Stephen Lawrence officer denies Gary Dobson clothing link

Court artist's sketch of Gary Dobson and David Norris
Image caption Gary Dobson (left) and David Norris both deny murdering Stephen Lawrence

A police officer who visited Stephen Lawrence's home has denied possibly tainting evidence by wearing the same clothes to search a suspect's house.

Det Con Linda Holden said she did not wear the same clothes during a search of Gary Dobson's house as those worn a week earlier at Stephen's family home.

Mr Dobson, 36, and David Norris, 35, both from south London, deny murder.

Prosecutors say DNA evidence links them to the black teenager, who was murdered in Eltham, south London, in 1993.

They say a group of white youths attacked the 18-year-old A-Level student, forced him to the ground at a bus stop and then stabbed him twice.

Prosecutors claim that microscopic fibres found on clothes belonging to the defendants prove that they took part in the gang attack.

But defence counsel for the pair say the fibres, blood and hair were transferred on to the clothes by contamination.

Ms Holden visited the Lawrence household on 23 April 1993, the day after Stephen died, and then again on 25, 27 and 28 April, with a final trip on 29 April.

Then, working as an exhibits officer, she searched Mr Dobson's bedroom on 7 May.

The court heard that police seized jackets and a cardigan during a search of the house, placing them in unsealed brown paper evidence bags before Mr Dobson, who was 17 at the time, was arrested.

It also learned that a team of police running into double figures and a dog section had arrived at the large Chislehurst house belonging to David Norris's family before leaving with several items of clothing in evidence bags.

And it emerged that the defendant's belongings were handled by people who had been handling the victim's possessions.

Ms Holden told the Old Bailey jury that she was certain she had not worn the same clothes to the Lawrence and Dobson homes.

Timothy Roberts QC, representing Mr Dobson, asked if she had been wearing the same clothes on both visits and could have contaminated the Dobson evidence with fibres from the Lawrence household.

'Basic' contamination training

She said: "It was well over a week later and I didn't think that I had any risk of contamination and certain senior officers knew that I had been to the Lawrence family home."

Later in cross examination, the defence barrister asked: "Are you absolutely sure and can you swear on oath that you didn't wear the same shirt?"

She replied that she was "positive", prompting Mr Justice Treacy to ask what made her certain she had not worn the same outfit.

"As I said earlier I knew that I was going into a search so I chose that morning to wear clothes that if they got soiled or whatever it didn't matter," she said.

Ms Holden went on: "I knew that what I wore on that morning was not the same outfit that I'd worn the week before."

Image caption Stephen Lawrence died in April 1993

Det Ch Insp Alison Funnell, who was then a police constable and used the surname Rickell, helped in the search of Dobson's home and told the court she had only received "basic training" in avoiding cross-contamination of fibres.

DS John Bevan also visited the bereaved family in Woolwich, south London, after Stephen's death and before the searches were carried out.

The court heard that he last visited the Lawrence family on 4 May before taking part in a search of Mr Norris's parents' house in Chislehurst, south London, three days later.

Mr Bevan admitted that he may have worn the same "outer garments" on those two days.

He insisted that he had never sat down in the Lawrence family home, a claim which Stephen Batten QC, representing Mr Norris, dismissed as "simply implausible".

Forensic evidence

Meanwhile, the jury was told that after Mr Dobson's clothes had been sealed into police bags at Bromley police station, they were taken back to Eltham and stored in the same disused cell where Stephen's clothes had previously been kept.

The court has already been told that cold case forensic teams found a speck of blood on the collar of Mr Dobson's jacket that was a billion-to-one match to Stephen's DNA.

And there were minute flecks of blood on the jacket itself that did not contain a full DNA profile.

There were, in total, 16 fibres which could have come from three separate items of clothing worn by the dead teenager, found either on the jacket or its evidence bag.

And two hairs were found in an evidence bag used to store a pair of jeans seized from Mr Norris's home, one of which was 2mm long and found to match Stephen's DNA to a certainty of one in 1,000.

Seven fibres were also found on a sweatshirt seized in the same search which potentially came from two items of clothing owned by Stephen.

The case continues.

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