Stephen Lawrence trial: Questions over evidence bags

Stephen Lawrence
Image caption A-level student Stephen Lawrence, 18, died in Eltham, London, in April 1993

Stephen Lawrence's jacket was stored in the same "overbag" as clothing belonging to a suspect accused of his murder, the Old Bailey has heard.

The court heard forensic laboratory staff routinely put sealed packages with exhibits from suspects in the same outer bags as those from victims.

Prosecutors say evidence on clothes of Gary Dobson, 36, and David Norris, 35, links them to the 1993 London killing.

The pair deny killing the 18-year-old, and say police contaminated evidence.

It is alleged Mr Dobson and Mr Norris were among a group of white men that forced Mr Lawrence, an A-level student, to the ground at a bus stop in Eltham, south-east London, in April 1993 and stabbed him twice.

'No anxiety'

The court was told that in 1995 staff at the Forensic Science Service (FSS) had placed brown paper bags containing Mr Dobson's jacket and cardigan in the same "overbag" as those containing Mr Lawrence's jacket.

The Old Bailey also heard that at one point a knife found near the murder scene was placed in the same outer bag as jeans taken from Mr Norris's house.

The items were again individually sealed in paper sacks within the larger plastic bag, the jury heard.

Under cross-examination, Christopher Bower, who ran the FSS laboratory store, was asked whether there had been any rules to ensure items remained segregated or were "kept separately in case of a cold case review".

He told the court there had not been, and that sealed paper exhibit bags from the same case had been "randomly" put in the same plastic "overbag".

Mr Bower, when asked if that was a source of embarrassment or concern, said that the taped seals on the evidence bags were always checked when the items were sent back to the police.

Timothy Roberts QC, for Mr Dobson, asked him: "There was no anxiety in your storeroom about these packages being co-mingled together?"

Mr Bower replied: "Not at all, no."

Exhibit seals

Kent Police took possession of key exhibits in 1997 while looking into complaints about the conduct of Scotland Yard officers during the first murder investigation.

Deborah Doe, then a detective inspector for Kent Police, said some of the exhibits had to be re-sealed before they were returned to the Metropolitan Police in January 1998.

She said: "There may have been deterioration of the packaging which might have needed to be sealed over so that it wasn't exposing any of the contents."

The exhibits where the seals needed repair included the cardigan and jacket taken from Mr Dobson's house.

The jury was shown photographs of two exhibit packets to which Ms Doe said she had applied fresh sticky tape in 1998.

The defence claims forensic evidence, found later in a cold case review allegedly linking Mr Dobson and Mr Norris to the killing of the black teenager, resulted from contamination.

The prosecution says tiny amounts of blood, fibres, and hair found on clothes taken from their homes prove their guilt.

The trial continues on Tuesday.

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