Stephen Lawrence lab worker made errors


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The Independent Online

A lab worker made a series of errors in notes about clothes seized from a man suspected of murdering Stephen Lawrence, the Old Bailey heard today.

Yvonne Turner used the wrong case reference number on forms linked to a jacket and cardigan seized from Gary Dobson's house.

Referring to the jacket form, she said: "I wasn't concentrating and I wasn't focused at the stage when I wrote the case number in, but I've clearly got to grips with the case as I've written the correct item number."

She also wrote in block capitals that no tapings - when sticky tape is used to collect fibres - were made. However the jury was shown that the testing had been done, although Ms Turner could not be sure when.

Dobson, 36, and David Norris, 35, both of south London, are accused of murdering Mr Lawrence, which they deny.

Forensic assistant Ms Turner had been working on items linked to the murder investigation and an unrelated robbery on October 28, 1993.

She wrote the case reference number for the robbery on examination notes for the jacket and cardigan, and similarly mislabelled tapings taken from the jacket.

The forensic expert could not be certain when the tapings were made, although she told the court that physically they would have stayed the same.

She said: "The tapings physically would be the same. There would just be a period of time between the examination notes and the tapings taken."

Jurors were shown a picture of Mr Lawrence's black jacket which was photographed on the laboratory floor apparently without a protective sheet.

In cross-examination by Timothy Roberts QC, for Dobson, Ms Turner admitted that the errors in her notes were "very irregular".

She said that she could not remember if she and boss Adrian Wain had initially decided against testing for fibres on the suspect's clothes.

"A strategy was not written down like it is nowadays, so it's hard to remember what was said," Ms Turner told the court. "Because I've written 'tapings not made' we're presuming that that discussion was had that we'd decided not to do tapings."

The court was also told that once clothes had been examined they were not securely sealed.

The forensic expert said: "They were placed in cupboards within the laboratory area and they were sealed but not completely sealed."

She agreed with Stephen Batten QC, for Norris, that in 1993 forensic staff were not concerned with possible contaminants on the outside of evidence bags.

It would be "common practice" to put bags containing the victim's clothing in a larger bag with suspects' items, she said.

Earlier the court was told that exhibits relating to five people originally suspected of the murder were stored in the same room at Eltham police station where Stephen Lawrence's clothing had previously been kept.

Clothes belonging to Dobson, Norris and two other men not on trial - Neil and Jamie Acourt - were all stored in the disused cell, which was used as an exhibit store.

Some belonging to a fifth unnamed suspect were also kept there later, the court heard.

Exhibits officer Detective Constable Robert Crane was asked if the suspects' items could have been kept in the same area where Mr Lawrence's clothes had been days before.

He said: "I think not. In any event, every item has gone into that cell sealed."

The prosecution case is that microscopic hair and fibres found on Norris's clothes, and fibres and blood on Dobson's, prove that they took part in the gang attack that killed Mr Lawrence.

Defence counsel claim that the substances got on to the clothes via contamination.

The trial was adjourned until tomorrow.