Crucial Claremont evidence ‘sat on shelf’

Victims Ciara Glennon, Sarah Spiers and Jane Rimmer.
Victims Ciara Glennon, Sarah Spiers and Jane Rimmer.

A FORENSIC scientist has explained why a tiny piece of evidence in the Claremont serial killings case sat on a laboratory shelf in Perth for years before playing a crucial role in a UK breakthrough.

Former Telstra technician Bradley Robert Edwards, 51, is on trial in the WA Supreme Court, charged with murdering Sarah Spiers, 18, Jane Rimmer, 23, and Ciara Glennon, 27, in 1996 and 1997.

Aleksander Bagdonavicius, a forensic scientist at PathWest, where evidence was initially tested, explained on Friday why the small sample of left thumbnail taken from Ms Glennon, known as AJM40, was not DNA tested during a review in 2003.

At a UK laboratory in 2008, the sample was combined with a piece of her left middle fingernail, known as AJM42, to yield a mixed profile that the prosecution alleges contains Edwards’ trace DNA.

Mr Bagdonavicius said the decision not to test AJM40 was based on his original visual observation and he had written “debris only, not suitable for analysis” in a document detailing the various exhibits.

“The item was described as left thumbnail and on previous viewing, there was no actual nail in the container,” he testified.

Former Telstra technician Bradley Robert Edwards.

Mr Bagdonavicius said he did not open the container and touch the sample.

He also said if the lab was looking for male DNA, testing was typically done by female staff to avoid contamination.

“There was an idea that we may be looking at a male (suspect),” he said.

Defence counsel Paul Yovich has highlighted instances of samples in the case being contaminated at PathWest and at New Zealand-based Institute of Environmental Science and Research, where they were sent in 2004.

While those samples are not central to the prosecution’s case, Mr Yovich suggests ones that are may also have been contaminated.

Edwards has confessed to abducting and raping a teenager at a cemetery in 1995, and attacking an 18-year-old woman in her sleep in 1988 – crimes he will be sentenced for after the trial has finished.

He also has a conviction for assaulting a woman from behind at Hollywood Hospital during his work shift in 1990.

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