Brighton double murder trial jurors hear new scientific evidence

Posted On 20 Oct 2018 at 6:56 am

Police, prosecutors and forensics scientists never gave up on solving the murder of Brighton schoolgirls Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway, jurors were told yesterday (Friday 19 October).

And when new and more sensitive techniques of examining DNA evidence became available, they looked again at evidence found when detectives investigated the October 1986 murder of the girls in Wild Park, Moulsecoomb.

Details of the forensic review were spelt out for the jury in the trial of former roofer Russell Bishop, 52, who lived in Stephens Road, Hollingdean.

Bishop denies two counts of murder.

At the Central Criminal Court – better known as the Old Bailey – Brian Altman, prosecuting, told the jury that the review of forensic materials took in paint, hair, fibres and DNA evidence.

The review was carried out by an expert called Roy Green, a senior scientific adviser for a specialist organisation called Eurofins Forensic Services, or Eurofins, and previously known as LGC.

Mr Altman said: “In June 2014, it was agreed that all DNA work would be the subject of DNA-17 testing, which was a very new technique and was accepted to be the most sensitive technique available.

“Mr Green was asked to establish whether or not there was any textile fibre evidence to support the assertion that the defendant was involved in the murders of Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows.

“Mr Green explains that if there is contact between two individuals, then fibres may transfer from one person’s clothing to that of the other.

“The number of fibres transferred will depend upon the nature of the fabrics involved and on the type and duration of the contact between them.

“It is of relevance that a number of studies have shown that matching distinctive fibres are rarely found in any number unless there has been contact between the source garment and the item upon which they are found.

“It is important for me again to emphasise again that all of the fibre findings relied upon come from tapings taken either during the post-mortem examination of the girls or during the course of the first forensic examinations, with the one exception, between October and December 1986 when, as I put it before, the evidence was locked in place and time.”

Murder victims Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway

Mr Altman summed up the findings of the review of forensic evidence for the jury.

He said: “Let me summarise Mr Green’s findings from his review and analysis and I start with matching fibres found on the Pinto.

“Mr Green found, or perhaps more accurately as regards his fibres work, he confirmed there to be 11 fibres matching the fibres on a sock from the defendant’s home address at 17 Stephens Road.

“Mr Green found that 26 fibres on the Pinto top matched the fibres on a sweater from his home address, that eight fibres matched another sweater taken from the home address and that five fibres matched fibres from Marion Stevenson’s skirt.

“So, those summarise the fibres found on the Pinto that matched fibres from his home environment, in which I include his then girlfriend Marion’s skirt.

“What about fibres from the murdered girls’ clothing? Mr Green found 13 fibres (11 green polyester and two green-blue cotton) on the Pinto matched the fibres of Karen’s green sweatshirt.

“Mr Green was also able to confirm on the Pinto the presence of a fibre known as a linking fibre on Karen’s T-shirt (a linking fibre is a fibre which is an extraneous distinctive fibre that does not originate from the two items that have been in contact – in this case the Pinto and Karen’s T-shirt – but has a common origin and so it provides a link between them).

The blue Pinto sweatshirt allegedly worn by Russell Bishop

“He confirmed also on the Pinto there were at least four fibres that matched the fibres from Nicola’s pink jumper and finally that on the Pinto there was a linking fibre matching the snagged fibre found by (forensic scientist) Dr (Anthony) Peabody at the crime scene.

“Mr Green confirmed that on the defendant’s trousers three fibres matched a sweater and one fibre each on two socks all of which had been recovered from the defendant’s home address in November 1986.

“In their earlier examinations, both Dr Peabody and (forensic scientist) Mr (Raymond) Chapman had found on the defendant’s trousers four fibres matching the Pinto sweatshirt, but Mr Green was unable to confirm that because the fibres had been damaged during testing.

“Let me turn now to fibres found on the girls’ clothing, beginning with Karen. Mr Green confirmed on tapings taken by (pathologist) Dr (Iain) West from Karen’s T-shirt, knickers and skirt during the post-mortem examination that there was a single fibre on each item (three in all) matching the fibres of the Pinto.

“Mr Green also confirmed on other tapings from Karen’s T-shirt a total of 34 fibres matching the fibres of the Pinto and five linking fibres matching a single fibre on the Pinto.

“He confirmed that 11 fibres on the tapings from Karen’s skirt matched the fibres of the Pinto, on the knickers five such fibres and on Karen’s green sweatshirt at least 12 fibres matching the fibres of the Pinto. Also he confirmed that at least one fibre matched the fibres of the Stevenson skirt.

Russell Bishop

“I turn now to Nicola’s clothing. Mr Green found on Nicola’s pink jumper at least 13 fibres matching the fibres of the Pinto and at least two fibres matching the fibres of the Stevenson skirt. He confirmed also that on Nicola’s skirt three fibres matched the fibres of the Pinto and that on her knickers one fibre matched the fibres of the Pinto.

“Against all that, for now, I am only going to give you the punchline, as it were, of Mr Green’s conclusions about the fibres evidence in isolation of all the other findings I shall come to; that is by looking at the strength of each fibre finding and then by looking at the combination of the fibres evidence.

“Mr Green has assessed the fibres evidence that links the defendant to the Pinto sweatshirt and he has considered the extent of the fibres findings on the Pinto from items found at 17 Stephens Road, the home address, and the evidence found on the trousers.

“His scientific conclusion (using the scale does not assist, moderate, moderately strong, strong, very strong and, at the top of the range, extremely strong support) was that, when taken together, the combination of fibres provided extremely strong support (his top level of confidence) for the assertion that the Pinto sweatshirt bore fibres from the defendant’s home address, rather than them being due to chance matches.

“Mr Green then went on to consider the links between the sweatshirt and Karen and Nicola. In his view, there was also at least very strong support (his second top confidence level) for the assertion that the fibres found on items relating to Karen originated from the Pinto sweatshirt rather than them being due to chance matches.

The Central Criminal Court – better known as the Old Bailey – in London

“In the case of Nicola, the combination of fibres also provided at least very strong support for the assertion that they originated from the blue Pinto sweatshirt and the towelling skirt rather than them being due to chance matches.

“Taking the totality of the fibres evidence, Mr Green concluded that there was extremely strong support for the assertion that the fibres in question matched because they originated from the proposed sources rather than being due to a series of coincidental matches.

“Mr Green then considered the methods of transfer and considered a number of potential opportunities for secondary (indirect) transfer to have occurred and he concluded that the numbers of matching fibres present on Karen’s clothing and on the Pinto sweatshirt were much higher than one might expect if they were due to indirect transfers; and the numbers of matching fibres present on Nicola’s pink jumper were also higher than one might expect if they were due to indirect transfers.

“Overall, therefore, Mr Green concluded that based on the colour, types and physical properties of the matching fibres, their relative rarity, as shown by the appropriate databases, the target fibre studies and his knowledge and experience of fibre evidence, when taken together, the presence of those fibres provided at least very strong support for the assertion that they arrived as a result of recent primary contact of the Pinto sweatshirt with both victims rather than having been deposited via indirect routes.

DNA profiling

“I come now to DNA profiling. What I am about to say by way of introduction to DNA is of course a gross simplification, but, as you know, the cells of our bodies contain DNA and scientists, using sophisticated techniques and science, can evaluate whether a person from whom they have a DNA reference sample may have contributed their DNA to a questioned sample containing cellular material, even if they cannot say what that cellular material exactly was. The scientists can then express that finding statistically to help you assess its importance.

“The science of DNA profiling has developed over the years, allowing far greater sensitivity than was possible before.

“Indeed, in July 2014, DNA-17 short tandem repeat (STR) chemistry was introduced during the course of the work conducted by LGC and DNA-17 STR profiling superseded what was known as SGM+ profiling.

“There is another DNA profiling test I have to tell you about, as we will be hearing about it: that is Y23 Y-STR profiling which is a sensitive DNA profiling technique and is specific to male DNA.

“The ‘Y23’ part of the name is a later form of the technique, targeting 23 regions on the Y chromosome. An earlier form of Y-STR profiling was known as Y-Filer.

“In this case scientists obtained a DNA-17 profile and a Y23 Y-STR profile from a reference sample from the defendant. The scientists also had reference profiles from numerous other people in order to identify or eliminate their DNA in the results.

“I am going to come to the results of the DNA examinations conducted by LGC. For present purposes, what I am going to do is to tell you about the main and important results. We can hear about others later.

Tapings from Karen’s left forearm

“Mr Green examined the tapings that were taken from Karen and used to recover any fibres and other debris from exposed areas of the skin.

“Each of the tapings was searched for the presence of possible skin flakes (that is to say, material with the appearance of skin flakes although it could have been some other dried body fluid) which were removed and submitted for DNA17 STR profiling tests.

“An additional two samples, approximating to 25 per cent of the whole taping, were cut out and also submitted for DNA-17 STR profiling.

“I begin with the taping by Dr West taken from Karen’s left forearm during the post-mortem examination on Friday 10 October 1986 because, as you will soon discover, this produced a very significant finding.

“Mr Green found the exhibit to be a clear acetate sheet with a strip of sellotape wrapped around it. In 1986, the tape had been used to recover any hairs and fibres from the exposed skin of Karen’s forearm.

“For the purposes of Mr Green’s examination, the tape was examined for any possible skin flakes, which were found and then removed and combined for DNA analysis.

“The result of the DNA-17 analysis indicated a mixture of DNA from at least two people. The majority of the DNA detected formed an incomplete STR profile matching that of the defendant.

“Most of the remaining components could be explained by the presence of Karen’s own DNA. There were three additional unconfirmed components which could not have come from the defendant or Karen. It was impossible to say if they were from the sample or artefacts of the test.

“Only five components were detected using Y-Filer (the earlier form of Y-STR profiling) but all those matched those present in the defendant’s Y-STR profile.

“In 2015, a search of Y-STR databases was performed with the result that it was estimated that 1 in 2,900 males in the world would be expected to have those components in their Y-STR profile.

“A statistical evaluation of the result was performed, as a result of which it was estimated that the DNA findings would be approximately one billion times more likely if DNA was present from the defendant, Karen and an unknown person, rather than if DNA was present from Karen and two unknown people.

“Mr Green assessed the finding as providing extremely strong support (using the scale I told you about earlier) for the assertion that the sample contained DNA from the defendant rather than an unrelated male.

“Mr Green adds that he would not have expected DNA in the form of skin flakes to have persisted on Karen’s forearm for more than a few hours while she was alive.

“Washing would have removed this cellular material and clothing rubbing on her forearm would be likely to have dislodged the flakes and so, says Mr Green, DNA could have arisen during her murder.

“Of course, we know that Karen had been wearing her green top that day and that evening but, by the time she was found dead, she was no longer wearing it, nor for that matter her knickers, both of which were found together on the ground by Nicola’s left hand.

“The green top was long-sleeved but, at the time of finding, Karen was still wearing her T-shirt exposing her bare arms, including her left forearm where the defendant’s DNA was discovered.

“Indeed, her left forearm was furthest from the entrance into the den. It is for those reasons, together with the fact there was no other opportunity for his DNA to get on Karen’s left forearm, that we suggest it can only have got there if the defendant stripped and killed her.

Pinto sweatshirt

“Dr Peabody and his assistant, Nicola Gagie, examined the Pinto sweatshirt in 1986. They took six tapings in number from the outside of the sweatshirt.

“The Pinto had also been taped on the inside. In an attempt to see if there was any support for the assertion that the defendant had worn the Pinto, each of the tapings taken from the inside of the Pinto was examined.

“Material of interest was removed for later examination and then the tapes were searched for possible skin flakes, followed by the taking of two samples, each representing about 25 per cent of the whole area of the tape.

“The samples were then submitted for DNA-17 STR profiling tests and, where appropriate, Y-STR profiling. The tapings from the outside of the Pinto were examined for possible skin flakes only and they too were submitted for DNA-17 STR profiling tests.

Tapings from the outside of the Pinto sweatshirt

“Beginning with the outside front of the Pinto, DNA-17 STR profiling results obtained from possible skin flakes sampled from the taping of the outside front of the Pinto indicated the presence of DNA from two people.

“The majority of the DNA detected matched the corresponding components in the DNA-17 STR profile of the defendant and his profile was almost fully represented such that in Mr Green’s view he could have contributed DNA to the sample.

“A statistical evaluation of the result was performed, as a result of which it was estimated that the DNA findings would be in excess of one billion times more likely if DNA was present from the defendant and an unknown person, rather than if DNA was present from two unknown people.

“Mr Green assessed the finding as providing extremely strong support for the assertion that DNA from the defendant was present on the taping.

“The DNA-17 STR profiling result from the outside back taping obtained from possible skin flakes sampled from the taping indicated the presence of DNA from at least three people.

“Components matching the defendant were well represented in the result and some of them were strongly represented, such that he could have contributed DNA to the sample.

“The profile of Robert Gander, who handled the garment at the time of its finding, was also well represented, such that he too could have contributed DNA to the sample. The result meant DNA from at least two others was present, making the sample a mixture of DNA from at least four people.

“A statistical evaluation of the result was performed, as a result of which it was estimated that the DNA findings would be in excess of one billion times more likely if DNA was present from the defendant, Robert Gander and two unknown people, rather than if DNA was present from Robert Gander and three unknown people.

“Again, Mr Green assessed the finding as providing extremely strong support for the assertion that DNA from the defendant was present on the taping.

Tapings from the inside of the Pinto sweatshirt

“Let me come now to the tapings from the inside of the Pinto. The DNA-17 STR profiling results from the first 25 per cent sample of the inside back taping indicated the presence of DNA from at least three people.

“The STR profiles of both the defendant and Jennie Johnson were both quite well represented among the confirmed components, so both could have contributed DNA to the result.

“The Y-STR result was very partial and indicated the presence of a mixture of DNA from at least two males. All bar one of the components matched those of the defendant so he could have contributed DNA to the sample.

“Statistical evaluations of the result were separately performed in relation both to the defendant and Jennie Johnson. If the defendant had contributed his DNA to the sample, then there would have to be DNA present from at least two unknown people.

“The results would be approximately 140,000 times more likely if the sample contained a mixture of DNA from the defendant and two unknown people, rather than a mixture of DNA from three unknown people.

“Mr Green assessed the finding as providing very strong support for the assertion that DNA from the defendant was present on the taping.

“If Jennie Johnson had contributed her DNA to the sample, then there would have to be DNA from at least two unknown people.

“On the premise the DNA present was from three people, the results would be approximately 37 times more likely if the sample contained a mixture of DNA from Jennie Johnson and two unknown people, rather than a mixture of DNA from three unknown people.

“Mr Green assessed the finding as providing moderate support for the assertion that DNA from Jennie Johnson was present on the taping.

“The DNA-17 STR results from the first 25 per cent sample of the inside front taping indicated the presence of a mixture of DNA. The defendant’s DNA components were well represented among the confirmed components detected in the sample and so he could have contributed DNA to the sample. But if he did there would have to be DNA from at least three unknown people present.

“A very low-level Y-STR profile was obtained indicating the presence of male DNA. Most of the components detected matched the corresponding components in the Y-STR profile of the defendant so he could have contributed DNA to this sample.

“On the premise the sample contained a mixture of DNA from four people, a statistical evaluation of the result was performed, as a result of which it was estimated that the DNA findings would be approximately 750 times more likely if DNA was present from the defendant and three unknown people, rather than if the DNA was from four unknown people.

“Mr Green assessed the finding as providing moderately strong support for the assertion that DNA from the defendant was present on the taping.

“The DNA-17 profiling result from the taping of the inside right sleeve indicated a mixture of DNA. The defendant’s DNA profile was well represented among the detected components and so he could have contributed DNA to the sample.

“The STR profile of Nicola Gagie (Dr Peabody’s assistant in 1986 and 1987) was also well represented in the sample and, if her DNA was present, then there was DNA also from another unknown person.

“Only two components were detected using Y-STR testing although both were present in the corresponding positions in the defendant’s Y-STR profile. Based on the limited information which this provided, the defendant could have contributed male DNA to the sample.

“On the premise that three people contributed to the DNA, a statistical evaluation of the result was performed, as a result of which it was estimated that the STR profiling results would be approximately 39,000 times more likely if the sample contained a mixture of DNA from Nicola Gagie, the defendant and an unknown person, rather than from Nicola Gagie and two unknown people.

“Mr Green assessed the finding as providing very strong support for the assertion that DNA from the defendant was present on the taping.

“The DNA-17 profiling results from the second 25 per cent sample from the taping of the inside right sleeve indicated the presence of DNA from at least three people. DNA components matching those of the defendant were well represented among the confirmed components detected in the sample and so he could have contributed to the DNA detected.

“The Y-STR profiling result indicated the presence of DNA which had been contributed to by three males. The defendant could have been one of them.

“Nicola Gagie and the defendant could have contributed DNA to the sample and, if they did, there were indications of DNA from at least two unknown people.

“On the basis the sample contained a mixture of DNA from four people, it was estimated that the DNA findings would be approximately 27,000 times more likely if DNA was present from the defendant, Nicola Gagie and two unknown people, rather than from Nicola Gagie and three unknown people.

“Mr Green assessed the finding as providing very strong support for the assertion that DNA from the defendant was present on the taping.

Hair

“During the HOFSL (Home Office Forensic Science Laboratory) examination of the Pinto, hairs were recovered from the garment, as I said earlier, quite probably by direct removal from it in 1986 rather than by taping them off and they were mounted on to glass microscope slides.

“Reference hair samples had also been obtained from the defendant and from Karen and Nicola, which were used for comparative purposes.

“As I have also already said, in 2005 Carole Evans at the FSS (Forensic Science Service) had attempted to conduct mitochondrial DNA testing (that is, you may remember, DNA which is only inherited from the mother) on four hairs recovered from the Pinto.

“The four hairs were tested and compared against reference samples provided by the defendant and a mitochondrial DNA sequence was obtained from three of the four hairs (all of which came from tapings of the inside of the garment) which matched the defendant.

“The match obtained, and the observation of the sequence in the population, provided moderate support for the proposition that the three hairs recovered from the Pinto originated from the defendant or a maternal relative of his.

“As part of his work, Roy Green considered nine hairs retained on the original slides and compared them against the reference samples from the defendant and the girls.

“Five of the hairs were similar in colour and microscopic appearance to the defendant’s sample. Two others were similar in colour to his sample but were finer in diameter. One was similar in colour and microscopic appearance to a pubic hair sample from the defendant.

“Since 2005, it has become possible to get mitochondrial DNA results from much smaller amounts of hair. Accordingly, the additional hairs considered by Mr Green were submitted for mitochondrial DNA testing.

“The mitochondrial DNA profile obtained from the pubic hair (which came from the inside of the garment) matched that of the defendant.

“That profile also matched the profiles obtained by Carole Evans from the HOFSL hairs from the Pinto sweatshirt.

“It was estimated that 1 in 95 individuals in the Western Eurasian population might be expected to have this mitochondrial DNA profile.

“An expert in Canada who was asked to make the calculation reports that approximately 98.95 per cent of the West Eurasian population would be eliminated as possible contributors of this DNA.

“The result of all this is that four hairs were recovered from the inside of the Pinto which had mitochondrial DNA sequences matching the defendant: they are the three hairs from Carole Evans’s FSS examination in 2005 and the one pubic hair identified and tested by Mr Green.

“Mr Green concluded that the hair evidence, considered collectively, provided moderate support for the assertion that the hairs with a mitochondrial DNA profile matching the defendant found inside the Pinto came from the defendant rather than someone who was not maternally related to him.

“Mr Green’s overall conclusion simply based on the DNA findings from tapings of the inside and outside of the Pinto sweatshirt, when considered together and in combination with the results from the hairs, was they provided very strong support for the proposition that the defendant had worn the Pinto at some time rather than never having worn it – and if he had worn it, then he had not washed it since last wearing it.

Paint

“Dr Louissa Marsh, also of LGC (now Eurofins), was asked to conduct a review of all of the paint evidence and to re-examine and re-evaluate the evidence.

“Paints are complicated chemical mixtures. Tiny samples can be compared side by side using variable wavelengths of light, followed by highly sensitive technical analysis to see whether the paints are different or not.

“Dr Marsh considered the tapings taken in the course of the post-mortem examinations and those taken by Dr Peabody and his assistant at the HOFSL in 1986.

“She also examined the whole of the outside of the Pinto with a microscope and noted all areas of deposited and stained red paint and samples were taken for further comparison.

“Dr Marsh designated areas ‘A’ to ‘N’ as identifiers and the areas of paint were classified as maroon red or bright red paint.

“I am only going to summarise her main conclusions. She found areas of maroon paint that were optically and chemically indistinguishable from each other and therefore constituted matches between the relevant paint samples on control paint samples … and paint on the back right cuff area of the Pinto, as well as a paint fragment on tapings from Karen’s skirt, a paint fragment from the tapings of Karen’s T-shirt and a paint fragment on the tapings from the front of Karen’s T-shirt and skirt.

“There were also maroon paint matches between paint fragments on tapings from Nicola’s pink jumper and a paint fragment on tapings from the front of Nicola’s clothes and a single paint flake on the outside of Nicola’s knickers.

“Additionally, Dr Marsh found areas of maroon paint that were optically and chemically indistinguishable from each other and therefore constituted matches between the relevant paint samples on a small area of paint which had been acquired wet and dried in situ on the front right, middle sleeve of the Pinto and one red paint flake found on tapings from the front of Nicola’s neck taken at the time of the post-mortem examination as well as a fragment of paint on tapings from the rear of Karen’s T-shirt/skirt.

“Prior to testing, this fragment was observed to be a paint ball adhering to a textile fibre.

“In Dr Marsh’s opinion, these findings provided very strong support for the proposition that Karen and Nicola had come into recent contact with the Pinto sweatshirt.

“Dr Marsh also found areas of bright red paint that were optically and chemically indistinguishable from each other and therefore constituted matches between the relevant paint samples on an area of paint which had been acquired wet and dried in situ on the front centre of the Pinto and the red top coat of paint on the outhouse doors of 19 and 21 Stephens Road.

“So Dr Marsh found strong support for the assertion that the bright red paint found dried on to the front right centre of the Pinto and the top coat of doors to the outhouses at 19 and 21 Stephens Road originated from the same source of liquid paint.”

The trial continues.

Leave a Reply

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.