Stephen Lawrence trial: Warning of contamination

 

A forensic scientist warned twice that exhibits in the Stephen Lawrence case could become contaminated in paper evidence bags, a court heard today.

Adrian Wain told police that the sacks and sticky tape used to seal them could degrade and therefore let in fibres or hairs.

A jury at the Old Bailey was told that Mr Wain wrote to officers in July 2001 to raise concerns after he had been asked to examine two items of Mr Lawrence's clothes for fibres.

Today he told the jury: "I was aware that items had been in and out of the laboratory. I didn't have control of them outside the laboratory. I didn't know whether they'd been in the same location outside the laboratory.

"I knew that the packaging was deteriorating, I knew that the seals were deteriorating. I had concerns about contamination."

Gary Dobson, 36, and David Norris, 35, deny taking part in the gang attack that killed Mr Lawrence in Eltham, south east London, in 1993.

The prosecution alleges that microscopic fibres, hair and blood found on clothes seized from their houses prove they took part in the murder.

Tiny traces were found by a cold case squad that began work in 2007.

Today Timothy Roberts QC, for Dobson, also read part of a police report written by Detective Chief Superintendent Barry Webb in 1999, which said: "The original Sellotape seals used when the items were seized in 1993 have become so inefficient that in Adrian Wain's view in the event of alien blood cells being found on the suspects' clothing in any subsequent examination he would be unable to rule out the possibility of contamination having occurred at the point of storage."

The jury was also told that Mr Wain decided against examining the suspects' clothes for fibres from Mr Lawrence's clothing.

He said: "Given that there was this two-week gap between the offence and the seizure of the clothes, I was reluctant to do the transfer of fibres from Stephen Lawrence on to the suspects. That, and with the fact that I understood the attack was brief and contact was minimal."

Mr Lawrence was wearing five layers of clothing on his top half when he died, and Mr Wain ruled out looking for fibres from the lower layers which could have been transferred.

He told Mr Roberts: "I don't believe I ever considered looking at undergarments for fibre transfer.

"I don't believe it was pertinent to current thinking at that time."

Mr Roberts told him that Mr Lawrence's clothes had been "jumbled together" when seized by police at the hospital after he died.

He said: "We can imagine a general mess of fibres and sticky body fluids all jumbled up together and so we can imagine that each of these five layers was likely therefore to have been exposed to contamination from the other garments."

Mr Wain replied: "Yes, I think that's inevitable."

The court has already been told that the cold case team examined a jacket belonging to Dobson with a microscope and found a tiny blood stain measuring 0.5mm by 0.25mm.

Mr Wain said that using a microscope to search an exhibit was "very rare" in 1993, and that when DNA testing was introduced the following year the minimum size of stain that they could have analysed was 3mm square.

Earlier his then-assistant Yvonne Turner told the jury that debris found in evidence bags would not have been examined at that time.

Two hairs with a DNA link to Stephen Lawrence - one 1mm and one 2mm long - were found by the cold case team in an evidence bag used to store Norris's jeans.

Ms Turner did not find any hair on them in 1993, but said it was "unlikely" that such tiny hairs would have been of interest anyway.

The trial was adjourned until tomorrow.

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
News
news
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Travel
Suite dreams: the JW Marriott in Venice
travelChic new hotels in 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League clubs are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect