IT’s inconceivable and implausible police didn’t find a key piece of evidence against Hayley Dodd’s accused killer when they examined his car shortly after the teenager went missing 18 years ago, his lawyer says.
Convicted rapist Francis John Wark has denied killing the petite 17-year-old, who was last seen walking along a road near Badgingarra, 200km northeast of Perth, on July 29, 1999.
An old ute he drove that day, borrowed from his boarder John McConnell, was seized by police one week later.
The car bench seat cover and material vacuumed from the footwell were packaged and sent to state forensic laboratory PathWest, but remained there unexamined until September 2013.
A distinctive ankh-shaped earring with a blue turquoise stone was found caught up in the material and matched a description of the pair she was wearing, prosecutor Amanda Burrows told Wark’s judge-alone WA Supreme Court trial on Monday.
The hook was bent out of shape, suggesting a struggle, Ms Burrows said.
She also said a hair recovered from the ute was forensically examined and produced a mitochondrial profile consistent with Ms Dodd.
But defence counsel Darryl Ryan said the hair had been subjected to three separate analyses and each produced different findings, including it belonging to a male.
Mr Ryan said it was “inconceivable and implausible” forensic police officers didn’t see the earring when they first examined the ute, and other females may have been in the car and left it behind.
The state’s case is Wark lured Ms Dodd into the vehicle between 11.40am and midday, murdered her and disposed of her body before 1.36pm when he paid an account at Badgingarra roadhouse while riding a motorcycle on his way to Perth.
But Wark says he didn’t have enough time to commit the crime and was instead shopping 58km away in Moora with a 40-minute drive ahead of him.
“Mr Wark had nothing to do with it. The state’s case is entirely circumstantial,” Mr Ryan said.
The court heard Mr O’Connell, a convicted child sex offender who is now deceased, had reported returning home from work to find the indicator lever in his car broken off.
The prosecutor said this was also indicative of a struggle.
Ms Burrows was allowed to present “propensity evidence” about a woman who Wark repeatedly raped and assaulted in Queensland in 2007 after he saw her walking alone on an isolated country road, and took an earring from her as a “trophy”.
That showed he was “the sort of person” likely to have killed Ms Dodd, who was hitchhiking to a family friend’s farm near Moora when she vanished.
Her body has never been found.
Ms Dodd’s mother Margaret Dodd told reporters she had “had words” with police about the long delay in finding the physical evidence.