Firearms speck 'not reliable', Dando jury told

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A single speck of firearms residue found in the coat of the man accused of shooting Jill Dando was not reliable evidence of his involvement, the Old Bailey heard yesterday.

Dr John Lloyd, a scientific expert called by the defence, said: "There is no particular reason why this particular particle can be related to the shooting of Miss Dando. The claims that it is so related are based on scientifically unsupported assumptions. The evidence is dependant on flawed police procedures. It is my view that this evidence is not reliable as evidence of the defendant's involvement in the shooting," he told the court.

He gave his testimony as the defence continued calling evidence on behalf of Barry George, 42, who has denied murdering Dando on 26 April 1999. She was shot through the head outside her home in Fulham, west London.

The defence claims the prosecution has attempted "to erect an evidential edifice" based on the tiny particle, which was allegedly found in a coat taken from Mr George's home for examination after his arrest last year. Michael Mansfield QC, acting for the defence, has told the jury that without the speck, "the prosecution would have no case at all, for there is no other evidential link between this crime and this defendant".

Dr Lloyd said the case was the first time "when it has been suggested that a single particle could be a relic of something who occurred a year before. It is quite a unique suggestion."

The coat was first taken to a police photographic studio before it was sent to a forensic science laboratory for examination. Dr Lloyd said precautions should have been taken against contamination. "As far as the photographic studios ­ if it was necessary to photograph the coat there should have been control samples taken, so one could be sure the coat had not been contaminated during those processes." In a report he made earlier, Dr Lloyd recorded that the particle attributed to the coat pocket "cannot be taken as reliable evidence". He said this was still his view.

Earlier the court heard from a number of defence witnesses who were either called to give evidence to the jury or their statements read. A deacon at the Fulham Baptist Church said that she had asked Mr George whether he killed Dando, and that he had said he did not.

A police officer, Mark van Cuylenburg, who attended the same church, said Mr George told him he had put flowers down after her death. "He talked about her murder. He said this was a terrible incident and it had happened so close to where he lived," the officer said in a statement. "He was upset but no more than other people. He said he had seen a red car drive up and down the street. Barry felt this was suspicious. I replied he must report it to police. I think he said he would. At no time was Jill Dando as a person discussed, nor did he make any admissions of her murder. At no time did I ask if he had murdered Jill Dando."

The defence is expected to finish its case today and the jury is due to retire to consider its verdict next week.