Clothing worn by Stephen Lawrence on the night he was murdered was stored in the same bag as that of one of his alleged killers after being examined by forensic scientists, the trial heard yesterday.
A laboratory worker was forced to concede that in the early Nineties there were no regulations that banned putting both the victim's and the suspect's garments in the same bag – as each were sealed in separate evidence sacks.
Almost two decades after the 18-year-old was stabbed to death a new murder trial hinges on evidence found on two of the original suspects' clothing.
The prosecution claims that tiny blood spots and flecks, as well as fibres and hairs, found on clothes belonging to Gary Dobson, 36, and David Norris, 35, during a cold case review in 2006 prove they were part of the gang of white youths on 22 April 1993. Both men deny murder and their defence teams reject the crown case as merely a "teaspoon" of evidence, the product of cross-contamination over the years.
Christopher Bower, a stores worker at a forensics laboratory in Lambeth, south London, told the Old Bailey trial yesterday that the exhibits in the case were returned to police from the lab in November 1995 all individually sealed in paper evidence sacks. But packages containing a cardigan and jacket seized from Mr Dobson's house were put in the same outer plastic sack as one which held Mr Lawrence's black Raiders jacket.
The jury has already heard admissions that tiny traces of evidence might have been on the outside of the sacks but this was not considered an issue in the early Nineties when DNA testing was in its infancy. In cross-examination, Timothy Roberts QC, for Mr Dobson, asked Mr Bower: "When you made a choice as to which packages should go into the same over bag together, what criteria informed that choice?"
Mr Bower replied: "There was no criteria – random packages from the same case would go into an overbag."
The trial has heard how the evidence now relied upon had been examined repeatedly, initially in 1993 and again in 1995 prior to a private prosecution brought by Mr Lawrence's family. It was also evidence in the 1997 inquest and sent to Kent Police for its investigation of a complaint into the conduct of Met officers in the first murder inquiry.
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