Omissions delay Claremont murders trial

Bradley Robert Edwards.
Bradley Robert Edwards.

THE judge overseeing the Claremont serial killings trial says it’s “extremely unsatisfactory” the epic proceedings has been delayed due to disclosure shortfalls.

Prosecutor Carmel Barbagallo told Supreme Court of WA Justice Stephen Hall on Monday the trial could not proceed for at least two days because about one lever arch file of PathWest documentation hadn’t been shown to the defence.

Bradley Robert Edwards’ lead lawyer, Paul Yovich, said he had been handed a hard drive amounting to more than 830 pages of documents about five minutes before the day’s hearing started.

Ms Barbagallo said some 400 pages had not previously been disclosed, but the rest had.

“We are mindful of keeping this trial on track,” she said.

The delay interrupts the testimony of PathWest forensic scientist Aleksander Bagdonavicius, who on Friday told the court testing of a crucial fingernail sample from the third victim Ciara Glennon in the early 2000s showed a “trace of male DNA”, but it was not a strong result so no further testing was recommended.

Victims Ciara Glennon, Sarah Spiers and Jane Rimmer.

After Mr Bagdonavicius finished giving evidence for the day, Justice Hall noted that testimony seemingly contradicted previous evidence by PathWest forensic scientist Anna-Marie Ashley, who said no male DNA was found.

Mr Bagdonavicius was relying on file notes and was going to be asked to clarify on Monday, when Justice Hall said the apparent inconsistency “might be that he’s misunderstood the documentation”.

The court has previously heard male DNA was not found until 2008, when a UK laboratory combined the fingernail sample with another taken from Ms Glennon’s thumbnail and uncovered Edwards’ DNA.

The former Telstra technician, 51, does not dispute it is his, but says he doesn’t know how it got there, with his lawyers suggesting contamination in a laboratory.

Justice Hall also said on Monday Ms Barbagallo must provide an explanation as to how PathWest failed to disclose the material, and defence counsel Paul Yovich said he sympathised with her position.

“She’s working extremely hard in the time she has,” Mr Yovich said.

He said he was conscious of the need to keep the trial on track, but proper disclosure should not be compromised by rushing and if an extra day’s adjournment was needed “so be it”.

Edwards denies murdering Ms Glennon, 27, Sarah Spiers, 18, and Jane Rimmer, 23, in 1996 and 1997, but has pleaded guilty to five other charges including twice raping a teenage girl in a cemetery in 1995.