Stephen Lawrence police 'created contamination risk'

 

Police officers who visited Stephen Lawrence's home searched the homes of the men suspected of his murder days later creating a risk of forensic contamination, a jury heard today.

DC Linda Holden and DS John Bevan made a series of visits to the bereaved family in Woolwich, south-east London, in the days following Mr Lawrence's death in April 1993, before the searches were carried out.

Prosecutors claim that microscopic fibres found on clothes belonging to Gary Dobson, 36, and David Norris, 35, both of south London, prove that they took part in the gang attack that killed Mr Lawrence.

But defence counsel for the pair claim that fibres, blood and hair linked to Mr Lawrence were transferred on to the clothes of defendants by contamination.

Jurors were told that Mr Bevan last visited the Lawrences on May 4, before he took part in a search of Norris's parents' house in Chislehurst, south-east London, on May 7.

He admitted that he may have worn the same "outer garments" on those two days, but insisted he had never sat down in the Lawrence family home.

Mr Bevan said: "I don't recall sitting at all. I can remember some of these visits, they were difficult and I've never lost sight of the fact that they must have been incredibly difficult for the Lawrence family but they were difficult meetings and I can physically remember how some of them went and I do not remember sitting down at any of them."

But Stephen Batten QC, for Norris, dismissed his claim that he had never sat down in the house as "simply implausible".

DC Dennis Chase, who took part in the same search, told the court that he was "not aware" that Norris had two brothers when he searched the gated property.

The defence claims that clothes seized at the house did not belong to Norris.

Ms Holden last visited the Lawrences on April 29 before being told to search Dobson's house in Phineas Pett Road, Eltham, on May 7.

She insisted that she was "positive" she had not worn the same clothes to the victim's and suspect's houses.

Timothy Roberts QC, for Dobson, asked: "Are you absolutely sure and can you swear on oath that you didn't wear the same shirt?"

She replied: "Positive."

The jury was told that after Dobson's clothes had been sealed into police bags at Bromley police station they were taken back to Eltham.

There they were stored in the same disused cell where Mr Lawrence's clothes had previously been kept.

At one point the A-level student's jacket was taken out of its packaging and photographed on a groundsheet on the floor of the charge room, the jury heard.

Mr Roberts asked exhibits officer Robert Crane, who also gave evidence yesterday: "These Gary Dobson exhibits ... were then placed in the same store where the Stephen Lawrence items had previously been stored?"

Mr Crane replied: "Yes."

Clothes seized from Norris were sealed in paper bags at his home before being driven back to Eltham.

The jury has already heard that cold case forensic teams found a speck of blood on the collar of Dobson's jacket that was a billion-to-one match to MrLawrence's DNA.

There were also minute flecks of blood on the jacket itself that did not contain a full DNA profile.

In total there were 16 fibres which could have come from three separate items of clothing worn by Mr Lawrence, found either on the jacket or its evidence bag.

Two hairs were found in an evidence bag used to store a pair of jeans seized from Norris's home, one of which was 2mm long and was found to match MrLawrence's DNA to a certainty of one in 1,000.

A total of seven fibres were also found on a sweatshirt seized in the same search which potentially came from two items of Mr Lawrence's clothes.

PA