Northern Ireland

Robert Rodgers: Palm prints link accused to Eileen Doherty murder

Eileen Doherty
Image caption Eileen Doherty was shot dead by a man who hijacked her taxi

A fingerprint expert has said he is "100% certain" he found palm prints belonging to a convicted killer in a taxi in which the woman he's accused of murdering was travelling in.

Dennis Thompson was giving evidence at the trial of Robert Rodgers.

The 59-year-old denies murdering Eileen Doherty, 19, who was shot and killed on 1 October, 1973.

Mr Thompson said the pattern, ridge flow and characteristics of Rodgers' palm prints matched those in the taxi.

He told Belfast Crown Court on Tuesday they were found on the rear passenger window and steering wheel of the vehicle.

The teenager was shot three times by a gunman who had hijacked a taxi that was taking her back to west Belfast.

Miss Doherty had been visiting her then fiancée Alex McManus on the Ormeau Road area when she went to the depot of Atlas Taxis at about 22.45 GMT on Sunday 30 September.

There were two other men in the depot also waiting for a taxi so the firm's owner, John Sherry, said he would take all three at once but as he drove along Annadale Embankment, one of the men "pointed a gun at his head" and hijacked the taxi.

Ms Doherty was shot three or four times at close range a short time after fleeing the taxi.

The hijacked Chrysler car was found the next day and examined by scenes of crimes officers who found the palm prints.

Mr Thompson said he re-examined the unsolved file at the request of the Historical Enquiries Team.

He told the court that on New Year's Eve 2009, with finger and palm prints now held on a massive computer database, the computer gave Rodgers as one of 15 possible matches but that when he compared the prints to other prints already held on file, he was able to say with such certainty they came from Rodgers' hands.

Rodgers was not arrested and interviewed until a year later but during police questioning, after his solicitor read out a short prepared statement denying involvement, he refused to answer any questions.

The court also heard that Rodgers and another man were jailed for life on 10 February 1975, for a murder which was committed the previous year.

Ciaran McElroy, 18, was shot a number of times on 25 September 1974 on Park End Street, Belfast. The men were captured by an Army patrol less than 400 yards from the scene of the killing after a member of the public shouted out to the patrol.

Detained at the scene, a Walther handgun along with two live rounds of ammunition were found in Rodgers' top pocket.

Having recounted the details of Rodgers' conviction for murder, the prosecution told Mr Justice Horner that was the end of the Crown case against him.

A defence lawyer told the judge he intended to lodge two applications to have the case against Rodgers dismissed on Wednesday.

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