haplotype suggested a single founder mutation. In this study, we used recombination mapping to refine the gene position to a 155-kb critical interval. During haplotype analysis, we found that the non-transmitted chromosomes of some unaffected parents carried the conserved haplotype associated with the disease. Assuming such parents to be completely homozygous across the critical interval except with respect to the disease-causing mutation, we developed a new 'not quite identical by descent' (NQIBD) approach, which allowed us to identify the mutation causing the disease by sequencing DNA from a single unaffected homozygous parent. We show that CCFDN is caused by a single-nucleotide substitution in an antisense Alu element in intron 6 of CTDP1 (encoding the protein phosphatase FCP1, an essential component of the eukaryotic transcription machinery), resulting in a rare mechanism of aberrant splicing and an Alu insertion in the processed mRNA. CCFDN thus joins the group of 'transcription syndromes' and is the first 'purely' transcriptional defect identified that affects polymerase II-mediated gene expression.