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Stephen Lawrence case: The crucial forensic evidence

DIFFERENCES: The crucial
forensic evidence

AS A result of forensic advancements that helped to catch the killers of Damilola Taylor, the 10-year-old schoolboy who was fatally stabbed in Peckham, south London in 2000, police officers decided to do a “cold case” review of key items of clothing in the Stephen Lawrence case.

A very small bloodstain was found on the collar of a jacket seized from Gary Dobson’s wardrobe which appeared to have soaked into the weave of the fabric, and numerous very small flakes of possible blood were located on the jacket’s surface.

DNA profiles from the bloodstain and blood fragments matched Stephen’s profile. It was not disputed in court that the blood was Stephen’s.

No argument was put forward during the Appeal Court hearing providing an alternative explanation for how it came to be found on the jacket, other than the prosecution’s argument that is must be due to the wearer being involved in the attack on Stephen.

A number of textile fibres were found on the jacket and in the original police packaging, which match the fibres of Stephen’s cardigan, jacket and red polo shirt.

Furthermore, on a cardigan seized from Dobson’s home, fibres were found which matched the fibres of Stephen’s jacket.

Textile fibres matching those which made up this cardigan were also found on Stephen’s jacket and trousers.

On October 14, 2007, the Independent Police Complaints Commission reported that they had found no evidence of police corruption in the original investigation, although officers were heavily criticised for their blunders in the Macpherson Inquiry report.

During the summer of 2010, the Metropolitan Police team that had conducted the forensic review consulted with the Crown Prosecution Service and lawyers.

In August 2010, following legal advice, assistant commissioner Cressida Dick wrote to the director of public prosecutions (DPP) for his authority to reinvestigate Dobson in connection with the murder of Stephen Lawrence, despite him having been acquitted of the crime in 1996.

The ‘double jeopardy’ law that previously prevented this from happening had been changed following a recommendation by Macpherson.

In September 2010, the DPP authorised a fresh investigation, and on September 7, David Norris was arrested and interviewed about the murder. He did not reply to any of questions asked.

Dobson was arrested and interviewed on the same day, also refusing to answer questions.

On September 8, 2010, both men were charged with the murder of Stephen Lawrence. Norris, who had not previously been acquitted of the murder, appeared at Camberwell Magistrate’s Court, in south London, by video link and was remanded in custody to appear at the Old Bailey on September 9.

Dobson was ordered to appear at the Old Bailey within 24 hours of the charge, and he and Dobson were both remanded in custody.

The DPP subsequently made an application to the Court of Appeal to quash Dobson’s acquittal. On May 18, 2011, the court ruled in support of the DPP and ordered that Dobson should be retried for Stephen’s murder. David Norris was also charged with murder.

Both defendants appeared at the Old Bailey on July 1, and were remanded in custody. The trial started on November 14, 2011.

During the first two weeks, the jury heard evidence arising from the initial enquiries following Stephen’s murder, including details of police exhibit handling standards which were in place in the early 1990s.

The case was essentially based on new scientific evidence arising from the forensic review.

Both Dobson and Norris based their defence cases on the argument that the new scientific evidence found on their clothing was there as a result of cross contamination, arising from the way in which exhibits were handled in the early stages of the investigation, and during it. Both defendants claimed they were not in Well Hall Road, Eltham, on the night of the attack, which occurred at 10.35pm on April 22, 1993.

Evidence given in the prosecution case included statements made by a reviewing scientist, who said that cross contamination was extremely unlikely to have been responsible for the evidence found.

Also part of the prosecution’s case was a recording from a covert surveillance video showing the two defendants with others, making racist remarks.
Dobson’s parents gave an alibi that he was at home with them on the evening of Stephen’s murder.

Norris told the court he was not in Eltham on the night of the murder, but he could not say for certain where he was. His brother, Clifford, and mother, Theresa, told detectives involved in the new investigation that the clothing seized was Clifford’s not David’s.

This is not what she had said to police in 1993, when she was first interviewed. Theresa Norris told the Old Bailey she had a routine for her sons that meant David must have been in on a week night by 9pm.

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