Bomb case evidence 'unsafe'

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The Independent Online
SAMPLES linked to four of the Birmingham Six - which revealed explosive traces in new scientific tests - may have been tampered with, a libel court was told yesterday, writes Heather Mills.

Dr Roger King, the scientist who carried out the tests in 1992, reported that no conclusions could be drawn from his results because of the 'real possibility' that the samples had been contaminated during the 18 years that they had been stored since the Birmingham pub bombings.

Furthermore, Dr Frank Skuse, the scientist who took the samples in 1974 and first claimed to have found nitroglycerine traces on the hands of two of them, believed they had been subsequently 'adulterated'.

He saw the samples in 1990 - the year before the Six's successful appeal and two years before they were retested. In a series of letters including one to the Home Secretary, Dr Skuse complained that the integrity of the samples had been lost; swabs had been analysed by other people who had not recorded details, and two samples were not contained in any bag.

Dr Skuse is, however, seeking to use the new tests carried out by Dr King, in support of his libel action against Granada Television. He is suing over a 1985 World in Action programme that raised doubts about the case.

Dr Skuse, 59, claims the programme damaged his reputation as a scientist because it alleged 'he failed to show the skill, knowledge, care and thoroughness to be expected of him'. Granada says the claims are justified and yesterday Michael Mansfield QC, for the company, said Dr Skuse's action 'fell at the first hurdle'.

The hearing was adjourned until 17 October.