Thursday, November 3, 2005

Outback DNA evidence 'contaminated'

The handcuffs ['allegedly'] used to tie up the girlfriend of a British backpacker who was ['allegedly'] murdered in the Australian outback in 2001 were contaminated by a forensic scientist, a court heard yesterday.

A full DNA profile of Peter Thatcher, director of the Forensic Science Laboratory, was found in May 2004 on the cable ties ['allegedly'] used to bind Joanne Lees's hands behind her back during an ['alleged'] attack, forensic biologist Carmen Eckhoff told the Northern Territory supreme court in Darwin.

Bradley Murdoch, 47, of Broome, Western Australia, denies murdering Peter Falconio after [allegedly] flagging the couple down on a remote highway near Barrow Creek, north of Alice Springs, on July 14 2001. He also denies depriving Ms Lees of her liberty and assaulting her.

Ms Eckhoff told the jury Dr Thatcher's DNA was found on the "significant" piece of evidence and could have got there in a number of ways, despite protocols being in place to prevent this happening.

During cross-examination by Grant Algie, defending, Ms Eckhoff said she did not know how his DNA came to be on the exhibit.

Mr Algie asked the prosecution to call Dr Thatcher as a witness later in the trial.

During the cross-examination, Ms Eckhoff said she argued against taking the cable ties to Yatala prison in Adelaide, South Australia, where Mr Murdoch was on remand in October 2002.

"I was unhappy about them leaving my possession, particularly if the forensic examination may not have been completed."

She said she made her feelings known to Dr Thatcher, who was giving the handcuffs to Senior Constable Tim Sandry so he could take them to Adelaide.

Ms Eckhoff also said one of the centre loops from the cable ties 'used' [?] to bind Ms Lees's' arms behind her back during the attack had been taken to Jonathan Whitaker, of the UK Forensic Science Services, at his laboratory in Wetherby.

She said he specialised in "low copy number" DNA and was able to use an extremely low level of DNA to try to produce an acceptable profile.

Later, Ms Eckhoff agreed with Mr Algie that on July 17 2001 five people worked "something like 14 hours straight in order to undertake sampling, extracting and analysing these items".

She said that in this time around 40 samples were taken from "a number of items", including eight from Ms Lees's T-shirt.

"Only one sample was open at any one time so it minimises any risk of contamination," she said.

Mr Algie suggested that the protocols might not have been followed, for example with the cable ties contaminated with Dr Thatcher's DNA.

He also suggested this might happen when people were tired and under pressure. Ms Eckhoff said: "That didn't happen within the laboratory." [?]

When Mr Algie suggested the cable ties were exposed to a "significant risk of contamination" while they were officially in her possession, Ms Eckhoff said: "I don't agree with that. Our protocols were put in place to ensure there was minimal risk of contamination from both the persons doing the tests as well as the samples."

Asked by the judge whether any of the samples, other than one from Ms Lees's T-shirt, taken on that day contained either a partial or full DNA profile that matched Mr Murdoch, she said: "No, sir."

[Great witness this one, already made up her mind I reckon.]

Ms Eckhoff also denied that she "completely dismantled" the handcuffs ['allegedly'?] used to tie up Ms Lees on July 31 2001.

[Seems she can't find the word 'allegedly' but has no trouble with the words 'used to tie up Ms Lees'.]

She admitted removing a section of tape from each of the three centre links of the handcuffs and said she did this in order to make a note of their G-codes, markings on the actual cable ties, beneath the layers of tape, as requested by crime scene examiners.

She said she had not been aware until recently that the handcuffs, which were inside two sealed paper bags, had been stored in the physical examinations section at Adelaide along with Mr Murdoch's possessions for around four to five days.

But she said: "If the cable ties were in a double bag and sealed I don't have a problem with that."

[Yes and what if someone wanted to intentionally contaminate the cable ties? Of course no one had any reason to set up Bradley Murdoch did they?]

During re-examination, Ms Eckhoff told the judge Chief Justice Brian Martin she was not aware of any other occasion, apart from one instance with the handcuffs on October 8 2002, when a correct entry in the log was requested to be deleted.

The court has heard Mr Falconio and Ms Lees, now 32, of Brighton, were allegedly attacked after being flagged down by another motorist at around 8pm on the Stuart Highway, around six miles north of Barrow Creek.

She told police she was threatened with a gun to her head, tied up with her hands behind her back and put into the back of her attacker's vehicle but managed to escape from under the loose canopy and hide in the bush for more than five hours before being rescued.

Mr Falconio, 28, of Huddersfield, was never seen again and no body has been found.

The trial was adjourned until tomorrow, when British DNA expert Dr Whitaker is due to give evidence.

By The Guardian and Just Us 3 November 05

Corrupt police planting DNA evidence at crime scenes

Others have raised concerns about corrupt police planting DNA evidence at crime scenes.

Ed: Yes and what if someone wanted to intentionally contaminate the cable ties? Of course no one had any reason to set up Bradley Murdoch did they?


Trial of B J Murdoch
NT: The trial of Bradley John Murdoch may be sensational - but for the wrong reason. This trial has had serious flaws in it - decide for yourself...

No Murder Weapon, No Body, No Place or Time of Death
NT: Joanne Lees ought to be the main suspect in this show trial. There is no body and no weapon to be found and Joanne Lees had a clear and present motive. She knew him, she travelled with him, she was unfaithful to him and she said that she was the last person to see him on the night she was stoned out of her head. So where does Bradley James Murdoch fit in?

Unfaithful Lees admits taking drugs, court told
AUSTRALIA: NT: Key witness Joanne lees, has testified in the Northern Territory Supreme Court to smoking Marijuana on the night her boyfriend Peter Falconio went missing.

Murdoch: Ambushed by Prosecution
AUSTRALIA: NT-Through the smell of an oily rag - A FORENSIC expert alledgedly has produced vital evidence ahead of the Peter Falconio murder trial linking his alleged killer to the camper van driven by the dead man and his girlfriend, Joanne Lees?

Day set aside for Falconio forensic evidence
More than a day has been set aside in the case of the man accused of murdering British backpacker Peter Falconio to hear evidence from a Northern Territory forensic scientist. Yesterday the Darwin Magistrates Court heard from mechanics and friends of the defendant Bradley John Murdoch.

Mr Bradley Murdoch to go on trial next year!
The alleged man is not the alleged Falconio killer in my book. He's alleged to have committed a crime but the Faloconio mystery remains a secret to be unlocked by time itself and more interestingly may never be unlocked at all.

Falconio magistrate closes court
THE hearing into the murder of British tourist Peter Falconio has been closed to the public. Magistrate Alasdair McGregor has closed the court for part of the testimony of Mr Falconio's girlfriend Joanne Lees.

Ch/9 News? Or Ch/9's Department of Public Prosecutions?
Bradley Murdoch committal, lawyer calls for fair hearing
The lawyer of the man accused of murdering British backpacker Peter Falconio has spoken to the media in Darwin.

Peter Beattie nominated as Australian of the year: Howard
Bradley Murdoch the man alleged to have murdered English tourist Peter Falconio who has been acquitted of rape and abduction charges in the South Australian District Court.

Tourist dollar drives set-up for crime
The man alleged to have murdered English tourist Peter Falconio has been acquitted of rape and abduction charges in the South Australian District Court. Bradley John Murdoch, 45, was charged with two counts of rape, two counts of false imprisonment and two counts of indecent assault after an alleged incident in South Australia's Riverland in August last year.

Supreme Court rejects Nine appeal
CHANNEL Nine lost a Supreme Court appeal today to have a suppression order on details of the case of missing backpacker Peter Falconio lifted. The Full Bench of the NT Supreme Court today ruled Magistrate Alasdair McGregor had the power to make the order banning from publication some details of the case.

Falconio magistrate closes court
THE hearing into the murder of British tourist Peter Falconio has been closed to the public. Magistrate Alasdair McGregor has closed the court for part of the testimony of Mr Falconio's girlfriend Joanne Lees.

Innocent until proven guilty? Not in Australia's outback!
There is no way that Bradley John Murdoch can get a fair trial in the Northern Territory. The entire jury pool is already contaminated, the general public have accepted the verdict of the Northern Territory News and the NT Police State has turned on the cone of silence. Maybe some of the reporters might want to ask Director of Public Prosecutions Rex Wilde QC just how he is going to secure a conviction when a body has not been found. Surely the NT bureaucracy learnt from the Lindy Chamberlain case that it is not a good idea to jail someone for murder when you haven't got a body. Maybe they have the same people working on the case. The NT Police forensic team certainly do.

Taken "A Dingo Took My Baby!"
They were the words that Lindy Chamberlain had screamed out into the blackness of the cold night in a camping ground close to Ayers Rock, Central Australia, on the night of August 17, when she discovered that her nearly ten-week-old baby, Azaria had been taken by a dingo.

Man Says He Shot Dingo That Snatched Baby SYDNEY, Australia (July 5) - A distraught mother's scream 24 years ago that a dingo snatched her baby from a camp site near Ayers Rock in the Australian Outback ignited one of Australia's most enduring mysteries. An elderly man's claim that he retrieved the infant's bloodied body from the jaws of the wild dog has revived the case and - if true - could finally lead to the discovery of Azaria Chamberlain's body.

Australia to see the light on tourism
A total of $120 million has been earmarked for the campaign's international marketing, which tops up the Australian Tourist Commission's annual budget of $90 million. The inbound and domestic tourism industry contributes $70 billion to the economy and employs 500,000.

Ten reports $76.9 million profit
The Ten television network has reported a full-year profit of $76.9 million. Even if it were down by half on the previous year they're still greedy self-interested people who care little about the real damage done, not just in Australia but the world. That profit is obviously on top of wages and expenses yet they're still greedy enough to turn the news upside down to suit the Howard government's investment in advertising.

DNA Links:

Corrupt police planting DNA evidence at crime scenes
Others have raised concerns about corrupt police planting DNA evidence at crime scenes.

The ABC for good or evil?
He had a suspect that he wanted to find guilty based on the chances of a spouse killing a spouse which were greater in anycase, at least more likely than that of a stranger.

First Grabs To Control Our DNA
A small company in Australia has been subjected to gross denials of rights after DNA database technology was stolen from it's company. This one year saga has spawned them to form a new approach to projects of importance to all people.

Worries over DNA and racial profiling
UK: Black men are four times more likely than White men to be on the national DNA database and there is growing concern about racial profiling in criminal investigations.

Lab's Errors Force Review of 150 Virginia DNA Cases
US: WASHINGTON, - A sharply critical independent audit found that Virginia's nationally recognized central crime laboratory had botched DNA tests in a leading capital murder case. The findings prompted Gov. Mark Warner to order a review of the lab's handling of testing in 150 other cases as well.

Witch-hunt targets scientists
QLD: SCIENTISTS at the John Tonge Centre are being threatened with jail in the wake of a government hunt for the source of leaks highlighting serious problems in the forensic laboratories.

Fresh swipe at DNA labs
Scientist Kris Bentley, whose departure yesterday follows that of forensic biologist Deanna Belzer after concerns about "inaccurate" DNA results and unvalidated equipment, issued a scathing resignation letter leaked to The Courier-Mail.

DNA leads 'CSI' cold-case squad to first arrest?
Frozen case? I don't really know what to say about them until they come up with their case. They say it involves DNA evidence but that's the only stuff we know.

Criminal's DNA filed under relative's name
The New South Wales Opposition is calling for an investigation into claims that police have entered DNA data for serious offenders under incorrect names.

DNA Evidence of Bipartisanship
Last week the U.S. Congress passed the Justice for All Act, which includes provisions of the Innocence Protection Act. As of this posting, the legislation has not yet been signed by President Bush. Attached is an analysis of the legislation prepared by the Justice Project.

DNA fingerprinting 'no longer foolproof'...
The genetic profiles held by police for criminal investigations are not sophisticated enough to prevent false identifications, according to the father of DNA fingerprinting.

'Rape' officer clears his name
UK: A former policeman has been cleared of rape after protesting his innocence for 15 years. Judges at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh ruled that Brian Kelly, 47, had suffered a miscarriage of justice over crucial DNA evidence.

PROFESSOR BARRY BOETTCHER: Now, there should be a law enacted within Queensland so that when cases come up like this they can be brought to attention and if an appropriate authority such as a judge of your Supreme Court considers that it merits further inquiry, an inquiry be ordered.

Death Penalty Forensics?
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New unit investigates unsolved deaths?
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QLD Prisoners DNA Bid THE curious case of Queensland's "cat lady" murder is set to test the state's legal authorities again, with the man convicted of the killing asking the Attorney-General to take the unprecedented step of releasing blood samples for DNA retesting.

Prisoner's bid for review denied
Prisoner Roger Cheney has lost a Supreme Court action to have a judicial review of his 1993 convictions an 30-year jail sentence. Justice Shaw said he was concerned about the prisoner's claim that DNA evidence held by the police could prove his innocence. Although Cheney had requested the results of the DNA tests, he had been denied access to the forensic analysis.

Database clears up crimes?
NSW Police Minister John Watkins said at the launch of a Sydney conference of international forensic experts meeting to mark 100 years of fingerprinting in NSW. He said the collection of DNA from prisoners and suspects in NSW during the past two years had led to more than 5,400 matches on the forensic database.

A Question of Innocence
Katrina Bolton: The promise of DNA freeing the innocent as well as convicting the guilty has been repeated by politicians across Australia, usually while DNA laws are being expanded. The promise was made as a national DNA database, ‘Crimtrac’ was created, and it was made as NSW introduced legislation giving unprecedented powers to take DNA samples from prisoners, by force if necessary.

Mouse Trap Game? Tried Until Guilty!
Two New South Wales Labor MPs have strongly criticised the Carr Government's proposed abolition of the 800 year old double jeopardy rule, which stops people being tried a second time for the same crime. The left-wing MPs have branded the reforms as dishonest and unjust in a formal submission to the Attorney-General's department.

Weak Carr Government suspends Innocence Panel
It's a callous disregard for justice! The panel takes applications from convicted prisoners for DNA evidence to be analysed a move that may help in a future court appeal.

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Now they have isolated two genes that they say tells you if you're more likely to be depressed. What does that mean? It could mean that you should stay in jail because you are more likely than not to continue your offending behaviour according to a Department of Corrective Services Forensic Psychiatrist.

JUST BEAT IT! Govt lauds crime-solving technology?
The New South Wales Government says advances in crime solving technology are helping the progress of hundreds of police investigations.

DNA testing causes debate in murder case
The use of voluntary DNA testing in the investigation of a murder case in New South Wales has been applauded by victim support groups who are ill informed about the process said Justice Action's spokesperson Gregory Kable.

Abolition of double jeopardy law a political stunt: NSW Opp
Why draconian laws? What about the re-trial by media that goes along with it? Twice shy?

The NSW government has finally appointed somebody (Justice John Nader) to head up its Innocence Panel and has produced leaflets and forms for people convicted of serious crimes (eg murder) to apply for DNA testing if they believe it may help prove their innocence. You can get the info by phoning 1300 881 717 or writing to the panel at GPO Box 45 Sydney NSW 2001.

Is the Westminster System flawed?
Most people would say Lady Di got the boot and NSW has so much trouble getting the Innocence Panel moving. I said hey, what's going on!

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Prisoners can prove innocence for $20
Les Kennedy Daily Telegraph reported today that" Prisoners who believe that DNA will prove they were wrongly convicted will have the chance to prove their innocence for a mere $20 administration fee. The move comes 20 months after NSW inmates were asked to provide DNA for comparison with a databank of DNA from unsolved crime scenes for possible convictions.

DNA = Do Not Assume - DNA Controversies!
The national DNA database of all known offenders proposed by Prime Minister Tony Blair could mean that innocent people will be accused of crimes they did not commit.

DNA - A Shadow of Doubt
One case points to misinterpretation of evidence that helped put a man behind bars. The other shows just how easy it is to plant falsely incriminating DNA evidence. As our forensic techniques become ever more sensitive, so the possibility of abuse continues to grow.