Professor Dave Barclay’s Appendix to Chapter 2 (Advances in Forensic Science)

Reproduced with the kind permission of Waterside Press, who retains the copyright. Publication of all or part of this appreciation requires the written permission of Waterside Press.

My involvement with the proven miscarriage of justice now known as the Cardiff Three (or Cardiff Five) arose out of my role as Head of Physical Evidence at the National Crime Faculty. The NCF assisted South Wales Police in several major reviews of the case and its consequences, starting with the new investigation in 1999 which led directly to the identification of Jeffrey Gafoor as the real offender.

Crime analysts, behavioural psychologists and physical evidence reviews all assisted the investigation, and some members of the NCF including myself were also involved with the Lay Advisory Group (see Chapter 4). My own role continued after the conviction of Gafoor when I undertook a detailed examination of the forensic science processes and interpretations made back in 1988 and 1989.

The forensic science in the Lynette White murder case seems complex at first sight. It comprises a combination of pathology, scene analysis, bloodgrouping, finger-marks, several varieties of DNA and novel tests for the Y-chromosome (male). It certainly seems complex in the way Satish Sekar has had to describe it. It is not.

From the very start the lead scientist, Dr John Whiteside, identified some of the blood at the scene as ‘cast off’ – originating from the offender because his hand had slipped down the blood-slippery knife onto the blade during his frenzied and prolonged attack on Lynette. That blood possessed a rare combination of blood groups and was a major clue for the investigators. Further, because of the positions that it was found in, that blood could be used to eliminate suspects – it had to have been left by the offender. And because Lynette had bled profusely onto the floor and the flat was dark, it was inconceivable that multiple murderers were involved. Not only had no forensic trace of them been found, but also not one of the six or seven people, who must on the police’s version have been milling about in the darkened flat, had trodden in her blood and left bloody footmarks.

But as far as the scientist was concerned, multiple offenders were irrelevant – his scene analysis was simple and certain and entirely correct – this was a stabbing attack by an offender who had cut himself. Himself because this was a typically male attack.

And for all the complicated further DNA, Y-chromosome and other analyses done prior to the first and second trials, no physical evidence at all emerged to contradict the single male theory held by Dr Whiteside for so many months from February up to December 1988. And it never did emerge. The new DNA evidence that identified Jeffrey Gafoor as the offender and the locations that DNA was obtained from – cast off blood, grip marks on her jeans, fingermarks along the line of the exit – were all in exact agreement with the original single male offender hypothesis.

So what went wrong? How could this very clear scientific picture have become so distorted that the prosecution was able to persuade a jury that the scientific findings supported an entirely mythical and ludicrous version of events?

The key event in this catalogue of errors happened when Angela Psaila was horrendously assaulted in late 1988. She was a known associate of Lynette White and possessed the same rare combination of blood groups. The scientist concerned was excited by this finding and from that moment on decided that the blood at the scene came from her.

Every subsequent test, whether Y-chromosome (the blood gave a male reaction) or DNA failed to support this new hypothesis or directly contradicted it, as did his own original crime scene analysis. But no matter, because as Lawrence Sterne wrote:

It is the nature of an hypothesis, when once a man has conceived it, that it assimilates everything to itself as proper nourishment; and from the first moment of your begetting it, it generally grows the stronger by everything you see, hear, read or understand.

Once Dr Whiteside had informed the police of his new hypothesis, of the link as he saw it between Psaila and the scene, the police took the actions which led directly to the Cardiff Five miscarriage of justice. And for his part Dr Whiteside was apparently able to persuade himself that there were reasons to ignore the subsequent contradictory results. Those results were also expressed to the court in his statements and verbally to the jury in a way which was, at the very least, less than clear.

The science became complex simply and only in order to explain away an obvious but inconvenient fact – that a single male stabbed Lynette White over 50 times; in so doing he cut his own hand and left his own blood in the flat exactly where you would expect. That person was Jeffrey Gafoor.”

Professor Dave Barclay is the former Head of Physical Evidence at National Crime Faculty, a lecturer and Forensic Science Consultant of The Fitted-In Project)

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