THE POLICE officer responsible for safeguarding key items of clothing in the Stephen Lawrence case "sabotaged" serial numbers in his log of their history, defence lawyers told London’s Old Bailey yesterday (November 29).
It was alleged that exhibits officer Detective Sergeant Paul Steed made the confession in a handover after being booted off the case in 2008, but claimed he then changed them back, his successor Detective Sergeant Alan Taylor told the court.
Jurors heard how Mr Steed was kicked off the case after being arrested and charged over an incident that occurred in Spain.
The log contained a complete history of items of clothing belonging to teenager Stephen Lawrence and the defendants Gary Dobson and David Norris, who are accused of murdering him in 1993.
Prosecutors claim forensic scientists have discovered significant DNA evidence on the victim's clothing that link the defendants to the crime. But their lawyers say the hairs, fibres and microscopic drops of blood, were the result of contamination and improper handling of the evidence.
EVIDENCE: Example of bulk plastic bag used to place individual exhibit bags.
Giving evidence, DS Taylor said: "At the time I did not understand the significance of it. He was showing me files on a laptop and he said something like, 'I changed a couple of serial numbers on it'. He had not realised I was going to take on the exhibits. He said he had changed them back. He had done it the night before."
He added that, to his understanding, DS Steed had only tampered with his own log and had not touched the contents of any of the evidence bags.
"What I had seen of his other work, he was quite particular and diligent,” DS Taylor said.
However, the senior officer said after taking the job, he did not rely on any of the logs Mr Steed had created, and instead started the job from scratch. He traced the history of the evidence from 1993 until the present day, obtaining statements from those who had come into contact with the items and making enquiries regarding any irregularities.
He said: "It was a mammoth task. It was the Stephen Lawrence investigation. I said I will take it over, but I have to start from scratch."
Timothy Roberts QC, defending, said: "[DS Steed] sabotaged it so that it would be impossible for anybody else coming in after him to really know the continuity."
Jurors are expected to hear evidence from scientific experts today.
The trial continues.