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Stephen Lawrence trial: Forensic evidence key issue

TRIAL: New forensic evidence will be crucial to proving the prosecution’s case in the Stephen Lawrence trial

NEW FORENSIC evidence will be crucial to proving the prosecution’s case in the Stephen Lawrence trial, London’s Old Bailey heard yesterday (Nov 15).

The new evidence includes DNA, fibres from the black teenager's clothing and, crucially, the blood stain – a one in a billion match – found on the collar of a jacket belonging to Gary Dobson, aged 36.

Two of Lawrence's hairs were also found on clothing belonging to the second defendant, David Norris, 35, the prosecution said.

At the time of the initial investigation, which followed the murder in April 1993, the blood stain was not detected because of the limited resources available at the time, said prosecutor Mark Ellison QC.

But when a cold case review opened in 2007, he added, advanced technology allowed experts to discover the drop of dried blood with the use of microscope as well as other materials that were previously overlooked.

Debris found at the bottom of exhibit bags were tested for the first time and revealed fibres of clothing worn by Lawrence such as a distinctive red/orange polo shirt. Pieces of "taping", like cellotape, used to collect evidence gathered at the time were also tested again and will also be used as evidence, said prosecutors.

Addressing the jury, Ellison alleged there was only one realistic explanation as to how the blood became "soaked into the weave of the fabric," and that would be from Stephen's "wet, fresh blood" coming into direct contact with the jacket.

When presented with the new evidence when he was re-arrested last year, Dobson refused to comment on the findings, jurors were told. When he was first arrested, Ellison said, Dobson told police officers that nobody had worn the grey/yellow jacket in years.

Ellison said: "There is no realistic possibility that the combination of new scientific evidence got there because of contamination of the exhibits, rather than because these two men were members of the group of young white men who attacked Stephen Lawrence."

But Timothy Roberts, defending Dobson, was scathing in his attack of the quality, calling into question the care with which it had been stored over the past 18 years, mainly wrapped in brown paper packaging and household cellotape. He also raised concerns about the evidence only going "one way," in that none of the defendant's DNA was found on the clothes belonging to Stephen.

Addressing the jury, Roberts said: "For the past 13 years, all that has separated Gary Dobson from a gross injustice has been a fragile barrier of paper and deteriorating cellotape."

The court heard earlier that the teenager had been "swallowed up" by a gang of white men in a racially-motivated attack. They were told Stephen was stabbed twice in the upper torso, once in the chest and once in the shoulder. After he was stabbed and the gang fled, Stephen continued to run in fear for his life.

A few hundred yards from where he was first stabbed, Stephen collapsed and a significant amount of blood was found there. Hardly any blood was found at the scene of the initial attack, jurors were told.

Roberts added that there were numerous opportunities for the defendant's clothing to be contaminated beyond the prosecution's claims of "direct contact," because the whole system for the preservation and handling of evidence was entirely flawed.

Dobson and Norris, both from south London, deny murder.

The trial continues.

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