Prostitute's murder trial 'based on faulty tests'

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HEATHER MILLS Home Affairs Correspondent

Police have re-opened the investigation into the murder of Lynette White, the prostitute hacked to death seven years ago on St Valentine's day, a case which led to one of Britain's most serious miscarriages of justice.

Three years after three men were cleared by the Court of Appeal of her murder, South Wales Police are investigating claims that at least two original suspects may have been wrongly eliminated from inquiries because of inadequate DNA and blood-group testing.

Yesterday South Wales Police said officers had met with forensic scientists to re-evaluate the scientific evidence in the case. Concerns had been raised by Alun Michael, Labour's home affairs spokesman, and Satish Sekar, who has been researching the case.

Ms White, 20, was killed in her "punters' room", above a betting shop in Butetown, Cardiff. She was stabbed more than 50 times, her left breast was almost severed and her throat was slit to the spine. Blood had been spattered everywhere.

Within days, South Wales Police had details of their prime suspect, a white man seen in blood-stained clothing in a distressed state outside her flat after the murder. A photofit was issued and Detective Chief Superintendent John Williams said in March 1988: "This man almost certainly had the blood of the deceased on him."

But 10 months later, five black men were charged with murder, largely on the evidence of two prostitute friends of Ms White's, one of whom had named a succession of different people in 18 statements to police. There was also a so-called confession by one of the five, Stephen Miller. He had a mental age of 11, and his "confession" was obtained only after 300 denials during five days of interviews.

After one of the longest murder trials in Britain, lasting 197 days, three of the five, Mr Miller, Tony Paris and Yusef Abdullahi, were convicted.

Supporters mounted a campaign and two years later the Court of Appeal cleared the three, after the judges ruled Mr Miller's "confession" had been obtained in a "travesty of an interview".

Mr Sekar has since discovered that the blood groups of two earlier suspects, both white, were almost identical to the rare grouping found in the dead woman's flat. Both were eliminated by DNA profiling which has since been called into question. It is understood the samples will be re-tested.

Mr Sekar, who has researched the case for a book, Fitted In, said yesterday: "I am not accusing either of the two men. I am saying that their elimination from the inquiries can no longer be relied upon. It is tragic that it has taken six years for anyone to notice that the original DNA testing was unreliable". In a statement, South Wales Police said: "We are acutely aware of advances in forensic science."

The statement added that officers were evaluating "a number of crimes over the past year, including the murder of Lynette White".